Milan - Sanremo 2018 Race Preview

Rapido Guide: Milano – Sanremo 2018

Course:

Not much to shout about in regards to 2018’s course for Milano – Sanremo, as it is an identical affair to last year’s, maintaining its reputation as one of the least tinkered with monuments in recent seasons. Though clocking in at 291km of racing (300km if you include the neutral zone), it will once again be a day which is unlikely to see any noteworthy action before the peloton as easily passed the 200km marker. The triumvirate of Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta will provide the day’s contenders with the first real indication as to whether their legs feel favourable or not with less than 60km remaining. After this comes the historic double of the Cipressa and the Poggio, the descent off the latter reaching level ground once again with only a little over 2km of racing to go. Though we may have to wait late in the day to see it, with so few opportunities to break the race apart, there should be another great curtain raising battle to this year’s monuments at Milano – Sanremo.

Milan - Sanremo 2018 Race Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan enters most of the calendar’s one day races as the favourite, though does not possess the best record in the classics or monuments when considering how long he has been the sport’s greatest active rider. He came close to taking the win last year and has already stated that he will approach things differently this time in pursuit of the win, perhaps choosing to keep his powder dry and allow others to really push the tempo. Whatever the plan is, there is no doubt he shall be a major protagonist in the final decisive kilometres, where it is tough to imagine him losing if part of any group which turns the last corner onto the Via Roma.

Arnaud Démare won this race in surprising fashion a couple of years ago, but given his recent form, it would be far less of a shock to win it a second time than the first. He copes well with this type of arduous racing and is one of the few who can still turn in close to his best sprint after well over 250km of racing. The team at his disposal is extremely strong in support of the French national champion, focused almost entirely upon controlling the race and manoeuvering Démare into a race winning position. Despite having already won here, as a not particularly flashy rider, it is easy to overlook his talents; his rivals would be foolish to do the same.

Sonny Colbrelli has maintained a great record at Milano – Sanremo over the years and 2018 looks to be one of his best build ups to the big day of all. His recent victory upon Hatta Dam at the Dubai Tour proved his great strength when roads head skywards, which will no doubt be useful late in the day here. He would do best to allow other bigger names to close down the attacks when necessary, as previous years have seen the Italian use up too much energy before the finish line is in sight.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the defending champion and will feel relaxed heading into the day, with nothing to prove and no real pressure to repeat his win at a notoriously tough to predict monument. Regardless, he will be a likely face amongst those hoping to split the race apart and avoid a significant bunch sprint deciding the winner this year. This no doubt that means attacking hard over the Poggio, which given his success last year, will be interesting to see who reacts first to such a potentially dangerous move.

Elia Viviani is the purest sprinter with the most realistic chance of surviving the final quarter of racing with a potent turn of pace still at his disposal. Having enjoyed a brilliant start to life at Quick Step, the Italian ace is looking in sparkling form and more confident than ever in his abilities to reach the top of the sport. With a talented selection of teammates by his side, Viviani shall be well protected, allowing him to focus on exiting the final turn of the day in a race winning position.

Others to watch for are Alexander Kristoff, Caleb Ewan, Julian AlaphilppeMatteo Trentin and Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Sonny Colbrelli

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Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 4

Course:

Stage 4’s 117.5km race from Yiti (Al Sifah) to the Ministry of Tourism is likely to be an explosive affair, with a shorter total distance and several punchy climbs which will force the favourites to attack hard in order to break the race apart. Yesterday’s stage provided some further insight as to who is best to watch out for on this testing course and it could be those same faces which end up deciding today’s outcome again.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 4

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet is using this race as some final preparation ahead of the start of his classics campaign and he is already looking to be on track for some serious form once again this year. His showing yesterday was impressive, distancing a strong group of rivals in the final kilometre with ease and never really looking up against it when fighting for the stage honours. An expected frontrunner again today, it would be of little surprise to see him form part of an elite breakaway and see the stage out with another strong sprint finish. On such a short stage, he will need to make the race as hard as possible for his rivals, as there are several stronger sprinters who have the potential to survive with him to the final kilometres.

Fabio Felline suits this stage profile extremely well, and if he continues his rise to the sort of form which made him such a threat in the past, there is a good chance he can finish the day with a win here. He stayed in contention throughout Stage 2, already proving he can match the likes of Greg Van Avermaet for example, which shall give him the confidence to follow the key moves again here. One of the fastest riders most likely to feature at the end of the day, if he can make the cut, then it could be an easy surge to the line for him.

Alexander Kristoff performed impressively yesterday and is another rider who certainly looks to be building his form convincingly ahead of the spring classics which begin next month. On such a short stage, the likelihood of him making the moves increases, though the flip side of this is that many other are also more likely to survive; specifically those faster in a sprint finish.  Regardless, if he can make his rivals suffer, then we might get an early glimpse of what the next couple of months hold with a Alexander Kristoff versus Greg Van Avermaet sprint for the line.

Nathan Haas will believe he can win this stage in a similar fashion to Stage 2 earlier in the week, looking to pounce from an elite group of riders and get the jump on the likes of Greg Van Avermaet and a potential Alexander Kristoff. He needs the race to ditch the fastest riders in the bunch, but not at such an intensity that he suffers enough to give the classics focused riders the upper hand. Regardless, he is an intelligent rider and will know how to pace himself alongside the big names today, potentially doubling up on his current tally of wins this season already.

Others to consider are Alexey LutsenkoRui CostaMagnus Cort and Giovanni Visconti.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Nathan Haas 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 3

Course:

As highlighted in yesterday’s preview, Nathan Haas was earmarked as a rider most likely to benefit from a tough finale and heavily reduced numbers heading into the finish, thus it was of little surprise to see him take a much deserved win in the end. Stage 3 is a 179.5km route from the German University of Technology to Wadi Dayqah Dam, featuring plenty of rolling terrain, with the majority of the focus upon the final few kilometres which culminate in an uphill dash to the line.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 3

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet was a key protagonist during Stage 2 and there is no doubt that many would have backed the BMC rider to take the win from the reduced lead group, but the Belgian was well beaten by Haas unexpectedly. Regardless, today is another well suited opportunity to pursue victory and Avermaet is bound to find himself the favourite yet again. If he can stay in the lead group and get a clear run to the line, then it shall be a huge ask to deny the Belgian classics specialist for a second consecutive day.

Nathan Haas is now an interesting prospect in the contest for the overall victory and may emerge as a tough rider to relinquish his ownership of the leader’s jersey. If he so wishes, he can now look to ride defensively and even lean upon his rivals to chase down those who are considered a threat to everyone hoping to win 2018’s Tour of Oman. This is another day which plays to his strengths, and given his current form, he should not be discounted from doubling up here on Stage 3.

Søren Kragh Andersen was unfortunate enough to be snarled up by two separate accidents yesterday, the last of which was only 15km from the finish, meaning he waved goodbye to any chance of contesting the sprint. He does not seem to have been affected by these crashes though and shall be extremely motivated to seek redemption of sorts by working hard for the win here. If he does manage to make the cut, he could be the fastest man present and would surely lead the charge to the line home with ease.

Fabio Felline performed well yesterday, showcasing the talent we had seen little of during a disastrous 2017 season previously. The Italian rider is pleased with his return to action thus far, now sensing some semblance of form and eager to find himself atop the podium again soon. He is a tactically astute rider who often reads the race better than most from a breakaway or small bunch, meaning one well timed attack on the final slopes could be enough for Felline to take the win.

Others to consider are Magnus CortAlexander KristoffAlexey LutsenkoDries Devenyns and Giovanni Visconti.

Outcome:

1st Søren Kragh Andersen 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Fabio Felline

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 2

Course:

French rider Bryan Coquard took a surprise victory on the opening day of this year’s Tour of Oman, but with plenty of climbing and an uphill finish on Stage 2, the sprinters will have to work hard to fight for another bunch kick. The day’s ride from Sultan Qaboos University to Al Bustan totals 167km and features four categorised climbs along the way; the last of which appears around 5km from the finish. It is the wind which is likely to prove most decisive here, previously dictating whether an elite group forms under intense strain or a block headwind keeps the bunch together for a reduced sprint, either way it will prove influential once again. The final kilometres are bound to be hectic if the race begins to fracture, as riders attempt to calculate their best chances of winning, from either a late move or reduced bunch kick.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 2

Contenders:

Fabio Felline fits this stage particularly well, and if already possessing decent form as believed, then he  will have several options as to how best he can approach the day with eyes on the win. Strong enough to join the breakaway if required, or fast enough to dominate a sprint of likely protagonists, Felline will have a tough time choosing which approach is best. Regardless, days tailored to his strengths like this are not that frequent throughout the season and there is no doubt he shall aim to make the most of it.

Greg Van Avermaet is gearing up for another big push at the Spring classics, which means testing the waters at some point during these early season forays into potential race winning form. The Belgian icon suits this day, but is another who could benefit equally from being part of a late move or keeping his powder dry for a small group sprinting to the line. We have seen how tough he is to beat for several seasons now when on top form, and even if he is only nearing this, he could emerge as the dominant force in the final moments of Stage 2.

Søren Kragh Andersen will favour this terrain and has previously secured a stage win at this race, hinting at what his condition is likely to be once again this year. One of the strongest riders here in a head to head charge to the line, the Dane will want to be ditched by plenty of other riders on the final climb of the day and he is bound to find allies hard to come by as a result. A strong team performance here will do him wonders, and if he can make the cut, then the sprint finish could be made to look a breeze by the youngster.

Nathan Haas is a rider the bunch would be foolish to allow an advantage late in the day, as on a course which plays to his strengths, he could prove extremely to difficult to pull back before the line. Though he did not manage to reach his ambitions at the Tour Down Under, he was certainly one of the strongest riders there and he will have carried this across to Oman with hopes of converting it into victory on this occasion. If the wind can do him a favour and thin the ranks out, Haas is a contender likely to benefit well  from it.

If the race does remain together for the most part, whether due to strong team management or a block headwind, the sprinters who are most capable of staying in touch to take the win are Nacer BouhanniGiacomo Nizzolo and Bryan Coquard.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Søren Kragh Andersen 3rd Giacomo Nizzolo

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 1

Course:

Beginning with a 162.5km stage from Nizwa to Sultan Qaboos University, day one of this year’s Tour of Oman should be a chance for the sprinters to start with a bang. Though the roads rise somewhat after leaving the day’s start town, the second half of the stage is an extended descent which leads the peloton down to the finish, giving it the appearance of a day which the sprint teams shall be able to control easily enough. With the final turn coming at the flamme rouge, we should see a hotly contested sprint finish on wide roads, offering up a drag race amongst the best riders here.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 1

Contenders:

Nacer Bouhanni is said to be undergoing a transformative experience these days, the hopes of many seeking to salvage the mercurial talent from the peloton’s most acquired taste in recent years, with signs positive so far. The provocative Frenchman mustered some encouraging signs during the Dubai Tour, though was unlucky enough to crash on the final bend of the last stage when looking well-positioned. His impressive turn of pace and ability to surf the wheels should serve him well amongst a pack lacking many dominant sprint trains, so should have eyes on the podium at the very least on Stage 1.

Mark Cavendish picked up a stage win during his recent time at the Dubai Tour and looks to be entering this race with a strong chance of collecting more early season victories. Though his support train has altered dramatically compared to last week, he will be able to rely on the talented young Scott Davies to position him safely during the final kilometre. A clear run at the line will be needed amongst a likely to be messy sprint, though years of experience do mean Cavendish knows how to handle himself by now.

Magnus Cort was unexpectedly strong last week and ended up on the podium behind eventual winner Elia Vivani, but he is another sprinter who shall see many of his key lieutenants leave him, as the team’s focus switches to climbing the general classification instead of sprints. However, Cort is not one who necessarily demands a committed leadout train and has previously performed well when having to look after himself, so will be confident of challenging for the win.

Adam Blythe surged late to push Elia Viviani close for the win on the final stage in Dubai, but had to settle for third as he just ran out of road before being able to overtake the Italian. With racing here likely to prove more attritional, Blythe could be able to draw closer to his faster rivals and take a surprise victory for himself.

Others to consider are Giacomo NizzoloAlexander Kristoff and Max Walscheid

Outcome:

1st Magnus Cort 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Adam Blythe

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 6

Course:

A final tear up for the sprinters at this year’s Tour Down Under is offered up to them on Stage 6’s 90km blast around the streets of Adelaide. There are some slight permutations of bonus seconds which could see Richie Porte challenge for Daryl Impey’s leader’s jersey at the death, but the South African is a superior sprinter and should be able to contain the Tasmanian rider if required to. Beyond that, the day should be a straight forward criterium styled affair, eventually finishing with a subtle gradient up to the line and providing the fast men who have fallen short thus far to take a Tour Down Under victory.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

 

Contenders:

André Greipel has a very good record on this finale, and having missed the Tour Down Under in recent years, will be eager to remind people of his dominance. His brute force combines well with the relatively short finishing straight, while his strong leadout train will be confident of delivering him into the best position possible ahead of the sprint.

Caleb Ewan may not have enjoyed such a dominant time at this native race this season, though that is not to say he is out of form when it comes to sprinting. His anticipation is still somewhat of an issue, but for a developing talent, Ewan can rely upon his sheer pace to compensate for a disadvantage of racing nous compared to his rivals. With teammate Impey now overall race leader, he could well lose his final leadout man, resulting in a less powerful train at his disposal in the final kilometre before the line.

Elia Viviani demonstrated an incredible burst of acceleration when taking his stage victory earlier in the week and may actually be the most in form sprinter in contention for Stage 6. He has a far more impressive team of riders to support him in the pursuit of victory this season, seeking to protect and manoeuvre him effectively, from 20km out and right to the final 500m; a smooth ride into the finish today could leave Viviani unbeatable.

Phil Bauhaus continues to bridge the gap to the current crop of elite sprinters and is becoming a regular feature of the top five placings at the end of a stage. As we have already seen during the week, when other sprinters are too busy worrying about one another, he can us them as a springboard to edge closer to the win; he remains one to watch as ever.

Outcome:

1st Caleb Ewan 2nd André Greipel 3rd Elia Vivani

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 5

Course:

As is tradition at the Tour Down Under, the overall victory looks set to be decided by the familiar ascent of Wilunga Hill, sending the favourites up its slopes twice in an attempt to shake out 2018’s champion from the bunch. The climb itself lasts for 3km, and though it averages a tame 5%, the steepest sections do creep just beyond 9% during the first half of the ascent. Tackling it twice after leaving McLaren Vale will be a test given the recent weather conditions and there will be little chance to hide a lack of early season form when ascending the scorching slopes near the end of the 151.5km queen stage.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Five 5 Preview

Contenders:

Richie Porte loves this climb and is the clear favourite to win once again, especially given an encouraging glimpse of his condition so early in the year. He is in a feisty mood to contest the overall victory, perhaps appreciating that such a depth of talent will require him to ride more aggressively in order to guarantee a stage win. No rider knows this climb as well as Porte, and with that in mind, it shall be tough to look beyond him for the victory.

Jay McCarthy has been promised the full backing of his team today and should be one of the main protagonists during the climb of Wilunga Hill. He has offered little during the Tour Down Under to justify serious backing, but his performance at the National Road Race Championships still seems enough to highlight him as a real challenger. Such a strong team of riders around him is an immense advantage on a day where saving every last watt of effort is crucial, keeping him fresh for one decisive attack.

Daryl Impey is enjoying some good early season form and could prove a rider well worth watching on Wilunga Hill as his condition could take bigger names by surprise. He is certainly not a pure climber, but should have enough to cling to their wheels and hope to outgun them in a reduced sprint to the finish line.

Diego Ulissi possesses a consistent record on this stage over the years, though never seems capable of converting that into an eventual victory by the finish. Once again he is a name worth considering here, but a disappointing showing up to now does little to suggest he shall steal the show on Wilunga Hill. 

Domenico Pozzovivo is very talented at coping with these climbs, looking relatively sharp right now and unlikely to think twice about taking the opportunity to open up a gap to his rivals during the final moments. We have often seen the Italian rider following all the major attacks from the big names in grand tour racing, but rarely does he ever manage to better them, making it a gamble to back Pozzovivo as the day’s winner on Stage 5

Others to consider include Luis Leon SanchezEnric MasPierre LatourTom Jelte-Slagter and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Richie Porte 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Jay McCarthy