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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

As expected, yesterday’s stage never quite became tough enough to send the sprinters and their teams out the back door and thus avoid the bunch gallop many had correctly expected. The main result of this is that the general classification shall be determined by the final day at this year’s Tour of Yorkshire, a rolling day in the saddle which serves up plenty of harsh gradients to ensure the overall race winner is a worthy champion. The decisive day is a 194.5km route from Bradford to Sheffield, encompassing eight classified climbs, creating what is likely to be an attritional day for the peloton. Akin to an Ardennes style race profile, an elite group of riders shall be formed over the final four climbs, the first beginning just 20km away from the finish line.

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has previously won the mountains classification jersey at La Vuelta, equipping him with the necessary survival skills to negotiate the final salvo of climbs which lead into Sheffield. He looked good during Liége – Bastogne – Liége and will not be afraid of animating the race during the final moments.

Serge Pauwels was our pre-race favourite for the overall win at this year’s Tour of Yorkshire, but we do now find ourselves leaning somewhat more favourably in the direction of his teammate Fraile. Regardless, the Belgian rider is a class act when it comes to climbing, and though he has been the quieter of the two Dimension Data riders, this may be an indication that Pauwels is saving everything for this final day.

Brent Bookwalter is a dangerous combination of climbing prowess and sprint speed, leading a BMC squad which has plenty of strength to support him in any attempt to win the overall classification on the final day. His ability uphill is certainly a threat to his rivals here, but whether or not he is suited to this Ardennes style finale is the big question.

Stephane Rossetto appeared in great form during Liége – Bastogne – Liége, a key protagonist during La Doyenne, he should find the latter half of the stage to his liking in Yorkshire. His best hope for victory is to attack from slightly further out than is expected, gaining an advantage on his rivals ahead of Sheffield, thus avoiding any worries about sprinting for the win.

Maurits Lammertink is not a particularly familiar name for many with an interest in professional cycling, yet the Katusha rider has enjoyed a good campaign in the Ardennes and could use Stage 3 as a springboard to overall victory.

Tao Geoghegan-Hart should be the best bet for Team Sky to secure the first stage win and overall win by a British rider at the Tour of Yorkshire since its inception in 2015. The lithe climber has twice finished third at the youth edition of Liége – Bastogne – Liége, demonstrating a talent for handling himself on a course which packs steep climbs late in the day. If the race has truly broken apart with only 30km remaining, then it is likely that he shall seek to step up and take advantage.

Other riders to watch for include Thomas VoecklerAnthony TurgisTom StewartPieter WeeningMauro Finetto and Stef Clement.

Outcome:

1st Maurits Lammertink 2nd Tao Geoghegan-Hart  3rd Stephane Rossetto

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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

Despite a high speed pile-up during the final few hundred meters of Stage 1, a sprint finish decided the outcome of the opening day as expected, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen navigating a late path to the front of affairs in order to take the win as predicted by Spokenforks. Stage 2 should be an easier day in the saddle for the peloton, lasting a relatively short 122.5km from Tadcaster to Harrogate, the course only possessing a single classified climb in the shape of the testing Côte de Lofthouse (1.7km, avg 11.4%). The racing is likely to be more intense as a result of the shorter distance, but the general belief is that a sprint finish shall once again determine the stage victor at the Tour of Yorkshire. With a finale which tilts upwards in regards to gradient, this could be a day for the punchier lightweight sprinters to stake claim to stage honours.

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

Nacer Bouhanni failed to capitalise on the work of his Cofidis teammates yesterday, finishing off the podium in fourth place, despite a committed effort by the French outfit in the final kilometres. He will not be best pleased with yesterday’s result, so shall no doubt be motivated to strike success at the second time of asking at the day’s finish in Harrogate. Bouhanni climbs very well for a sprinter and is unlikely to be worried about the final section of rolling terrain which leads up to the finish line itself.

Caleb Ewan has previously combined his explosive power and small build to take advantage of uphill finishes such as these, making him a likely contender for the win on Stage 2 of 2017’s Tour of Yorkshire. Beaten in surprising fashion by Dylan Groenewegen yesterday, the latter having to start his sprint from amongst traffic, Ewan will know that he realistically is the fastest rider at the race. With the finish in Harrogate expected to be less hectic than Stage 1’s finale, he is bound to be positioned well by his Orica-Scott team in order to burst uphill for the win.

Kristian Sbaragli is never afforded a great deal of time in the limelight at major races, yet is a name which is often seen populating the upper rankings of stage finishes at major races. Though he struggles against the most powerful sprinters on a flat head to head finale, today’s gradient to the line should provide him with a levelling of the field for him to take advantage of. He came home in sixth place on the opening day, which is an encouraging sign, and will have a strong roster of Dimension Data riders at his disposal to help him late on.

Dylan Groenewegen took the opening stage as anticipated by Spokenforks, remaining anonymous in the leading group until very late on in the final kilometre. The young Dutch rider showed great patience while boxed in by his rivals, eventually being reward with a small gap to manoeuvre through, from which he ultimately surged to the line to edge out Caleb Ewan. Some will argue that today’s Stage 2 is an even better prospect for Groenewegen, and with concerns over the fitness of team leader Steven Kruijswijk after crashing, the powerful LottoNL – Jumbo team could decide he is the new man to back at this race.

Danny Van Poppel should be in the mix for the win on Stage 2 and will be eager for his Team Sky teammates to stay clear of any late crashes in Harrogate this time. The Dutch sprinter could prove to be another rider who benefits from the slight rise at the finish, but his form has not been particularly consistent this season, making it difficult to know exactly how great a contender he is. Regardless, he should be guaranteed a good position when it matters most and his explosive acceleration is capable of establishing a gap which is difficult to close when racing uphill.

Magnus Cort Nielsen may be gifted leadership from Caleb Ewan for a finish such as this, but only if the Australian is not feeling up to contesting the finale. Nielsen has risen rapidly through the peloton in the last year, demonstrating a great power in tough sprints, but will struggle to be allowed to go for the win himself on Stage 2. Will not start Stage 2 after sustaining suspected broken collarbone.

Adam Blythe was not directly hampered by the crash in the final kilometre yesterday, though certainly hesitated to continuing sprinting once he realised things around him were not going to plan. The British champion was not feeling in the best of form on the opening day, so his team will be hoping he can bounce back in Harrogate to challenge for the win and deliver the first British winner of a stage of the Tour of Yorkshire.

Tom Moses is a Yorkshireman who may well find himself with greater freedom to attack now his JLT – Condor team leader Russell Downing is out with a broken collarbone. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an uphill sprint, it would not prove wise to let Moses gain too great a gap on the peloton in the final moments of Stage 2.

Outcome:

1st Kristian Sbaragli 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd Caleb Ewan

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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

Opening 2017’s edition of the Tour of Yorkshire is a 174km run from Bridlington to Scarborough, taking in the climbs of Côte de Garrowby Hill, Côte de Goathland and the decisive Côte de Robin Hood’s Bay en route to the finish line. Similar to the last stage of 2016’s edition, though not quite as gruelling, the race is likely to become broken up as the peloton hits the Côte de Robin Hood’s Bay late in the day. However, with enough interest from teams with sprinters and enough firepower to keep the race together, a reduced bunch kick seems the likely outcome on Stage 1.

Tour of Yorkshire - Stage 1 Preview

Contenders:

Nacer Bouhanni looks to have dipped a little recently, so he arrives here with no intention of simply making up the numbers and could prove to be the fastest man at the race. The Frenchman is a strong rider and can survive the late attacks of a stage like this, but often suffers as a result of it when it comes to the sprint. There is a chance he might choose to save his energy for a more likely win, though given his very combative nature, expect him to dig deep on Côte de Robin Hood’s Bay to stay in contention.

Caleb Ewan is extremely fast and is the rider to beat if the day is decided by a much bigger sprint, resembling more of a drag race than a survival of the fittest. His teammates are focused on leading him out in good position at the end of it all, perhaps likely to lean upon other teams to do the bulk of the chasing throughout the day. The diminutive sprinter should not struggle to stay in contention during the late changes in terrain, but how fresh he remains for the finale is uncertain.

Dylan Groenewegen has shown great form during the spring, yet has surprisingly remained winless despite his eye-catching performances at races such as Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Paris – Nice. Possessing a particularly gritty and determined approach to racing, the Dutchman should find the day’s course playing to his strengths pleasingly enough. A reduced bunch sprint will be the best situation for him to try and win from, so shall not hesitate to follow the late moves or utilise remaining teammates to chase down.

Danny Van Poppel leads Team Sky and shall hope to capture some glory for the British racing outfit, looking to take advantage of the smaller teams here; reduced leadout trains making it easier for a rider like Van Poppel to succeed. With an explosive acceleration at his disposal, he will seek to burst from cover later and sail past his rivals for the win.

Adam Blythe is the reigning British Road Race Champion and has moved to Irish team Aqua Blue Sport for this season, now looking comfortable in a team happy to support his ambitions at races such as the Tour of Yorkshire. A native Yorkshireman, Blythe shall not be bothered by any grotty conditions and has the engine power to get over the final climb of Côte de Robin Hood’s Bay safely enough; he may even choose to catch rivals napping and join a late breakaway.

Likely to fill out the day’s top ten in a sprint finish are Scott ThwaitesRussell DowningChris OpieSteele Von Hoff and Enrique Sanz.

Those who could prove dangerous if allowed too much freedom are Tom MosesThomas VoecklerStephane RossettoConor DunneGatis Smukulis and Ian Bibby.

Outcome:

1st Dylan Groenewegen 2nd Adam Blythe 3rd Caleb Ewan

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Liège–Bastogne–Liège – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The week of classics racing in the Ardennes reaches its crescendo with the year’s fourth monument of the season, Liége – Bastogne – Liége; the penultimate chance to win a monument until the Giro di Lombardia in late September. Known as La Doyenne or ‘The Old Lady’, the race’s 103rd edition since its founding in 1892 totals 258km from Liege and back again to the suburb of Ans. A predominantly tame opening half will do little to worry the bunch, allowing the day’s futile breakaway to obtain their time on TV for the sponsors, before being drawn back in by the peloton during the much harder second half of the race. Once the riders begin to turn back towards the fringes of Liége, where the finish line in Ans awaits them, they shall hit a gruelling sequence of nine climbs intended to send plenty of riders out the back door. The introduction of a short cobbled section towards last year’s finish has been removed, which should mean that the familiar triumvirate of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas shall be the officially recognised battleground as they bear down upon Ans. However, as we have seen previously, it is the unclassified rising road into the finishing straight which has become a key springboard for remaining riders to make their move for the win. The rise lasts for almost 1.5km and hits a gradient of 10%, a challenge which will feel more like a mountain after more than 250km worth of racing.

There are many critics of The Old Lady, labelling it as a race where nothing much really happens for the most part, but in an era of teams throttling the life out of stage racing and several monuments, La Doyenne remains a contest few would wish to stake their savings on predicting.

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde has once again entered the week of the Ardennes classics in the type of form which surely leaves some rivals pondering if it is even worth them showing up to contest these races. The Spaniard is in imperious form so far in 2017, the peloton all too aware of this fact when reaching the Mur de Huy during Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, left to simply watch Valverde sail uphill to yet another victory. His Movistar team will seek to control the bulk of the day’s racing once again, confident that their team-leader will be able to follow the most important moves late on solo, finally putting his rivals to the sword with his customary burst of pace.

Dan Martin is still smarting from his crash in the final corner of 2014’s edition, appearing on course to defend his 2013 title and no doubt believes there to be a great deal of unfinished business with Liége – Bastogne – Liége. He was once again unable to beat Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne, though did suffer from undesirable positioning when his longterm classics rival finally attacked for the line. Martin will want to make the final kilometres as hard as possible, hoping to blunt the speed of faster finishing rivals, most likely doing so by attacking on the final rise into Ans as he did in 2014 before crashing. His buildup to 2017 has been one of his most impressive in his career, but unfortunately for the Irishman, Valverde’s has been equally eye catching.

Sergio Henao‘s progress at the Ardennes classics has been hampered over the years by unfortunate injury and all the hassle surrounding his native blood values, but the Colombian rider finally looks en route to success in 2017. The Sky rider worked hard for teammate Michal Kwiatkowski during Amstel Gold and followed it up with a convincing fourth place atop the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne. He looks strong enough to follow all the right moves and possesses a faster sprint at the end of a race like this than many would expect.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the other option for Team Sky and forms a seriously strong two man attack alongside Henao for the British outfit at Liége – Bastogne – Liége. The former World Champion has one of the fastest sprint finishes for a race like this after Alejandro Valverde, however, it seems that his growing penchant for late attacks is the method which the Polish rider is most likely to utilise in order to secure his second monument victory of 2017.

Greg Van Avermaet will be eager to eke out every last watt of his incredible Spring form, lining up at La Doyenne with serious ambitions of challenging for the win. His consistency during the cobbled classics has been extremely impressive, but this contest is an entirely different affair altogether for the Belgian and it seems unlikely that this year’s Paris – Roubaix winner will also be champion of Liége – Bastogne – Liége. With nothing to lose and no real pressure upon his shoulders, Avermaet is a very dangerous rider in relation to the hopes of day’s bigger favourites and will demand the respect of typical Liége contenders; as the Belgian will punish anyone who gifts him too much freedom.

Michael Albasini has always performed well at one day races, yet at the age of 36, still lacks the palmarés to demonstrate his talents for these gruelling events. The Swiss rider was one of the few to benefit from the introduction of the short cobbled sector of Côte de la Rue Naniot during last year’s race, utilising it effectively to really put his rivals under the hammer and thus making Albasini one of the few riders to truly miss the sector this year. His strength this year should assure him of being in the mix once again, but it often feels a struggle to back Albasini over more successful riders when it matters most in a major race.

Warren Barguil continues to improve at the Ardennes and secured himself sixth place during Wednesday’s edition of La Flèche Wallonne despite a far from ideal run into the Mur de Huy. The combative Frenchman may be more synonymous with grand tour mountain stages, yet he also finished sixth at last year’s running of Liége – Bastogne – Liége, suggesting he does favour these longs days in the saddle with plenty of climbing. He appears to be the best bet for Team Sunweb, as Michael Matthews has not really displayed enough convincing form to suggest he can take the win in Ans.

Romain Bardet spoke recently of his love for this race and its importance to lithe limbed climbing specialists like himself; La Doyenne being their best hope of a monument victory. Bardet is an aggressive rider who appears to relish the intensity of these single day races, finishing second in 2011’s U23 edition of Liége and now possessing four top 15 finishes as a senior rider; two of which being top ten placings. Bardet’s best hopes of victory will come from attacking either on the final uphill section into Ans or going much earlier during the sequence of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas. 

Other riders deserving of attention during the year’s fourth monument are Rui Costa, Alex HowesDylan TeunsTosh Van Der SandeSamuel SanchezJakob FuglsangEnrico GasparottoDiego UlissiRigoberto Uran and Tom Jelte-Slagter.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Sergio Henao 3rd Dan Martin

La Flèche Wallonne – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The Ardennes dishes up a midweek classic in the shape of the 81st edition of La Flèche Wallonne, placed neatly between last weekend’s Amstel Gold and the upcoming Liége – Bastogne – Liége on April 23rd. Established as a happy hunting ground for puncheur extraordinaire Alejandro Valverde in recent years, having won in 2014, 2015 & 2016; La Flèche Wallonne prides itself on an explosive finish atop the Mur de Huy to crown the day’s victor. Starting in Binche, the race travels a total of 200.5km en route to the finale in Huy, navigating the narrow roads of the Ardennes which induce stress for all teams as they seek to keep their leaders out of trouble. Several climbs will need to be tackled along the way, including two passes of the Mur de Huy itself, though it is the final attempt which is expected to prove decisive once again. With a gradient reaching 25% at times, this brutal challenge cannot be won as a fluke result, it takes a perfect balance of tactical nous and potent acceleration to attack at the ideal moment in order to win La Flèche Wallonne.

La Flèche Wallonne Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde has made this race his own during the previous three seasons, proving unable to be caught once he accelerates hard upon the steepest section of the Mur de Huy. His early season form has been very impressive in 2017, making the prospect of going toe to toe with the Spanish veteran even more intimidating for his anticipated rivals. His Movistar team are now extremely experienced at positioning Valverde ideally at the base of the final climb, but it is his own prowess at timing his attack perfectly which has delivered him three consecutive victories thus far. For many, it seems impossible to see any other man standing atop the podium once again.

Sergio Henao looked extremely impressive while working for teammate Michal Kwiatkowski during Amstel Gold the other day and should be allowed a greater degree of freedom to lead the charge here today. The Colombian has an encouraging record at the Ardennes classics, possessing the skills necessary to attack aggressively on these ludicrously steep slopes and perhaps one of only a handful genuinely able to threaten the indomitable Valverde. Henao looks to be hitting form at the perfect time to challenge for La Flèche Wallonne and has the strength of a well equipped Sky team to slingshot him into the opening section of the Mur de Huy in pursuit of victory.

Dan Martin has become accustomed to watching the silhouette of Alejandro Valverde cross the line ahead of him in recent years at La Flèche Wallonne and has finished in the top four in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Much like Valverde, the Irishman has enjoyed a successful start to the season thus far, hopefully keeping him on par with his familiar foe in 2017. His greatest weakness has been knowing when to finally make his race winning move at this race, often coming up short of the line as a result of attacking too hard too soon, but there can only be so many times he makes this mistake without learning from it. Martin abandoned Amstel Gold, though never circled that as a serious target and it may in fact be a great indication of how assured he is of his form heading into La Flèche Wallonne right now.

Michael Albasini is a rider who seems to muster a strong performance at this race each year, though rarely mounts a serious challenge for the day’s win. His third place finish at Amstel Gold is a strong indication of his form currently, no doubt convincing Orica – Scott more than ever to back the Swiss rider with everything they have in hope of taking victory. Albasini is unlikely to have the sheer pace of riders such as Dan Martin and Alejandro Valverde, but could be the man most likely to benefit from a tactical standoff between the big favourites.

Warren Barguil has been flying under the radar during 2017 thus far, but there may be some concern that this has in fact been due to a lack of form. He was lively during Amstel Gold, appearing as one of the strongest members of the chasing group, now potentially arriving in ideal form to compete well at La Flèche Wallonne. Though he might be a lithe bodied climber, Barguil does have a strong burst of speed on these steep ramps which stretch beyond 20% and could be one most likely to breakaway solo in order to take the win. 

Michael Woods continues to impress since making his transition from running several years ago and finished a creditable twelfth place during last year’s edition. There is no doubt that he has the physical strength to challenge the bigger names, possessing a strong uphill sprint when required, but may find that a lack of good positioning leaves him with too much ground to make up once the fireworks erupt.

Other interesting riders who could all feature in the day’s final top ten are Robert GesinkLilian CalmejaneTom-Jelte Slagter and Diego Ulissi.

Outcome:

1st Sergio Henao 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Dan Martin

Amstel Gold Logo

Amstel Gold – Race Preview 2017

Course:

A hectic week of frantic cycling in and around the Ardennes region begins, as ever, with one of Dutch cycling’s greatest treats; Amstel Gold. Forming part of late spring’s famous triptych, the next eight days will be crammed with some of the season’s most aggressive riding as the peloton tackle Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège in almost a single week. Each race favours a slightly different style of rider, though they each demand an individual to be strong, combative and intelligent in pursuit of victory. Today’s task is a 261km journey from Maastricht to Berg en Terblijt, taking in narrow roads on constant undulating terrain, creating a bunch who sees its anxieties grow as they seek to peer around the next corner. Positioning shall be a key factor for those hoping to perform well at Amstel Gold, making the battle for the front an intense contest as soon as the starting flag has been waved. A total of 35 officially recognised hills feature on course, few of which would invoke much trepidation normally, but mole hills become mountains once the race passes 200km of sustained racing. Suffice to say, Amstel Gold often becomes an attritional affair which builds tension ahead of the final attack on the finishing climb, but this course is slight different than normal. Instead, the finish in 2017 should allow a greater number of riders to come into play, favouring the strongest sprinters who are capable of surviving a day like this in good shape. Gone are the days where riders sought to put everything down on the final ascent of the Cauberg in order to win, though the iconic hill does feature throughout the day, 2017 looks set to be a reduced sprint amongst the toughest of riders.
Amstel Gold Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Michael Matthews is one of several riders expected to challenge once again for the win at Amstel Gold, despite having never managed to convert several good showings at this race into a victory thus far. The Australian has continued to develop his ability to survive hard days in the saddle, able to emerge when it matters most at the end of the stage, easily putting rivals to the sword with his blistering pace. Matthews is not scared of joining a breakaway either, making him a crucial rider to mark for those also seeking victory, as it is unlikely any move capable of staying away could feature anyone faster than himself. Though his previous form here is exciting, the course changes will make it harder for Matthews to gain an advantage over pure sprinters, as the finish is no longer upon or shortly after the Cauberg.

Fabio Felline has been on the rise since last year and will enter today’s race with plenty of confidence that a podium place is well within his capabilities right now, if not more. His efforts during the early part of the season have showcased his durability for arduous contests, able to match some of the best in the world as the pedal revolutions tick higher and higher. The Italian is another who is dangerous due to his ability to win from either a bunch kick or breakaway move, so will not be afforded a great deal of freedom by the bigger favourites. However, his greatest issue is that he is not on par with the elite climbers and sprinters, meaning any move he makes will need to be intelligent enough to compensate for this difference in ability.

Bryan Coquard finished an impressive fourth place at last year’s edition of Amstel Gold, only losing out to Sonny Colbrelli in the sprint for third place on the day. The French rider possesses an immense turn of speed, often emerging late from behind his more powerful rivals, accelerating past them as the finish line rapidly approaches. Coquard looks to have developed a greater degree of strength and determination to stay in contention when things get tough at races such as these; with last year’s result testament to that fact. He may not have enjoyed an eye-catching Spring like others here, but the general feeling amongst those in the sport, is that Coquard has the form necessary right now to win Amstel Gold.

Sonny Colbrelli continues to surprise people with his results during the early part of 2017, appearing here off the back of victory at De Brabantse Pijl last week. Colbrelli has good form at Amstel Gold in recent years and should find that the course alterations play into his hands more than any other major contender present. Also, his team features defending champion and two time winner Enrico Gasparottoable to guide him through the maelstrom with his wealth of experience at Amstel Gold. Colbrelli is one of the best at surviving tough races, demonstrated clearly by his recent showings at Milan – San Remo; one of the hardest races a rider can face each year. With a strong combination of individual and team strength, there is a great chance that the trophy will remain in Italian hands for another year.

Greg Van Avermaet should be another rider who finds the recent route chances favourable for his chances of winning Amstel Gold. Currently enjoying an incredible year of form and successes, the Belgian hero will still emerge motivated as ever to perform well enough to challenge for the day’s honours. Assuming that the main bunch is slowly whittled down throughout the day, it is hard to see Greg Van Avermaet being absent from such a group and from that position he is currently unbeatable in a reduced sprint.

Alejandro Valverde is a rider who shall not be overjoyed by the finish no longer being determined by the testing Cauberg, so will need a new plan if he is to succeed today. The start of the season has proven fruitful for the veteran Spanish rider and many are hinting that he is in some of the best Spring form ever seen from him. As there is no longer the steep springboard on offer to catapult him to the finish line, he is now another rider seeking to be part of a much smaller group which battles it out for the victory. Should the situation arise, then Valverde is one of the hardest men to beat in a flat sprint after such a long and gruelling race.

Philippe Gilbert delivered a miraculous victory at De Ronde Van Vlaanderen a few weeks ago and has been a dominant force during the last couple of months. The Belgian champion will however struggle to replicate his previous dominance at this specific race, as the Cauberg lacking finale makes it much tougher for Gilbert to drop riders who can sprint faster than himself before the line. It is likely that he will need a much more attritional day in order to improve his odds of winning, but it is not impossible to see Gilbert once again becoming champion, especially given his current form.

Outsiders who are worth watching throughout the day are; Enrico Gasparotto, Ben Swift, Michael Albasini, Diego Ulissi, Tim Wellens and Simon Gerrans.

Outcome:

1st Sonny Colbrelli 2nd Michael Matthews 3rd Fabio Felline

Paris - Roubaix 2017 Race Preview

Paris – Roubaix – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The season’s cobbled campaign reaches its crescendo at Paris – Roubaix once again, the preceding weeks of gruelling Spring races in Northern Europe having given us a glimpse of who is mostly likely to survive another ‘Sunday In Hell’. Stretching a total of 257km from the start at Compiègne – Choisy-Au-Bac to the historic finale at the Roubaix velodrome. Tackling 29 official sectors en route to the finish, riders will not only require the strength and determination to succeed, but also the light touch of luck to steer clear of danger throughout the maelstrom. The riders are gifted 100km to prepare themselves for the barrage of challenges, hitting their first cobbled sector after the century marker and finding little in the way of relief until the finish line is crossed or they climb off their bike. As ever, much anxiety will be heaped upon the riders’ passage through the crucial sectors of Care Four de l’Arbre, Mons-en-Pevele and Arenberg forest; the fight for position entering these being some of the most intense riding during the day. Of all the classics which form the monuments in cycling, Paris – Roubaix is perhaps the one which sees the greatest number of star riders lose out through bad luck rather than poor form, meaning an upset is always on the cards at this iconic race. Regardless, whomever is crowned 2017’s champion will have achieved it through no fluke, as every rider who enters the Roubaix velodrome does so gripped by exhaustion. There is no ‘easy’ way to win Paris – Roubaix.

Paris - Roubaix 2017 Race Preview Route

Contenders:

John Degenkolb was unable to defend his title last year due to a training accident which almost cost him a finger and will now be extremely motivated to compensate for his previous absence by performing strongly once again. The German seems built to dominate this race and it is easy to imagine that this 2017 edition may have been poised to complete a hat-trick of wins had he been able to contest the monument last year. His immense strength has seen him as one of the best riders behind the likes of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet during the early semi-classics this year, but on many of those occasions it was the dreaded hellingen which prevented him from challenging for the win. Today features no such cobbled climbs, making it a levelling factor which plays into his hands. It will take plenty of effort to detach Degenkolb, should the frontrunners fail to achieve this, then nobody will be faster than the German at the end of this race as they enter Roubaix.

Peter Sagan saw his ambitions of defending his title at Ronde van Vlaanderen wiped out by a rogue coat, causing himself Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet to crash upon the cobblestones. His classics campaign has not been as easy as many expected, Sagan having to cope with negative riding and limited team support compared to teams such as Quick – Step and Trek – Segafredo. Though the results may not immediately demonstrate it, Sagan has been indomitable for much of these semi-classic races and will believe himself strong enough to compensate for a lack of team strength once the race becomes a ‘man vs man’ battle. He is not always the fastest at the end of a tough race such as this, so will need to focus upon conserving energy and allow Quick – Step to take control of affairs for the day.

Oliver Naesen has risen rapidly during the Spring to become one of the few riders capable of matching the likes of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet. He was in a fantastic position at the Tour of Flanders, but was unfortunate enough to be taken out by a spectator alongside Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet before he could make any moves for victory. Naesen is an aggressive rider who will not wish to simply sit on the wheel and wait to be ridden off, capable of attacking solo from range, he is also talented enough to be a danger in a sprint. However, those most likely to match him are all faster than he is on paper, but nothing is guaranteed once Paris – Roubaix reaches its conclusion. The course suits Naesen’s skills extremely well, and if he rides a cunning enough race, he will be the most likely to cause an upset.

Greg Van Avermaet has become the classics specialists which many had long expected him to become, dominating 2017’s opening classics with apparent ease and the only man able to put Peter Sagan to the sword when given the chance. The Belgian is not as well suited to the rigours of Paris – Roubaix however, as much of Avermaet’s riding is built around his immense acceleration on some of Europe’s toughest cobbled climbs. He is in the form of his life right now, so he cannot be dismissed simply because the terrain is not perfect, instead it is likely that Avermaet will look to follow the wheel of favourites such as John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan, expecting to then dispatch them with ease in a sprint for the line.

Alexander Kristoff is not currently in the same monstrous form as that which delivered him immense success in 2015, yet there are signs to suggest he is once again on the rise to the top. Kristoff does not possess an eye-catching history at Paris – Roubaix, which is surprising when considering his physical attributes, though he certainly has what it takes to succeed if he commits everything to it. His ability to suffer through the hardest of days in the saddle is well documented, but given the encouraging weather forecast for the day, this year’s edition is unlikely to be the attritional affair which would see Kristoff become favourite.

Tom Boonen bids farewell to life as a professional cyclist with one final appearance at Paris – Roubaix, a race which he has conquered on four occasions, confirming himself as one of the greatest Belgians to have ridden this race. Boonen will be inspired to deliver a famous farewell to the sport, aiming to claim victory for a fifth time and become its most successful competitor in history. Quick – Step are once again the strongest team in this one day classic, but their mix of potential victors means Boonen will not be afforded total support. Plenty needs to go in his favour throughout the day to arrive at Roubaix with the leading riders, but should he do so, there is no doubt that he has the gritty determination to lift the cobblestone one last time.

Others who are anticipated to animate the race and challenge for the win are Niki TerpstraZdenek StybarLuke DurbridgeIan StannardLuke Rowe and Florian Sénéchal.

Outcome:

1st Oliver Naesen 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Tom Boonen