Gent-Wevelgem Preview 2016

Course:

Having ticked off several Belgian classics and one monument in the shape of Milan-San Remo, the final days of March are seen out with a race tilted more in the favour of the sprinters than the strongmen of the cobbles; Gent-Wevelgem once again poised to be an exciting race in the face of some potentially miserable weather. Possessing a rich and longstanding history in the Belgian cycling calendar, there is no doubt that Gent-Wevelgem is a classic, but one which differs considerably from the brutal contests of the Tour of Flanders or E3 Harelbeke. Instead, the climbs are fewer and somewhat less arduous, while a longer flat conclusion to the day shifts the dynamic away from those more synonymous with last gasp charges over leg shattering hellingen. This 243km challenge is by no means simple though, boasting ten climbs in total, with much of the attention focused upon two ascents of the historic Kemmelberg; the second of which featuring ramps of 23%. No doubt an elite group shall form ahead of the final stretch into Wevelgem, setting up an exciting pursuit with those desperately trying to stay in contention for the win behind, many of whom will be anticipating a bunch sprint of sorts to crown the victor.

GW

Contenders:

Peter Sagan is in fantastic form currently, yet still finds victory elusive, stunning many when finishing behind Michal Kwiatkowski at E3; a race which looked destined to be his as the flamme rouge passed overhead. His issue seems to be the blunting of his top speed at the end of a gruelling contest, something he will hope to be less decisive at Gent-Wevelgem where the largely shared impetus to force a sprint should save him energy. Assuming he makes the right moves and leans on others to do a greater share of the work, Sagan could finally strike upon the glory his rainbow bands deserve.

Etixx-QuickStep have picked up where they left off during last year’s classics campaign, already squandering numerical advantages at decisive moments on several occasions in 2016 and the pressure will be on today to rectify this. Tom Boonen and Matteo Trentin looked dangerous at E3, but choked when it mattered most, both will fancy their chances in a sprint and will be confident of arriving in good condition here too. The Belgian outfits wildcard however is Colombian Fernando Gaviria, his turn of pace in 2016 thus far has been blistering, but it remains uncertain as to how well he shall cope with the race and the weather.

Fabian Cancellara has never won this race, but judging by his showings so far this season, there is little to suggest he cannot change this today. The Swiss legend should make the anticipated selection on the Kemmelberg, leaving him the possibility of attacking solo and giving his rivals the unenviable task of reeling him back in, or hold on for a reduced sprint finish which he has form of dominating after a testing race such as this.

The likes of Giacomo NizzoloBryan Coquard and Nacer Bouhanni are all types of sprinter who could survive the rigours of the Kemmelberg’s attacks in good shape and ride themselves back into contention should a late move break free. All three have taken victories in 2016, including at the end of some testing days given their reputation as pure sprinters; it would be foolish to underestimate the dogged determination of a sprinter to stay in contention when he feels there is a trophy with his name on it if he makes the cut.

Admittedly, this race should end in a sprint, but there will be plenty of strong riders out who are poised to instigate a winning move which stays away and contests the win amongst their limited ranks. Ian Stannard makes surviving a race such as this look easier than it really is and he will be a marked man given his immense strength for helping a move to stick. Edward Theuns, Jens Debusschere and Tiesj Benoot are all likely protagonists in a breakaway winning move, all three having ridden impressively this Spring, while a Belgian winner would be a huge victory for the home fans too.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Fabian Cancellara 3rd Edward Theuns

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Milan - San Remo 2017 Preview

Milan – San Remo 2016 Preview

Course:

Having battled through the season’s mixed bag of early semi-classic races which have already encompassed Italy’s dusty gravel roads and Northern Europe’s treacherous cobbled climbs, Milan – San Remo signals the curtain truly being raised on 2016’s scramble to claim racing’s rarest of victories; a monument.

Throughout its previous 100+ editions, the route linking Milan to San Remo has remained relatively traditional, fluctuating only in regards to the amount and whereabouts of climbs en route to the finish. This has shaped the nature of the race for obvious reasons, but this year’s 291km affair should stick to the anticipated script of setting the race alight upon the double of the Cipressa and Poggio as ever. This year’s course lacks the tinkering from organisers we have seen recently when sandwiching an extra climb into the finale, and given that the finish line is once again upon the historic Via Roma, the sprinters will fancy dominating this traditional looking Milan – San Remo.

The Cipressa is 5.6km in length and sees its average gradient of 4.1% swing up to 9% for a time, though it ultimately remains a manageable task during these latter stages of the race. The tricky descent from the top will leave only 20km left to tackle, returning to flat roads before beginning the decisive Poggio 9.7km from home. This infamous climb is 3.7km in length with an average gradient of 3.7%, though its ramps reach 8% at times during the ascent. Attacks over the top are expected and it is this combined with the incredibly twisting descent which will make it tough for the sprinters to cling onto those attempting a late breakaway move.

Just over 2km of flat road will lead the riders onto the finish of Via Roma, a finishing straight of 750m setting the scene for what is expected to be a memorable sprint finish amongst the day’s favourites.

MSR

Contenders:

Michael Matthews put in a great showing at last year’s World Championship Road Race and has continued that form into 2016 by demonstrating his expansive skill-set, one which features a potent blend of climbing and sprinting capabilities. Having already reached the podium at this race, there is no doubt he can make the cut, especially in a year which suits sprinters more than any other in recent history. Matthews has the ability to follow a late escape as much as he does to duke it out in a sprint, either way, he looks to be the man to beat in the absence of defending champion John Degenkolb.

Alexander Kristoff no doubt has the skills to chalk up another win at Milan – San Remo, but it is the team which supports him in 2016 which raises doubts. The biggest hole which Katusha shall struggle to fill is that of Luca Paolini, the Italian a crucial part of Kristoff’s plan in the pursuit of any major win, but a crucial lieutenant he will have to go without this year. Regardless, Kristoff is likely to be the fastest in a bunch kick, but the greater strength and depth seen in the teams of his rivals’ could prove difficult to match late on.

Peter Sagan is still bereft of a classics win, but his form as of late on similar terrain should provide him with great encouragement to remedy that. However, Sagan seems to find a way of losing despite his fantastic positional skills and ultimately superior sprinting ability. For fans of the sport, a Sagan win would be excellent, but there remains a lingering doubt as to whether he can execute such a race to perfection; be that from a elite group move or larger bunch sprint.

Fernando Gaviria is by no means an unknown quantity when it comes to the WorldTour as of late, but his ability to contest the win over this distance is uncertain. The Etixx-QuickStep rider climbs extremely well, a talent only surpassed by his ability to dominate a sprint finish with tremendous speed. An easy ride into the final 20km will play into his hands well and he shall remain a serious contender if still present at that stage of the race.

Greg Van Avermaet has seen his form soar as of late and will be eager to hammer home such condition in pursuit of the win here. However, the Belgian will struggle to both drop his major rivals and also better them in a flat drag race to the line; a win would be extremely impressive given the company.

Fabian Cancellara is in fantastic form currently and shall do his utmost to add a major win to his palmarès before signing off into retirement at the end of this year. Though his physical prowess may have altered somewhat in recent years, the Swiss legend is wilier than ever, meaning he cannot be given an inch to attack in case of making it all the way to the line.

Others likely to feature late on or animate the race include; Alejandro ValverdeMark CavendishVincenzo Nibali, Stephen Cummings and Zdenek Stybar,

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Peter Sagan

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 7 Preview

Course:

With several names still in contention for the overall win at Tirreno Adriatico the outcome will be decided by the final day’s individual time trial. The 10km blast around the streets of San Benedetto Del Tronto is poised to determine 2016’s edition of the race, but our attention instead turns to the likely contenders for stage victory on the concluding day.

T07_SanBenedetto_alt

Contenders:

Fabian Cancellara is in fantastic form so far this season and it is easy to see him taking the victory here with a barnstorming run which sets him up nicely for the classics season. Tony Martin is renowned for his abilities against the clock and this flat course should suit him well, though the short distance might make it difficult for the German to really put the power down effectively. Taylor Phinney is still on the road to recovery, but today is a fantastic opportunity to notch another won during his recuperation, the shorter course offering Phinney a realistic chance of causing an upset. Other riders likely to pepper the day’s final top ten are Alex DowsettStephen CummingsMaciej Bodnar and Bob Jungels.

It is also worth mentioning, that in the battle for the overall classification at Tirreno Adriatico, we expect World Champion Peter Sagan to overturn the deficit and walk away with his first stage race win in the rainbow bands; despite having not won an individual stage.

Outcome:

1st Fabian Cancellara 2nd Taylor Phinney 3rd Tony Martin

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 6

Course:

With race organisers making the bold (yet correct decision) to prioritise rider safety when cancelling Stage 5, we move swiftly onto Stage 6 with an ever greater scope of riders still in contention for the overall win than expected by this point. The penultimate day is a 210km stretch from Castelraimondo to Cepagatti and is likely to encourage several of the well placed sprinters and strongmen on the general classification to try and gather a few bonus seconds ahead of the final time trail by winning Stage 6. The day as a whole is very simple, but the rises in the final 35km will be noteworthy, as well as a uphill battle to the line.
Stage 6

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has so far managed to avoid winning a stage here with great aplomb, but today’s challenge surely looks tailor-made for his abilities. With a 200km+ distance and some lumpy terrain late on, the reigning World Champion must feel confident of powering away from the rest of the contenders on the rise up to the finish line. A certain rival on this occasion will be Fernando Gaviria, the young Colombian being in great form right now and appears to dominate this type of uphill finale with great sucess. Caleb Ewan is one of the fastest in any race and is certainly the man to beat in a drag race here, but this final incline will blunt his speed somewhat, though Stage 3 demonstrated that this still results in a ferocious turn of speed. Moreno Hofland saw his team fumble the leadout on Stage 3, but will once again be a contender today if everything goes to plan on this occasion. With only the time trial remaining after this, Greg Van Avermaet could well fancy stealing bonus seconds by winning the stage and help cement BMC’s chances of winning this race overall alongside teammate Tejay Van Garderen.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Fernando Gaviria

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 4

Course:

A day of short and sharp climbs should offer us a look at the typical classics styled riders as they battle it out for stage honours on the fourth day’s run from Montalto di Castro to Foligno. The day’s 222km distance looks set to severely thin the bunch ahead of the finale, promising to deliver an elite bunch of riders who have survived the attrition rate in order to battle it out for the win. The finale itself is a simple enough run into the finishing straight, but it is the preceding trio of potent climbs which possess gradients of almost 20% which look set to decide the victor here today.

Stage 4

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has what it takes to survive this type of terrain at the front of affairs and still turn in a strong enough sprint to take the win; a victory which would be his first in the rainbow stripes of the World Champion’s jersey. Fernando Gaviria silenced any suggestions that he may be fatigued after arriving here off the back of a testing Track World Championships by winning yesterday’s stage in convincing fashion. The young Colombian has a phenomenal turn of speed, but it is instead his ability to climb which circles him as a contender here and his current form only cements this possibility further still. Edvald Boasson Hagen could feature well here, but there are strong suggestions that the roadbook does the climbs here little justice in regards to severity, potentially proving too tough for the in-form Norwegian to stay in touch and contest the sprint. A man likely to allow Sagan and Tinkoff to do all the work is Greg Van Avermaet, the Belgian rider taking confidence from his recent sprint showings against the World Champion into the stage, though he will have to be in great shape to survive these late ascents. Those who could cause a stir in a sprint or even breakaway include Leigh HowardNikia ArndtGiovanni Visconti and Luka Mezgec.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Nikia Arndt 3rd Fernando Gaviria 

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 3

Course:

The third stage of his year’s race should guarantee a group sprint of sorts, though the composition of such a drag race to the line will depend upon the intensity of the final kilometres. Overall, the day is a simple enough affair from Castelnuovo Val di Cecina to Montalto di Castro, a 176km jaunt which includes only a single categorised climb; the 16.7km rise up to Scansano.

Contenders:

Peter Sagan took second yesterday on a tricky finish which saw Zdenek Stybar solo his way to victory, but Sagan did secure second with a convincing sprint which he made look easy going. Considering the inclusion of moderate slopes during the finale here, Sagan might have the edge over his purer sprint rivals. Another man well worth keeping an eye upon given the terrain is Giacomo Nizzolo, arriving here in great early season form and possessing a strong leadout train to position him well. Caleb Ewan has already demonstrated that he can better the big names of sprinting at the top level and will be eager to repeat such feats on Stage 3 today; a real threat if still present in the final few kilometres. Another new hotshot on the sprinting scene has been Fernando Gaviria and he fits the bill here with a blend of climbing prowess and top finishing speed; he does arrive here however off the back of a testing Track World Championships which secured him a rainbow jersey though. Outsiders worth keeping an eye upon include Jempy DruckerEdvald Boasson Hagen and Elia Viviani.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Giacomo Nizzolo 3rd Caleb Ewan

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 2

Course:

The riders will hit the road after yesterday’s Team Time Trial saw BMC take the stage win and deliver the leader’s blue jersey onto the shoulders of Italian strongman Daniel Oss. Stage 2 takes the form of a 207km route from Camaiore to Pomarance, incorporating some lumpy terrain and an uphill finish to shape a dramatic finale.

Stage 2

Contenders:

Peter Sagan is the obvious favourite for today, the World Champion should enjoy this rolling terrain and hope to dominate the final kilometres which lead up to the line. Already this year, Greg Van Avermaet has displayed strong form and will be BMC’s best hope of retaining the leader’s jersey after Stage 2; the Belgian beat Sagan in the deciding sprint at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month. There is no doubt that Fabian Cancellara is in fantastic form currently and should fancy his chances of being a major protagonist in the battle for stage honours here. While Zdenek Stybar appeared extremely strong when just missing out on defending his Strade Bianche title last weekend to Cancellara and will look to bounce back quickly on a stage which suits his blend of strength, speed and positioning abilities well.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Zdenek Stybar