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

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

The penultimate day of 2017’s centenary Giro d’Italia is one final opportunity for the mountains to cause a change in the order of the current general classification before Milano. Starting in Pordenone, the day’s first summit comes a few kilometres before the 40km marker, the 1.1km Category Muro di ca’ del Poggio is a steep affair which averages 12.7% and has a sharp maximum kick of 18%. The terrain proceeds to roll onwards for a sustained period, eventually striking upon the first of two Category 1 ascents in the shape of the imposing Monte Grappa. The rather irregular nature of the ascent past the midway point can cause problems for riders who prefer to settle into a steady rhythm, making the 24.2km ascent a potential banana skin for those with bad legs on the day. With an average gradient of 5.3% and a maximum of 11%, it may not prove enough to entice the big name maglia rosa contenders to commit much in the way of attacking though. An extended descent lasts for just over 20km and places the riders on a short section of flat roads with around 40km left to race, of which includes the final climb of 2017’s Giro d’Italia; the Category 1 Foza. These 14km of uphill racing are the last opportunity for those pursuing the maglia rosa to utilise the slopes to drive open gaps amongst the frontrunners and place themselves in an encouraging position with only Milano’s individual time trial remaining. The average gradient is 6.7% and offers a steepest increase of 11% for potential attackers to make their move; knowing that the final descending kilometres into Asiago offer little in the way of opportunities to attack before they complete Stage 20’s 190km.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot lived up to expectations during the final ascent of yesterday’s stage, proving to be the strongest and most animated of the main general classification favourites. This final week has seen the Frenchman improve his form considerably, and having now moved into touching distance of a final podium position, Pinot will surely view Foza as an ideal springboard to victory. With a downhill run into the finish, it is possible that the FDJ captain could arrive into the finish with rivals alongside him, from where the expectation would be for Pinot to win a sprint.

Mikel Landa has finally collected a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia after having seen two previous day’s slip through his fingers in the final metres. However, the Team Sky rider is unlikely to believe his hunger for victory has been satisfied after yesterday’s win, especially when enjoying such a rich vein of form. As stated previously, he offers little in the way of danger to the general classification and should once again be allowed a great deal of freedom to contest stage honours on the penultimate day. Expected to attack from long range, Landa has shown to be hard to match on the climbs in the last week, making him an obvious pick here.

Ilnur Zakarin was one of the few general classification riders to attempt several moves upon Stage 19’s final climb, walking away with a small time gain over the podium favourites, but was unable to ditch his nearest man on the GC Domenico Pozzovivo. Similar to Pinot, the Russian has ridden himself into his best form during this decisive concluding week of the Giro d’Italia and certainly looks dangerous on this terrain ahead of the following day’s individual time trial. A good performance here, combined with another in the race against the clock in Milano, could secure him fifth place on the general classification and potentially even challenge for fourth.

Domenico Pozzovivo sees himself caught up in this battle for places 4th – 6th in the concluding stages of the race, showing a consistent tenacity to follow the moves which matter to him most. He has managed to avoid investing too much energy in recent stages, focusing on staying buoyant amongst the general classification and ensuring he does not suffer from as a result of a costly swashbuckling attack. However, this really is the final chance he will have to make a difference (if he wishes to improve his placing that is) and could take advantage of his lack of importance to the podium places in order to steal stage honours in Asiago.

Vincenzo Nibali attempted a handful of attacking moves on yesterday’s concluding climb, yet did not truly show the level of cutting endeavour which we have previously become accustomed to from The Shark of Messina. He will probably produce a couple of efforts on the day’s final climb, but given the current stalemate with Nairo Quintana, it would be no surprise to see the Italian prove risk averse yet again.

Nairo Quintana seems unlikely to win the stage today, though possesses a great chance of winning the maglia rosa regardless. Life is looking particularly tough for Tom Dumoulin right now, with Quintana knowing that even a sub-par performance compared to his own standards, could still obtain a margin of around a minute back to the current pink jersey holder. If the Dutchman looks to be on the rocks late in the day, then Quintana will pounce to take full advantage, regardless of potentially towing other riders to the summit in the process.

Those who may take the day’s win, from either a breakaway or late move, include; Pierre RollandRui Costa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Another day which offers little in the way of sustained flat roads, Stage 19’s 191km trek from San Candido / Innichen to the uphill finish of Piancavallo offers further ammunition to alter the general classification before Milano. The riding begins with the immediate uphill challenge of Passo di Monte Croce Comelco/Kreuzbergpass, a Category 3 climb which is 7.9km in length (avg 4.3% max 8%) and will soon find out any rider not blessed with strong legs on Stage 19. Leading downwards for an extended period after the day’s first summit, the next recognised climb does not feature until the rides reach just over 90km worth of racing; Category 2 Sella Chianzutan. The climb has an average gradient of 5.6% and reaches sections of 10% during its 11.7km entirety, after which, all eyes will turn to the stretch of rolling terrain which funnels the riders into the base of the day’s summit finish. The climb to Piancavallo is expected to ignite fireworks amongst the general classification riders, lasting 15.4km and averaging 7.3%, though the steeper sections are a tough 14%. The gradients are easier nearer the summit, while a series of technical challenges are apparent before the day’s frontrunners are able to sprint for the line.

giro-ditalia-2017-stage-19-preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot is likely to want a good showing on Stage 19 in order to cement his prospects of a podium finish once the race concludes in Milano. He appeared strong yesterday, pacing himself well and utilising the strength of teammate Sébastien Reichenbach to stay amongst the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Nairo Quintana before kicking on for a third place finish. Assuming that the majority of top ten GC riders are present during the final kilometres, the Frenchman is certainly one most likely to attack upon this final climb of the day.

Mikel Landa saw another potential stage victory slip through his fingers once again yesterday, but could challenge once again, with a slight alteration to his tactics. Thus far, the talented climber has been seeking to strike victory from long range attacks, but his current form suggests he could instead stick the pace of the favourites and attack from within their ranks instead. He is of no real danger to the maglia rosa, so will be given the freedom to attack late in the day, while few will wish to risk blowing up to simply close down the explosive climber.

Vincenzo Nibali has implied that he will look to make Tom Dumoulin pay for his perceived arrogance, though the likelihood of truly putting the Dutchman to the sword is slim on Stage 19. After an extremely cagey affair during the final climb yesterday, the Italian did little to suggest he is riding in his best form right now, though his cunning nature always makes it risky to disregard the defending Giro d’Italia champion.

Nairo Quintana invested his energy into several small digs yesterday, at one point even managing to distance the bunch of leading maglia rosa contenders. However, the form which we saw earlier in the race has been tougher to glimpse in the previous week and uncertainty now hangs above Quintana and his ambitions to usurp Tom Dumoulin from the maglia rosa with a large enough margin to defend in the final time trial. Regardless, the Colombian has been animated in recent days and seems that he would rather try to succeed than play cat & mouse all the way into the nation’s capital.

Tom Dumoulin toyed with his rivals yesterday and now looks stronger than ever as he attempts to defend his lead upon the maglia rosa. The Dutchman is most likely to ignore the skirmishes from those attempting to secure their respective positions on the general classification, instead preferring to pace his own ride up the climb at a strong tempo. This would allow him to diminish the opportunity to attack for Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana, aiming to see both of them off with his more powerful sprinting abilities atop the finish.

It will also be worth monitoring Domenico PozzovivoIlnur Zakarin, Adam YatesPierre RollandBauke MollemaDavide Formolo and Winner Anacona.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Nairo Quintana 3rd Tom Dumoulin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course:

Yesterday proved to be a relaxing enough day amongst the general classification contenders, mostly as a result of the anticipation which has been bubbling up since the shape of Stage 18 was first revealed. Starting in Moena, the day is a comparatively short 137km in length en route to Ortisei / St.Ulrich, featuring a total of five officially recognised climbs. Rising immediately from the start, the day’s racing is bound to prove explosive on such a short mountain stage, beginning with the Category 1 Passo Pordoi. Totalling 11.9km and averaging a gradient of 6.7% with ramps of 9%, the rise is an even affair which will favour those able to maintain a steady pace. A quick descent then follows, leading onwards to the start of the Category 2 Passo Valparola, averaging 6.4% during its 12.3km entirety and kicking upwards to 14% near the summit. Another Category 2 climb follows shortly thereafter, the Passo Gardena (9,3 km, avg 6.4%, max 11%), signifying a change in terrain and marking the start of a stressful run into the finish. Passo di Pinei is a Category 3 climb lasting 4.2 km, averaging a gradient of 6.3% and offering challenging ramps of 15%. The final Category 1 climb of Stage 18 is that of Pontives, a 9.3km ascent which averages 6.8% with sections tipping upwards to 12%.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 18 Preview

 

Contenders:

Mikel Landa has remained combative since the general classification ambitions of Team Sky were sunk in the wake of Geraint Thomas’ departure from the race. The combination of serious ascents and a shorter stage distance should inspire Landa to summon up another aggressive day in the saddle to challenge for the victory. He has options to attack ahead of the final climb from further out, or simply hope that everything is positioned well for him as they duke it out up the

Ilnur Zakarin often aims to reach peak form during the final week of a grand tour and this year’s Giro d’Italia appears to be another example of this tactic. He is not far off the likes of Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, while his current general classification placing should grant him a degree of freedom to kick on in the final kilometres to take victory.

Vincenzo Nibali has now risen to become a contender for the overall victory at 2o17’s Giro d’Italia, finding his groove in the final week of racing as of late. This makes the Italian rider a dangerous prospect to say the least, with uncertainty surrounding his potential ambitions to secure either another stage victory or aim entirely at taking the maglia rosa in these concluding days.

Nairo Quintana should have little need to attack on Stage 18, especially as the short and explosive nature of the course favours other riders more so than himself. He is definitely the best climber at the race and may view the final climb as a perfect opportunity to take the maglia rosa and secure time over rivals such as Tom Dumoulin.

Those who may also feature are Adam YatesSteven KruisjwijkDario Cataldo and Thibaut Pinot.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises to be a day for the breakaway to lay claim upon stage honours, after yesterday’s individual time trial was dominated by Tom Dumoulin in monstrous fashion, as he sailed into a potentially race deciding time gap over Nairo Quintana. Starting in Firenze, the day just about delivers 15km of flat riding before the roads tilt skywards for the majority of Stage 11, beginning with the Category 2 Passo della Consuma which lasts 15.9 km (avg 6.1% max 10%) before dropping down to the foot of the Category 3 Passo della Calla (16km avg 5.3% max 9%).  A long downhill section then follows, before sending the riders up the 11.4km Category 3 Passo del Carnale (avg 4.5% max 11%) and the longer 23.1km Monte Fumaiole, averaging a tame 3.7% average with maximum gradients of 12%. The road then rapidly falls away, leaving the frontrunners to hurtle into the finale at Bagno di Romagna after 161km of racing. The shorter overall distance and high probability of a breakaway surviving the day is bound to make the opening hour of racing frenzied, making the first couple of ascents even tougher than they look on paper.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has yet to truly cash in on the form which we saw from him during this year’s Tour of Yorkshire and could choose today as a good opportunity to do so, if able to make the cut on the opening climb. Though this is not a perfect fit for Fraile, it cannot be forgotten that he won the mountains classification at last year’s La Vuelta a España, so is talented when it comes to hunting the right move to join on a day built for the break. He has the strength to succeed on Stage 11, but the biggest question mark hangs above his ability to make it into the right attack.

Mikel Landa shall be another of Team Sky’s options to salvage their appearance at the Giro d’Italia in the wake of their general classification ambitions taking a heavy blow. The Spaniard loves a long range attack, so may well be allowed off the leash to try his luck once again in the breakaway, hopefully chalking up the team’s first win at the race. The testing start will play into his hands, even if the rest of the day is not ideal, while he will need to attack solo over the final summit if he is to take the win; Landa not known for his sprinting abilities after all.

Pierre Rolland is likely to have glanced over the day’s profile as a chance for stage honours, with the length of the climbs hopefully dispatching the quicker rivals who may finish alongside him. The Frenchman has already been combative, but was not able to help deliver Cannondale – Drapac their first WorldTour victory since 2015’s Giro d’Italia. He will want to go it alone in the latter stages, but the climb to Monte Fumaiole might not prove tough enough to allow that.

Rui Costa may have once held ambitions of producing a convincing general classification campaign at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, yet will now realise that his best bet for glory is to try and join the day’s breakaway on stages like today. The terrain should not prove too difficult for Costa, while his descending abilities will allow him to conserve a degree of energy, if able to bridge back to more talented climbers during some of the climbs. He will hope for a sprint finish at the end, as few others likely to work alongside him all day, possess an acceleration able to match the former world champion rider.

Adam Yates could still be focused upon climbing his way up the general classification, but if the race is close to coming back together on the final climb, he has all the skills required to attack over the summit and rapidly descend his way to a stage victory. A fast finishing rider too, if an unexpectedly strong group of general classification contenders end up deciding the day’s outcome, it is also likely that Yates will be the fastest present from that scenario.

Valerio Conti was struck by misfortune when crashing within the final kilometre of Stage 8, having produced a brilliant display of strength as part of the day’s main breakaway. The incident is bound to have stoked the fires of the Italian rider, eager to overturn his bad luck and aim to conjure up another brilliant effort to be in with a chance of victory in Bagno di Romagna. 

Luis Leon Sanchez is an interesting prospect who could be motived by either the mountains classification points on offer here, or the prospect of a group making it all the way to the finish, from which he is almost guaranteed to be the fastest sprinter present. He will no doubt be curious to see who may join the moves, potentially forcing him into action, assuming that Sanchez realises he now has a chance of collecting a jersey in Milano.

The mix of riders who have a chance here is broad and essentially a lottery, keep an eye upon the likes of Alberto LosadaMatej MohoricDaniel TeklehaimanotKenny ElissondeTom-Jelte SlagterJosé Gonçalves and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd José Gonçalves

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Having spent the opening week attempting to stay out of trouble by keeping safe amongst the peloton, Stage 9 should see the first serious exchanges amongst the riders vying for the maglia rosa. A 149km passage from Montenero Di Bisaccia to the summit of the mighty Category 1 ascent of Blockhaus is likely to prove an intense uphill battle on such a short stage. The topography is relatively tame ahead of  the blockbuster finale, with the rise at Chieti the most noticeable feature between the departure and the base of Blockhaus. The road begins to point skywards with around 30km remaining, though the officially recognised start of Blockhaus does not begin until the riders are 13.6km from the finish line. With an average gradient of 8.4% and maximum slopes of 14%, it is a truly testing climb, but it generally avoids fluctuating too greatly and should allow the elite riders to find their rhythm to the top.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana is the favourite of many pundits to take the overall title this year and it shall be intriguing to see how himself (and Movistar) choose to ride this first serious mountain clash. Expectations are that he will not lead the charge to begin with, preferring to allow his rivals to initiate the opening salvos of attacks, but shall be ready to close the gaps and counter in aggressive fashion if required. His ambitions to achieve a Giro d’Italia and Le Tour de France double this year has meant that he arrives at the former without his best form, aiming to ride himself into race winning shape by the final week.

Ilnur Zakarin has been plagued by bad luck thus far, yet looked particularly dangerous to the general classification when making a late move on Stage 4 to recoup some of his lost time. Zakarin is one of the most aggressive climbing specialists here and will find the course suiting to his strengths, capable of seriously turning the screw upon the bigger name favourites. The Russian rider is clearly coming into great form, yet the expectation is that he may be allowed a degree of freedom, as many do not seem him as a serious threat for the maglia rosa at the end of the three weeks.

Thibaut Pinot will be eager to turn in a strong performance on Stage 9, as the Frenchman seeks to overcome his tendency to choke on the first decisive stage of a grand tour. With the ascent of Blockhaus a sustained grind to the summit, Pinot is one of the obvious contenders for this specific climbs and has been riding strongly so far; often sprinting for the line alongside the likes of Geraint Thomas. Normally seen to roll over the line amongst the general classification names at grand tours, there is a sense that Pinot’s approach at 2017’s Giro d’Italia may become more attacking than previously seen.

Steven Kruijswijk came close to wining this race last year and comes back to the Giro d’Italia wiser for his close brush with victory in 2016. The Dutchman has been on the floor during the opening week and also abandoned the Tour of Yorkshire early after having crashed relatively hard, leaving as a precautionary measure ahead of his appearance here. An incredibly strong rider, he may prefer a longer ascent than Blockhaus can provide, yet shall no doubt be able to follow all the necessary move.

Geraint Thomas has proven to be extremely consistent in regards to staying in the right position at all the key moments in the first week of racing so far. The Welshman was incredibly strong during the Giro del Trentino and will need to be considered a serious challenger for the overall title if able to show he has retained the form having reached the top of Blockhaus. Like Pinot, Thomas has often been seen sprinting for the line when able to, displaying his eagerness to make every second count ahead of the race’s first venture into the mountains.

Away from those who have their eyes set upon the general classification, dangerous riders on Stage 9 include: Vincenzo NibaliDomenico PozzovivoHugh CarthyOmar FraileMikel Landa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Ilnur Zakarin 3rd Geraint Thomas

Outsider: Omar Fraile

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

A difficult day to predict, Stage 8 is another intermediate challenge for the peloton ahead of their arrival upon the footsteps of this year’s first serious mountaintop battles. Totalling 189km as it makes its way from Molfetta to Peschici, the route features both a Category 2 and Category 4 ascent to punctuate the racing, though some of the most intense riding is expected during the opening 85km as the breakaway attempts to form. With a punchy finale which would normally suit the classics specialists, in their absence, it will be somewhat of a lottery as to who will be in contention as the race comes down to the final kilometres.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile may prove to be the best bet for Team Dimension Data now Nathan Haas looks to have become ill in the last day or so. Fraile arrives here off the back of an extremely strong performance at the Tour of Yorkshire, suiting this rolling run into the finish line at Peschici. Strong enough to attack solo from a breakaway, he will be a dangerous rider if allowed to open up too great a gap upon his rivals.

Dario Cataldo could be given the chance to throw his hat in the ring on Stage 8, his explosive finishing abilities being hard to match on the uphill drag to the line. Astana are certainly on the hunt to secure a stage victory as soon as possible, with the profile of today an appealing prospect for Cataldo to potentially perform upon.

José Gonçalves would normally have been a regular face in the breakaways by now, but his recent move to Team Katusha – Alpecin has clearly reduced his freedom to animate contests like today. Regardless, this might not even prove a tough enough challenge to catch his eye, though he remains a strong contender if able to join the breakaway.

Enrico Battaglin once possessed a strong reputation for competing convincingly on parcours such as these, but at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the native rider appears to be happy to focus upon contesting the reduced sprint finishes when possible. Should he manage to feature as part of a racing deciding move, then Battaglin certainly has the experience to convert his presence into a stage win.

Michael Woods shall be fired up to join the move today, especially as Cannondale – Drapac were surprisingly absent from the move on Stage 6 which eventually decided the day’s winner. The Canadian rider has a developing talent for the steep gradients which feature late on in the race and could prove unmatchable if at the fore during the final moments of Stage 8.

Other riders who could feature in this lottery are Adam YatesLuis Leon SanchezRui Costa, Pello Bilbao and Adam Hansen.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Michael Woods 3rd Enrico Battaglin

Outsider: Fernando Gaviria