La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 5 Preview

Course:

An intermediate type of stage which as the potential to cause trouble at the top of the general classification, Stage 5’s 175.7km route from Benicàssim to Alcossebre offers plenty of opportunities for the major names to unexpectedly turn the screw on one another. Soon heading uphill after the day’s departure, the first ascent is the Category 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, a 7.8km (avg 4.8%) launchpad for the day’s breakaway to likely form upon. From here the road drops away for a period, before climbing the Category 3 Alto de Cabanes (7.3 km, avg 4.4%) en route to the Category 2 Coll de la Bandereta (4.6 km, avg 7.6%.) The tempo of the day’s racing is likely to increase as they drop into the valley, preparing for the final Category 2 climb of the day; the Alto de la Serratella. Despite lasting a total of 13.2 km, its low average gradient of 3.7% makes it an extremely manageable affair for all the expected frontrunners on the day. The spotlight shall then be upon the gradual descent back to level ground, which is a short lived relief, as the conclusion of the day is the steep Category 3 Ermita Sta. Lucia. The 3.4km kick is far from a smooth ride to the top, finishing 1.4km from the finish line and possessing gradients which reach 20%. Anyone ahead on their own by this point will have no technical concerns during the run into the finale kilometre, though the road does kick up once more to 8% before the line.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 5 Preview

Contenders:

Romain Bardet was expected to be riding here on the hunt for stage wins, yet his showing thus far does suggest he could be aiming higher than this, regardless today’s finale certainly meets the criteria the Frenchman requires for another grand tour stage win. Often performing well on these steep drives to the line, Bardet will be expected to push hard over the top and aim to have a gap to his rivals heading into the final kilometre. However, if that is not successful, he is still able to turn in a convincing sprint effort against other climbers in a fight for the win. Given his apparent diminished threat to the general classification, he may be allowed to take this if he is unlikely to steal a great deal of time in the process.

Esteban Chaves knows that this will be a good opportunity to not only win the stage, but also put time into Chris Froome, potentially delivering him the leader’s jersey in the process. The irregular nature of the final climb, as well as the 20% inclines, do not suit Chris Froome at all and Chaves shall not hesitate to exploit this if possible. His form is often very strong for this final grand tour of the year and he has already performed convincingly enough to suggest there is a good chance he is the man to beat on Stage 5.

Michael Woods did not look an imposter when forming part of the elite leading group on Stage 3, dropping a big hint that he has a potential stage win in him for 2017’s La Vuelta a España. He will need his team to work hard and ensure the breakaway does not get to the final climb first, but if they do achieve this, then this is close to being an ideal finish for the Cannondale – Drapac captain. If the group of favourites begins to hesitate late in the day, Woods is a rider who will invest everything in jumping ahead and holding it right the way to the line.

Omar Fraile seems the rider most likely to strike out for the win from an earlier breakaway or move, a skill he displayed repeatedly well during Spring / Summer this year. He has been particularly well hidden during these opening stages, though the consensus is that he is simply keeping himself safe, rather than struggling to maintain pace with a hectic first week of racing. Should he make the cut for the day’s move, then it is hard to see anyone else alongside him being a greater favourite for the stage honours.

Other riders to consider for Stage 5 are Lachlan MortonJulian AlaphilippeAlessandro De Marchi and Chris Froome.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Michael Woods

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Having left the day’s start of Escaldes – Engordany, the riders will face a 198.2km journey to the coastal finish at Tarragona, most of which being a gradual downhill route. The only classified climb of the day is the Category 3 Alto de Belltall, punctuating the day with a 13km rise at a gentle 2.8% and unlikely to cause much trouble for anyone. Once over the top, it is downhill all the way to the finish line, with a bunch sprint of sorts expected to decide the outcome. Position will be crucial, as plenty of road furniture in the way of roundabouts feature on the route into town, with a small 2.5% drag to make things more difficult still.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb is often the man to beat on finales such as these, as even the slightest of inclines, seem to make the German almost unmatchable in the final moments. His form is certainly still bubbling up to the level we know from him, though this could prove to be the launchpad which signals his return to great form once again. The technical nature of the last few kilometres might be troublesome for him, especially as he would prefer a simple head to head drag race to the finish, concentrating simply of churning his pedals. Regardless, if he informs his team that he believes he can do it, then the expectation is that Degenkolb shall deliver on his word.

Edward Theuns might instead prove to be the card which Trek – Segafredo choose to play on Stage 4, backing the gifted Belgian to seize the opportunity while teammate Degenkolb waits for a more suiting finale. Theuns’ form has been blistering as of late, and if he has managed to sustain that when heading into La Vuelta, then there is a great chance he will be untouchable in the final metres of the stage. The jostling for position and drag up to the line are ideal for Theuns to make his skills count, attacking hard from a jumbled bunch of leadout trains and opening a gap which nobody can close.

Adam Blythe could be the joker in the pack on the second sprint stage at this year’s Vuelta a España, the British rider clearly aggrieved by the lack of a bunch kick on Stage 2, especially given the form he has possessed for such a long time now in 2017. This drag is not perfect, but such a gentle incline can still be decided simply by sprinting power, meaning those who lean closer towards being puncheurs are unlikely to better him. The leadout train at his disposal is certainly one of the top three at the race and they will be confident of positioning Blythe well here, allowing the Yorkshireman to focus on timing his effort perfectly.

Matteo Trentin was pleased to see his teammate Yves Lampaert take the win on Stage 2, though there is no doubt that the Italian would have fancied a more typical finish to the day’s proceedings, as he looked well positioned in the final moments to secure a win. Quick – Step have already looked impressive as a coherent unit during the race thus far and stand a good chance of proving why they are the best leadout train present at La Vuelta. With its tricky final kilometres, Trentin and his leadout men will relish the technicalities, applying pressure to their rivals and hoping to slingshot their Italian rocket skywards over the line.

Juan José Lobato is a real champion at winning upon uphill finishes, though he is likely to have wanted more of a severe challenge to really see the day play into his hands on today’s stage. Regardless, such talents do not always need the perfect conditions to succeed and there is every chance that he shall be in the mix for the win at the very least.

Other names to consider on a day such as this are Tom Van AsbroeckMichael SchwarzmannJens Debusschere and Jonas Van Genechten.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Edward Theuns 3rd Michael Schwarzmann

 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

This year’s race does not hesitate to send the peloton into the high mountains early on in the grand tour, challenging them with a 158.5km stage from Prades Conflent Canigó to Andorra La Vella, featuring a total of three categorised climbs. Ascending immediately from the start, the bunch will begin climbing the Category 1 Col de la Perche, a 19.5km long rise which averages a gradient of 4.8%. Having reached the summit of this early climb, the route begins to gradually drop downwards, eventually placing itself at the foot of the day’s second Category 1 climb; the Coll de la Rabassa. Likely to impact strongly upon the day’s eventual outcome, the 13.3km climb averages 6.8%, though the ramps of double digits which hit 15% could put some in trouble. From the top a fast descent is expected, the frontrunners hammering it to be first to the start of the final climb on Stage 3, the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella. Lasting for only 4.3km, the 8.6% gradient could be ridden at such an intensity that we see some serious fractures occur in the bunch, where only a proficient descent into the finish could close any dangerous gaps.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile could choose to launch his bid for the mountains classification today, riding aggressively on a fitting course to collect points and push onwards to eventually taking the stage itself. He has previously taken victories from similar stages by attacking from a breakaway which has set the pace all day, as well as riding aggressively late on to break up the main bunch. Regardless of his overall ambitions at La Vuelta this year, Stage 3 is an ideal opportunity to gauge how realistic those hopes are.

Julian Alaphilippe is another rider who has all the attributes to perform well during a stage like this, possessing the skills to win from almost any situation, assuming he is at the front of the race. Yesterday suggested that the Frenchman has arrived in convincing form for this contest, no doubt making him an even greater marked man than would normally be a given on such a stage. Dangerous from either a small group or solo move late in the day, anyone who hopes to win Stage 3 will need to keep Alaphilippe on a tight leash, as he could prove unstoppable if given the room to attack.

Adam Yates has been reunited with his twin brother for this grand tour, which shall surely mean we see plenty of moves from the two British riders to animate the race throughout the three weeks. Today’s offering might be enticing enough to lure Adam into action, perhaps placing himself within the day’s main move and seeking to push on solo or with an elite group of riders in the closing kilometres. The final climb of the day looks to be an obvious springboard for him to make an attack, whether from the peloton or an earlier break, aiming to descend rapidly and finish off any remaining rivals in a sprint to the line.

Rui Costa enjoyed a strong start to the season and perhaps deserves to have picked up a greater number of wins, given such sparkling form for most of the year. The former World Champion could chance his luck in a breakaway, hoping to be part of a small group which decides the stage honours for the day, as he shall be confident of being one of the fastest present in a sprint. A larger group is bound to diminish his hopes of winning, thus the Portuguese rider will need to be proactive in order to give himself a shot at the win.

Giovanni Visconti will be a dangerous prospect if handed the chance to attack on Stage 3, especially on terrain which is well within his capabilities of performing strongly upon. Team orders could limit his freedom to pursue stage winning opportunities, though by tactically choosing to place him up the road early in the day, Visconti could benefit from a dynamic which limits his need to invest energy; allowing him to give it everything over the final two climbs to attack solo.

Other riders worth watching out for on Stage 3 are Luis León Sánchez, Darwin Atapuma, Jarlinson Pantano, Rohan Dennis and Michael Woods.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Adam Yates

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

The first road stage of this year’s race is a 203.4km passage from yesterday’s French city of Nîmes to Gruissan, pushing the peloton closer to the Mediterranean coastline and the grand tour’s eventual reunion with Spain itself. With no recognised climbs throughout the entire stage, this incredibly flat day is all about the sprinters, as the outcome of a bunch sprint deciding the day seems impossible to argue against. Regardless, there shall no doubt be a futile breakaway to keep the cameras entertained (if possible) for the most part, with a catch likely to be made as last as possible. The finale itself looks to be a simple enough task to negotiate for those with eyes on the win, but a roundabout only 400m from the finish line does pose an interesting challenge for the favourites. Depending on how this impacts upon the leadout trains of the sprinters, this finish could become more about acceleration than maximum sprint speed.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb offered glimpses of his best during this summer’s Tour de France and shall enter this race with the confidence that his abilities are returning to their best since suffering his well documented crash last year. Usually one to prefer tougher days in the saddle or finales with a bit of a ramp, this looks surprisingly within his grasp, as many of the top thoroughbred sprinters are not present at La Vuelta this year. His leadout train is not perfect, yet it is still better than what he was afforded during Le Tour de France, making him a standout candidate to assume pole position in the absence of more recognisable rivals.

Matteo Trentin has the rare opportunity to lead Quick – Step’s sprint ambitions at a grand tour and has been provided with great firepower to realise his goals; Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert all at his disposal in the sprints. The Italian rider has a great burst of speed which could be the deciding factor as the bunch exits the final roundabout, his teammates are well skilled in placing their protected rider in the ideal place during such decisive moments and Trentin may prove clinical during such a relatively short sprint.

Adam Blythe was part of the leadout team for Peter Sagan at one point, though clearly has the ability to take charge of a team’s sprinting hopes at grand tour level. The former British champion will be aware that a wide open field of sprinters makes it unlikely that one will dominate this entire race, giving him a better chance of winning than he perhaps originally expected here. The course suits him particularly well and his form has seen him collect a clutch of second place finishes recently, giving the suggestion that a breakthrough is imminent for the Yorkshireman. Aqua Blue Sport are expected to be able to offer him a great leadout in the final kilometres, setting him up to burst forth and surge late to the line.

Sacha Modolo often struggles to sustain periods of great form, beginning this year’s Vuelta without a blistering season of wins and now lacking the quality of leadout which saw him perform so well for Lampre – Merida previously. If this becomes a trickier finale than anticipated, where the final roundabout could create a messy last few hundred metres, Modolo is a canny rider who can spot the perfect wheel to follow en route to victory. However, he does not have a great number of experienced teammates at his disposal, and if isolated before the final kilometre, he might not make it into contention to even make the most of his skills which have already delivered him grand tour wins.

Mangnus Cort would normally be a frontrunner on a day such as, yet the fact his team is well stocked with riders aiming for the overall victory, Orica – Scott may have already made the decision that his chances will come later in the race; protecting team leaders being the priority during a hectic first week for now. If he is allowed to make his own attempt at the win on Stage 2, then he will be one of the fastest present and a real threat to the likes of John Degenkolb and Matteo Trentin, even without a leadout train to support him.

Other expected to feature in the final top ten placings of the day are; Jens DebusschereJonas van GenechtenTom Van Asbroeck and José Joaquín Rojas.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd John Degenkolb

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

Though beginning in the French city of Nîmes, rest assured, today does signal the start of 2017’s edition of La Vuelta a España; the final grand tour of the season. With plenty of top riders arriving here to salvage their season’s and potentially pick up new contracts, La Vuelta should prove to be another exciting affair which remains animated all the way to the final stage. Opening proceedings this year is a Team Time Trial of 13.7km around the streets of Nîmes, a technically demanding course which could be decided more by race craft than sheer brute force. The Alto de Nîmes has been generously bestowed the honour of being the day’s sole Category 3 climb, though is unlikely to even be noticed by the teams, as they bury themselves to secure the first jersey of this year’s race.
La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 1 Preview

Contenders:

BMC have the backing of many to take the opening stage of La Vuelta, coming as no surprise, as the Swiss outfit are extremely well experienced and well equipped for this most complex of disciplines. With the power of Daniel Oss, Rohan Dennis and Tejay Van Garderen to lead the charge, it will be tough for any other team to match them in regards to the watts their riders can put out during such a contest. However, this is not a simple drag race to the line and the technical nature of the course could play a part in diminishing their chances somewhat on Stage 1. Regardless, it will take an impressive effort to beat them and BMC shall remain the favourites on the day for good reason.

Quick – Step have a few of specialist riders of their own for today, with Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert forming the core of a team which has the potential to win if functioning at its best. They will take confidence from the number of technical challenges on course, allowing them to edge closer to the raw power of rivals BMC, even if they remain unable to match them on the simpler parts. The shorter distance allows their other riders to come into play more so than a longer affair, as the talents of Matteo Trentin and David de la Cruz are able to stretch further for example. A near perfect performance will be required, but they do have the riders necessary to achieve it.

FDJ could be the joker in the pack on Stage 1, as for the first time in a while, they arrive at a grand tour team time trial with several specialists within their ranks. Tobias LudvigssonAnthony Roux and Johan Le Bon will form the basis of a unit which might be closer to the win than expected, thanks to the absence of long exposed sections of flat racing. The bizarre chance to secure the leader’s jersey at La Vuelta a España on French soil will be another motivation to pull off this potential upset.

Team SkyTrek – Segafredo and Team Sunweb all arrive without the usual engine rooms which have previously seen them perform well at Team Time Trials, but this course does have the potential to produce a surprise, so they will not wish to simply show their faces and finish the day near the bottom of the general classification.

Outcome:

1st Quick – Step 2nd BMC 3rd FDJ

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

We once again arrive at the processional stage into Paris, Chris Froome having joined the exclusive club of four time Tour de France winners, despite never truly appearing to be the strongest rider in contention for the yellow jersey. Stage 21 will be a chance to relax for the Team Sky captain and his fellow riders, the common sight of champagne flutes being passed around the group, as others share family messages to the cameramen who have stalked them since the departure in Düsseldorf. The stage itself is 103km from Montgeron to the iconic finale upon the Champs Élysées, featuring a total of eight laps around the capital, each proving more hectic than the last. Though many riders like to escape the bunch over the Parisian cobblestones, seldom do their efforts steal the win, this being a day for the sprinters to dominate. Having lost Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and Arnaud Démare during the race, it may well prove a harder to control race than previously anticipated.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

André Greipel has already been backed by his fellow sprinters to secure another victory upon the Champs Élysées, a consistent performer when it comes to this tricky stage, the German now appears to be the fastest man left at the race. Despite having lost a key component of his leadout train in the shape of Marcel Sieberg, the team still have enough in reserve to offer him a protected ride into the final decisive turn of this curtain call upon 2017’s Tour de France. Assuming he is placed into the ideal position from which to sprint from, then it is unlikely that anyone else will be able to match the speed of the ‘Gorilla’.

Nacer Bouhanni will do well to redeem his Tour de France by taking a surprise win on the final day, having had to endure a pretty torrid time throughout. Seemingly spending more time throwing punches then concentrating on the task at hand, the fiery Frenchman has spurned several opportunities at the race which looked ideal territory for him to win from. Morale is not great at Cofidis, so they could do with a win to say the least, yet it will take a lot of effort to muster something resembling a serious charge for Parisian glory today.

Alexander Kristoff is another rider who has recorded a consistent level of results on this familiar conclusion to Le Tour de France, though has been unfortunate to miss out when it comes to crossing the line first. Last week he may well have emerged as the new favourite to win, but a serious fall which catapulted him hard onto the tarmac has dented his chances. Having recorded one of the slowest times in yesterday’s time trial, it is difficult to gauge if he is really suffering badly or simply saving his efforts for a stage he still believes he can win. The technical demands, positional requirements and draining cobblestones are all typical features of a Kristoff victory, and if he has truly recovered, then expect him to be pushing for the win as ever.

Edvald Boasson Hagen finally took a well deserved stage win a couple of days ago, but will not be content with just that, as this has the potential to be another feather in the cap of the Norwegian at the end of 2017’s Tour de France. Now looking to be one of the freshest fast men still at the race, Team Dimension Data are likely to be a dominant force at the head of the peloton during the deciding laps around Paris, ensuring nobody dangerous gains too great a gap on the bunch. In terms of leadout, the Norwegian can expect to have the best on offer, though it is hard to say how hard he had to dig for his recent victory and whether they may have blunted his chances as a result.

Others expected to feature amongst the top ten on Stage 21 are Dylan GroenewegenBen SwiftMichael Matthews and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

There is perhaps less pressure placed upon this individual time trial than many anticipated heading into the final week, but that does not mean to say stress levels will not be soaring as the general classification favourites do their utmost to stay upright and avoid any late mishaps before the Champs Élysées. The short 22.5km course based in Marseille draws its focus to the sole climb of the day, a steep rise to Notre-Dame de la Garde which lasts 1.7km and possesses a gradient of 9.5%. The following downhill section is technically demanding and could prove hazardous if conditions are reminiscent of those seen in Düsseldorf at the start of this grand tour three weeks ago. Though the yellow jersey is unlikely to change at this late stage of the race, the general classification still as some major battles, most crucially between Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 20

Contenders:

Chris Froome will not wish to walk away from this Tour de France having won the overall and not managed to secure a stage win in the process. He has not been his normally aggressive self during this race and has relied more than ever on the strength of his teammates to ensure rivals are kept on a tight leash. He maintains that his form is now peaking during this final week, aiming to dominant this affair and hammer home a strong advantage at last.

Primoz Roglic has enjoyed a brilliant time at the Tour de France, taking great confidence into this time trial, one which he will no doubt believe is within his grasp of winning. He may well lose time on the steep ascent of Notre-Dame de la Garde and the subsequent technical descent, but has the power to outperform major rivals on the more simplistic parts of the course. At the end of such an arduous race, there is a chance of Roglic having lost a degree of explosiveness, though much of the same can be suggested of many contenders today.

Stephen Cummings entered the race in unexpectedly blistering form, though has not been fortunate enough on this occasion to take a stage victory. Had he not invested such a great deal earlier in the race, then Cummings may well have been a greater favourite for stage honours in Marseille, the feeling being that he is unlikely to have sustained the level of strength with which he first started Le Tour de France.

Vasil Kiryienka is a former world champion at the individual time trial, though has not produced that degree of performance for a long time now, often finding himself at the call of his Team Sky teammates at major races such as these instead. Of the traditional time trialists in contention here, the Belarusian rider is the one most likely to have survived in a convincing enough shape to still produce close to his best. The course does not truly suit his talents, but at the tail end of a grand tour, fatigue is often a greater factor than simply what appears favourable on paper.

Tony Martin could perhaps be the greatest time trial rider of all time, yet the German hero has seen his performances ebb and flow more than ever recently, struggling to sustain the level of dominance we once saw from him several years ago. He was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the win and yellow jersey in Düsseldorf at the start of Le Tour, no doubt pursuing this second opportunity against the clock to compensate. He will have to produce his best in order to win here, as he has invested plenty in helping his Katusha teammates and is now likely to have paid the price as a result; class is permanent however.

Others to consider are Jonathan CastroviejoStegan KüngMaciej Bodnar and Michal Kwiatkowski.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Primoz Roglic 3rd Vasil Kiryenka