UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Road World Championships Bergen 2017 – Men’s Road Race Preview

Course:

The end of the 2017 road season is hurtling to its conclusion, with Sunday’s Men’s Road Race marking the finale of a brilliant World Championships in the Norwegian city of Bergen. Having watched the preceding races from the elite women and youngsters, today’s title challenge is anticipated to be a difficult to control affair, one which sees nations panic at the prospect of missing any decisive moves. As ever, the course to crown the next World Champion is intended to be a wearing task, chipping away at the riders upon each rotation of the circuit having completed the initial 39.5km of racing. Once the 19.1km circuits begin, the attritional nature of the course will become apparent, the day’s total mileage of 267.5km intended to see only the finest rise to the top.

The eleven laps of the circuit begin with a small rise shortly after first entering, plateauing briefly, before then dropping down once again 5km in. From this point starts much of the climbing on these laps, the road tilting upwards and eventually placing the riders at the day’s sole recognised ascent. Salmon Hill is a 1.5km hill, averaging a very consistent 6.4% on average and should be a challenge which many choose to tackle in the big ring. The drop from the summit is a simple enough descent, allowing riders to push on at great speed, though might not offer quite enough to escape a well organised peloton. The final 4km of the circuit are not particularly technical once heading back into Bergen, though two turns in the final 300m might be enough for a solo move to just cling on after the flamme rouge. With no convincing gradient present, the likelihood of a sprint deciding the day’s winner is high from a reduced bunch, though solo success as been prominent during the supporting races here in Norway.

UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan arrives in Norway with the very plausible chance of becoming the first man to win three consecutive World Championship Road Race titles. The course plays to his strengths convincingly enough and provides him with the belief he shall be the fastest men present in a sprint for the win after 267.5km of arduous racing. Two key issues are prominent however for Sagan, and the first is the fact he is Peter Sagan, a rider few others will be interested in working with as part of any moves. Having already won this twice in his career, he certainly does not need to prove himself today and could ride defensively in hope of being towed right the way to the finale. Though Salmon Hill is a key feature on the course, it is there to tire the bunch and is unlikely to prove the launchpad for another swashbuckling Sagan solo move. The second greatest issue for him is his recent illness, Peter Sagan has been sick for almost a week now and has not ridden for three days as a result. He may not be incapacitated by it, but it is certainly enough to take the edge off his form, on a day where only 100% is likely to win the rainbow stripes.

Alexander Kristoff as had an interesting season of results and performances, perhaps reaching this World Championship on home soil as a forgotten favourite, a man who has previously dominated gruelling one day races like this in recent seasons. There is no denying that the course has been built with his talents in mind, aiming to blunt his rivals throughout the day and place him in a position to deliver a home victory in Bergen. The year has not been rich in rewards for Kristoff, though victories at the European Road Race Championship and Ride London have demonstrated his innate talent for riding the perfect one day race. He is also one of the few names who is likely to benefit from miserable weather; native spectators happily cheering on a downpour with hope of improving Kristoff’s odds of winning. Surprisingly fast during a flat sprint, and with Peter Sagan potentially suffering from sickness, Kristoff may emerge as the man to beat.

Fernando Gaviria looks to be the fastest man present at the race this year and can certainly cope with the rigours of this course in convincing fashion to still challenge when it matters most. The Colombian team is a somewhat awkward fit for Gaviria however, supported by many pure climbers who are unlikely to be used to protecting a sprinter all afternoon, let alone trying to lead him out late in the day. He has often proven able to survive the cut on difficult courses like today, though admittedly sees his top end speed suffer as result, potentially leaving him short in the final metres. He is a man which many will want to see dropped, meaning his team and himself will have to be alert to all dangers in hope of keeping him in contention.

Michael Matthews chased home a victorious Peter Sagan in Richmond a couple of years ago and will feel he has only improved further since that point. The Australian team have confirmed that Matthews is the sole leader for the day, intending to keep all their riders in reserve to work for him and making it unlikely we will see any riding from them in speculative breakaway moves. Matthews is known for his indomitable sprinting skill when it comes to short uphill finales, making the Bergen course ill-fitting on paper, though things are never that simple after such a long day of racing. With a powerful and committed squad at his disposal, he should arrive as one of the freshest riders in contention if a bunch kick proves the crowning moment of 2017’s World Championship Road Race. His current form has been convincing in recent weeks and there is no doubt he will be fired up to take the rainbow stripes in the green and gold of Australia.

Elia Viviani arrives as one of the most in form riders at the race, enjoying a raft of victories in recent months and shall be another sprinter many will want to distance. Potentially the fastest man at the race for a flat sprint finish, the Italian knows he has a brilliant chance of winning, as long as he can stay in contention during the hectic concluding laps. As always seems to be the case at the World Championships for Italy, their greatest issue is the assurance of teamwork, as at least three riders shall feel they have a chance of taking the stripes in Bergen. If Viviani cannot get his compatriots united behind him, then life will only be made harder as a consequence, as any unnecessary chasing shall only serve to increase the likelihood of him cracking before the finish line is in sight. However, if he does make the cut and has managed to avoid working too hard earlier in the day, it will be surprising if anyone faster than Elia Viviani is present

Philippe Gilbert could be the joker in the pack, poised to secure an unexpected second rainbow jersey in Bergen, benefiting from a Belgium squad which boasts an incredible degree of cycling talent. As a nation lacking a convincing pure sprinter, they shall be committed to making the repetitions of Salmon Hill as hard as possible, doing their utmost to avoid a large bunch kick finishing the day off. Tiesj Benoot, Oliver Naesen and Tim Wellens are just three examples of Belgian riders which other nations shall not be able to allow any freedom to within the final 50km of racing. This should allow Gilbert to sit behind the favourites and hope to stay as fresh as possible, allowing his teammates to fracture the race repeatedly throughout the city centre circuits. Gilbert’s killer instinct will inform him of which is the key move to follow late in the day, from which his odds of winning look most likely and shall believe he has what it takes to sign off from Norway with a rainbow stripes delivering sprint.

Greg Van Avermaet shall be the equally dangerous game plan for Belgium, a man who has repeatedly shown to be a clinical finisher, specifically when small groups find themselves deciding the outcome of major races. His confidence is greater than ever these days, as recent battles against Peter Sagan have often favoured the Belgian more than the reigning World Champion. Much like teammate Philippe Gilbert, Avermaet will hope that he only needs to make two crucial efforts during the day; one to make the cut and another to win the day. If Belgium can make this course far harder than it appears on first sight, then he will be one of those who shall come to the fore and benefit from a more arduous contest.

Michal Kwiatkowski should be another rider capable of securing his second stint in the rainbow bands on today’s course, though shall not be given the freedom which previously handed him the jersey in 2014. There are no question regarding his ability to survive a day in the saddle as tough as this is likely to prove, especially after taking the win at Milan – San Remo earlier this Spring. His best hope shall be to join a strong breakaway group, as a solo attack shall be difficult on such a simple climb, from where he can choose to sprint for the win or fracture the move further in the final kilometres with a fierce attack.

Matteo Trentin looked to be enjoying great form in the recent Vuelta a España and any confirmation of him having carried his condition through to the World Championships will make him a danger to everyone’s ambitions today. Capable of winning from either a small move or larger bunch sprint, the Italian will fancy his chances on a course which is unlikely to see him dropped from the group of favourites. However, it is unclear what his team orders have been heading into this race and whether he shall agree with any request to ride entirely for his faster compatriot Elia Viviani. If not hamstrung by team orders, then Trentin will aim to vanish up the road and emerge as the fastest man present from a small group of riders.

Others to consider:

Michael Albasini is a namer few will have on their list of contenders, but the veteran Swiss rider deserves a mention off the back of recent performances at Coppa Agostoni – Giro delle Brianze and Coppa Bernocchi; winning the former and finishing fourth in the latter. Both around 200km in distance, he evidently has the condition to bother the favourites today and his sprinting has been the best since earlier this season at his home tour. It will take plenty to occur in order to place Albasini in a race winning position, though recent showings suggest he does have what is required to finish it off.

Edvald Boasson Hagen is another pick for the Norwegian’s to rally behind, especially after a great Tour de France and recent Tour of Britain, both seeing him ride aggressively throughout. It is unclear what the leadership situation is within the home nation’s team, though it would be wasteful to expect Boasson Hagen to protect Alexander Kristoff all day. If a well equipped move of contenders gets free late in the day, expect Boasson Hagen to be quick to join, aiming to bury his fellow escapees with a potent sprint to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe has seen the selectors pick a French team with the intention of supporting him as best as possible, hoping he can repeat some of his familiar early season form which has delivered him great results in the Ardennes Classics. No doubt preferring a tougher course, he might actually benefit from the plan of the Belgian team today, perhaps going as far as to unite with them to break the race apart. He looked to be rediscovering his best in the Vuelta a España a few weeks ago and is worth watching if appearing cool in the pack with less than 50km of racing left.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Philippe Gilbert

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UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Road World Championships Bergen 2017 – Men’s Individual Time Trial

Course:

With the end of the cycling season now upon us, attention has once again turned upon the World Championships and all eyes are on Bergen to discover where each rainbow jersey shall end up this year. Today is the keenly anticipated Men’s Individual Time Trial, featuring a route which should shake things up for the usual favourites when it comes to racing against the clock.

This 31km course comprises two laps and a thrilling uphill battle to the summit finish atop Mount Floyen, making it far from familiar territory for the pure time trial specialist. Such a short course for the world title decider is unusual, but organisers are aiming to make the concluding climb as explosive as possible, thus do not wish to drain the riders entirely before the big finale. Rising almost immediately from the start, the first half of the race is a gently rolling affair which shall offer a chance to settle into a rhythm, though there is a strong possibility many will be caught out by how hilly Bergen is to a degree.

Of course, the second half of the race is focused entirely upon Mount Floyen, where many expect the rainbow jersey to be won or lost by the day’s contenders. Lasting for 3.4km in total, the climb is a significant task to be conquered, though such a title is certainly not intended to be an easy win for the riders. The average gradient of 9.1% is relatively true throughout, though it does tip over 10% for a kilometre, eventually softening to 5.5% for the final push to the line. With no real relief en route to the summit, the frontrunners shall need to measure their concluding effort to perfection, as blowing up on Mount Floyen will see riders haemorrhage time.

UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Individual Time Trial Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin sees the dominance of previous time trial champions such as Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin come to a close in cycling’s history, with his own rise to prominence potentially marking the beginning of another period of dominance. Having enjoyed a super year of racing, featuring a Giro d’Italia title, the Dutchman arrives in Bergen to finish 2017 with a bang. He has been relatively modest of his chances here, despite being part of the Sunweb squad which secured the team time trial title earlier in the week and having been an indomitable force in this discipline throughout much of the year. With his climbing talents afforded the chance to feature as well today, Tom Dumoulin may deliver a devastating victory atop Mount Floyen.

Chris Froome exited the Vuelta a España in fantastic form and could be the man who pushes Tom Dumoulin right the way to the finish line in pursuit of the rainbow stripes. After a defensively ridden Tour de France, the Team Sky captain performed more aggressively in Spain and has spoken confidently of his form approaching the Bergen time trial. Many of his grand tour victories have been built upon his foundation of time trial talents, with much of his career work being focused on climbing, thus the two merge neatly for Froome today with potentially unmatchable results. He will aim to be in a good position ahead of the concluding climb, hoping that he can give it everything to take a big chunk of time out of his rivals late on.

Primoz Roglic is a rider who has enjoyed a breakthrough year and certainly has the capability to threaten the medal positions in Bergen. However, his form is unclear currently and the course does not suit him quite as well as it could have done. His victories during 2017 have often caught pundits and fans by surprise, making him a dangerous name to rule out entirely of challenging for gold unexpectedly.

Vasil Kiryienka is a former winner of the rainbow jersey and might feel he has a reasonable chance of performing strongly once again on a course such as this. Despite sacrificing himself for much of the season for Team Sky once again, often not showing much in time trials along the way, the Belarusian always seems able to muster a last charge for this special race. His pedigree is certainly not under any scrutiny and he will appreciate this great opportunity to take another title on a fitting course.

Victor Campenaerts took the European time trial title this season and deserves consideration as a medal contender if on his most sparkling form once again. The final rise to the line is somewhat of an issue for the Belgian rider, though he might be able to gain such an advantage in the earlier part of the contest, that he can hope to measure his remaining energy well enough to protect a potential lead.

Others worth considering are Rohan DennisStefan Küng, Maciej Bodnar and Jonathan Castroviejo.

Outcome:

1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Vasil Kiryienka

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

After almost a month of gruelling racing, we finally arrive at the end of 2017’s La Vuelta a España, Chris Froome having achieved his ambition of consecutive grand tour victories in familiar faultless fashion. With a processional ride into Madrid to celebrate his success, much of the race’s remaining stress will be upon the shoulders of sprinters and their teammates. Leaving the start in Arroyomolinos, it is a total of 117.6km to the finish within the Spanish capital, of which should prove another showcase of the fastest men left standing at the race this year. The finale itself posses very few technical challenges, with the final dash to the line a simple affair that will be a drag race set to have the sprinters duke it out for the last stage honours on offer.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 21

Contenders:

Magnus Cort shall finally be allowed off the leash to chance his luck amongst a bunch kick on the last stage of this year’s Vuelta a España. Though we have not seen a great deal of the Orica-Scott rider during the last three weeks, he is certainly one of the fastest riders present and will relish the opportunity to remind people of this fact. The leadout afforded to him shall not be particularly ideal, though at the end of a grand tour stage race, it becomes more of a head to head task to discover who has the energy remaining to turn in one last successful sprint.

Matteo Trentin has ridden the race particularly intelligently and could walk away with one of the leader’s jerseys as a result of his canny tactics. He is not the fastest man here and should be one of the most fatigued as a result of his recent breakaway efforts, though the motivation to win the points jersey at the final time of asking could make all the difference for him. The leadout at his disposal might remedy any issues however, as their combined power will make it tough for rivals to seize control in the concluding kilometres.

Edward Theuns should find himself with a brilliant chance of taking the win on Stage 21, as the talented Belgian appears to have survived the rigours of the previous three weeks in good shape, providing confidence that he is still able to produce his best in a sprint finish. Though his role has often meant supporting his teammates, limiting his hopes of winning, his surprising freshness has been evident when working for Alberto Contador. If Trek-Segafredo manages to produce a successful leadout, then they shall have great odds of taking back to back stage wins in the final weekend of racing.

Adam Blythe should feel a sense of pressure having been lessened as a result of teammate Stefan Denifl’s victory last week for Aqua Blue Sport, allowing him to enjoy this last opportunity to secure a win for himself. This stage suits him convincingly so and the leadout train expected to support him will be one of the best still capable of performing strongly at such a late point in the race. The British sprinter’s greatest problem will be fatigue; though this is the case for everyone now and his highly motivated teammates could compensate for this issue well enough for him.

Those also expected to muster a final strong showing in the anticipated sprint are Sacha ModoloTom Van AsbroeckSøren Kragh and Michael Schwarzmann.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

We finally reach the most eagerly awaited stage of 2017’s La Vuelta a España, finishing atop an iconic climb and laying the foundations for an epic conclusion to this year’s race. Beginning in Corvera de Asturias, the course totals a brief 117.5km and seeks to instigate an immense battle upon the epic Alto de L’Angliru. Climbing immediately from the start, Stage 20 is bound to see another hotly contested battle to feature amongst the day’s breakaway, though the first recognised climb does not appear until the Category 1 Alto de la Cobertoria; lasting for 8.1km and sustaining a draining gradient of 8.6%. A steep descent then follows and sends the bunch headlong into the Category 1 Alto del Cordal, averaging a gradient of 8.6% and taking all of 7 km to complete. The subsequent downhill run is a deceiving drop down which never really hits level ground again, slingshotting the riders immediately up the day’s iconic climb of Alto de L’Angliru. Considered one of the toughest ascents in the whole of Europe, the HC task totals 12.5km and possesses an average gradient on paper of 9.8%. This is a greatly misleading fact however, as the reality is that of a climb which has slopes far into double digit figures and eventually touches around 25% to really break the spirit of those hoping for the win. There is very little in the way of relief during the ascent, contributing to the immense gruelling nature of this legendary climb.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 20

Contenders:

Romain Bardet has had eyes upon the stage for sometime now, and having started the race with his ambitions on stage wins, Stage 20 would be the most impressive win to take at this year’s La Vuelta a España. He invested plenty during yesterday’s breakaway attack, though still looked relatively fresh when crossing the line, potentially giving him the confidence to try another move today. The steep slopes suit his talents, providing an ideal springboard to break his rivals upon.

Chris Froome is the best climber in the race currently, looking to pace himself perfectly en route to the summit of the day’s finale, reeling in all rivals in the process. He shall rely heavily upon his Team Sky firepower as usual, but when it comes to the concluding kilometres on Stage 20, Froome has enough to solo his way to victory. Having had to endure a defensive approach to this summer’s Tour de France, he will want to seal this impressive second grand tour victory of 2017 with a flourish and has the ability to achieve precisely that.

Alberto Contador shall be waving goodbye to his home grand tour this weekend, hanging up his wheels and choosing to retire on Spanish soil. As the greatest rider of a generation, he will not be content with leaving his final race empty handed, and his constant attacking in recent days as proved exactly that. His greatest ally is the element of surprise, as many are certain he shall make a move, but where that might occur is a mystery right now. For all fans with a sense of romanticism, a victory for Contador would be a fitting tribute to himself and La Vuelta.

Ilnur Zakarin has once again found his best form during the final week of a grand tour race, looking more aggressive as of late and being capable of following the moves of the bigger names. He often emerges as one of the strongest when racing upon ludicrously steep climbs, especially those which last for quite some time, rather than brief ramps to battle up. Zakarin could struggle to find the freedom to attack, though with such a huge challenge concluding the day, his rivals might not have what it takes to close him down.

Vincenzo Nibali is another rider who can produce his best on steep climbs which last for several kilometres and his been relatively consistent throughout the entirety of the race. The Italian has performed well atop the Angliru before, providing insight as to how best to measure his efforts, thus will be a danger to stage honours on this infamous climb.

Others to consider are Miguel Angel LopezRafal MajkaJoe Dombrowski and Daniel Moreno.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Alberto Contador 3rd Chris Froome

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

The day’s 149.7km course from Caso. Parque Natural de Redes to Gijón should inspire an aggressive approach to racing from the bunch, as with so few opportunities remaining for riders and teams to save their race, interest will be great on Stage 19. Though a flat finale is on offer for the sprinters, it is bound to prove a considerable task in order to be at the front of the race once the finish line approaches, as the course will make controlling any breakaway hard work.

Without giving the riders much of a chance to find their climbing legs, the day’s first climb appears after around only 20km, coming in the shape of the Category 1 Alto de la Colladona. This opening ascent averages 6.8% for 7km, though comes very close to touching double digit gradients at times and will form the day’s gruppetto for many in the bunch. Once over the top, a considerable downhill stretch begins and runs right the way to the opening slopes of the Category 3 Alto de Sto. Emiliano (6.8 km, avg 4.5%). This is soon followed by another Category 3 ascent, the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos, which looks a tougher task on paper with an average gradient of 8.2% for 4.3km. A rolling run of terrain then lasts for 25km, dropping down rapidly after another small rise and placing the riders at the base of the day’s final climb. The Category 3 Alto de San Martin de Huerces is relatively short at 4.5km, though its average gradient of 7.2% is potent enough to decide the day’s outcome before the finish line is even worth worrying about. A sharp charge from the top leads into Gijón, potentially allowing a solo move to stay clear during the descent, though a well organised group could close the gap and duke it out amongst a reduced sprint.

 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 19 Preview

Cotenders:

Pello Bilbao shall be hoping his raw strength can help establish himself amongst the day’s expected breakaway, the Astana rider is well suited to the short climbs throughout Stage 19 and has done well to carry much of his earlier form into this final week. His greatest issue shall be whether he will be afforded the freedom to attack, as his responsibilities to his team have increased with the immense performance of Miguel Lopez upon the general classification. If he is allowed to invest his efforts into today’s stage, then there is a good chance Bilbao will be one of the strongest present in a winning move.

Alberto Contador will not be content with leaving his final native grand tour without a final stage win and the day’s profile has all the makings of a classic Alberto Contador long range attack. The choking nature of Team Sky will be a major obstacle to overcome in his attempts to seal a farewell win, though a tight race which reaches the final climb could lend itself perfectly for him to catch the fellow general classification big guns napping, stealing an advantage late on and holding it right to the line.

Rui Costa should be a capable of making any moves which form on the day’s first climb, reminding many of his capabilities on these days which are packed full of short climbs the former world champion has previously performed so well upon. Though he has not garnered a great deal of attention during the race so far, he has actually tried repeatedly to make the crucial stage breakaways and been extremely unlucky to miss out. He will be a difficult companion to ditch before a potential sprint finish, especially as so few will even have the turn of pace to compete with him after such hotly contested day.

Nicolas Roche might choose Stage 19 to try and recover some glory from 2017’s Vuelta a España, as his general classification hopes have slipped through his fingers and now a stage win appears his only remaining chance of salvaging a prize of sorts. He possesses all the requisite skills to perform well today, the ascents suiting him sufficiently enough and a sharp downhill to the line where he has a great chance of being one of the fastest of a breakaway present.

Alessandro De Marchi will surely prove to leave the race as the most combative rider, having featured so regularly in the breakaways during this year’s La Vuelta a España, it has become a question as who will join the Italian in the moves. Perhaps the final chance he shall have at taking a win, it is likely he will somehow muster the energy required to feature yet again, perhaps finally taking a much deserved stage win. His immense skill at identifying the perfect time to attack has been unrivalled at the race this year and it seems only a case of odds until he is finally rewarded.

Daniel Moreno suits this course particularly well and the Spaniard has certainly been on the rise in recent stages which feature this accumulatively draining series of ascents. Certainly entering the tail end of his career, Moreno is still one of the best when it comes to late challenges like today’s Alto de San Martin de Huerces and will know exactly how to time his move to perfection.

Others to consider are Luis Leon SanchezLuis Angel MatéChris FroomeSimon Yates and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Pello Bilbao

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course

A relatively short day at 169km in duration, though one which again packs much of the anticipated action in the latter stages of the day’s racing. Starting in Suances, the route to Santo Toribio de Liébana does not begin any significant climbing until around 100km of riding has been completed by the riders. The first of the day’s recognised climbs is the Category 3 Collada de Carmona (4.8 km, avg 7.2%), signalling the start of a sawtooth triple header which also features the Category 3 Colaada de Ozalba (6 km, avg 6.6%) and then concludes this rapid blast of ascents with the Category 2 Collada de la Hoz (7 km, avg 6%), the peak of which then sends the riders down another ascent before the final charge to the finish line. The last climb of the day is the 3.2km (avg 6.4%) rise to the finish line on Stage 18, likely to function as a crucial springboard for those hitting out for victory from a bunch of frontrunners.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Woods could finally hit out for a stage victory on a stage finish which plays convincingly to his strengths. He has managed to stick relatively closely to the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador throughout the race thus far and will now be afforded the chance to utilise his sparkling form to bring some happiness to the ailing Cannondale – Drapac team.

Julian Alaphilippe has shone brightly during the race this year and will be confident of being in the frame for stage honours yet again today. He has animated the days on a regular basis, which may have cost him somewhat ahead of Stage 18, though his condition has been so encouraging that he seems like he can achieve anything he sets his mind to right now.

Miguel Angel Lopez really stepped into the limelight during La Vuelta a España this year, proving incredibly strong and a consistent thorn in the side of those hoping for unexpected breakaway success. Despite his swashbuckling performances, Lopez still appears in competitive condition, having managed to avoid fatiguing too much as a consequence. If part of a group reaching the final rise first, he will be an obvious favourite to go all the way.

Rafal Majka finally mustered glimpses of his best last week and now looks a threatening presence for the win if a breakaway makes it all the way to the concluding kilometres. The amount of climbing late on plays into his hands well, though there are questions as to whether the terrain is truly tough enough to extract the best performance possible from the Polish rider.

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins, having looked relatively animated on occasions, though there are suggestions he may have eyes upon a bigger prize later in the race. The final climb to the finish is a fitting finale for the surprisingly punchy French rider, though much like potential rival Rafal Majka, the last push for the win might not be steep enough to allow Bardet to really hammer home an advantage.

Others to consider are Daniel MorenoRui CostaAdam YatesAlberto Contador and Pello Bilbao.

Outcome:

1st Michael Woods 2nd Romain Bardet 3rd Julian Alaphilippe 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

A somewhat bizarre structure to the stage, this intermediate day in the mountains should prove a fascinating affair to observe from start to finish. Leaving Villadiego and finishing atop the ascent of Los Machucos, the day entails a total of 180.5km of racing and should culminate in an exciting battle to the day’s uphill finale. It will take almost 100km of riding before the bunch begin climbing the first of the day’s recognised climbs, coming in the shape of the Category 2 Portillo de Lunada (8.3 km, avg. 5.7%). From here the peloton plummet downhill and do not begin to rise again until the early footholds of the Category 1 Puero de Alisas, lasting for more than 10km and maintaining a relatively even 6% throughout its entirety. Having conquered the penultimate ascent of the day, it is the final surge to the line which is likely to cause the most excitement on Stage 17. The HC Los Machucos is a testing affair which lasts for 7.2km and averages only 8.7%, though the reality is that of a climb which sees gradients swing from 10% to 25% at times. It will require a perfectly timed and incredibly strong effort to succeed here, though it shall certainly be one unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome seems to have confirmed that he is the strongest rider now at the race and could deliver a killing blow if winning Stage 17 today. Having recorded another dominant victory in yesterday’s individual time trial, a repeat demonstration of force would send his rivals fighting for the minor placings at this year’s Vuelta a España. He is not interested in simply winning this grand tour by riding defensively and now appears to be in the sort of mood which sees the Team Sky captain hammer home all advantages at any opportunity.

Vincenzo Nibali definitely gives the impression of a man who is currently on the up, thus marking him out as a contender on a day which concludes with agonisingly steep gradients. He certainly produces his best on these leg breaking ascents and should be a serious threat to the day’s stage honours if given a glimpse of victory.

Miguel Angel Lopez could be poised to secure another victory at this year’s race, as his current form seems to grow from one day to the next, hinting that we should expect another strong showing from the Colombian today. His performances on the toughest slopes of the Vuelta thus far have been brilliant, no doubt making him a serious contender for the win today. He may need to get the jump on some of the bigger names amongst the peloton, but he will only need a handful of seconds to convert into another win.

Alberto Contador is likely to animate the day in some form on Stage 17 and should be highlighted as a serious contender at this point of the race. No doubt eager to pursue a final career stage win at his home grand tour, Contador should view the profile of Stage 17 as one which lends itself quite neatly to his trademark long range attacks. If we see him attack from far out, it shall be a brilliant reminder of his swashbuckling abilities and a great way to sign off from grand tour racing.

Others to watch for are Ilnur ZakarinAdam YatesWilco KeldermanEsteban ChavesRomain Bardet and Darwin Atapuma.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Miguel Angel Lopez