Il Lombardia Race Preview – 2017

Course:

As Autumn begins to set in across Europe, the race of the falling leaves once again signifies the end of the year’s major races, concluding the season’s monuments campaign with Il Lombardia. Starting in Bergamo and travelling 247km to the finish at Como, the day’s racing is expected to be fierce as ever, with plenty of riders in good form after a late surge in promise off the back of the Vuelta a España and World Championships last month. The route itself is based upon 2015’s course, one which delivered Vincenzo Nibali the win on that day, packing much of the toughest climbing into the final third of the day’s racing. Though a couple of recognised ascents are present during the opening 150km, it is not really until the riders reach the Madonna del Ghisallo where life in the saddle gets really difficult. Lasting for 8.6km and averaging a gradient of 6.2%, the rise includes maximum inclines of 14% and should give an early indication of who is contention for the final win. The biggest challenge of the day soon follows, a chance of seeing some big names crack on the Muro di Sormano and its mind numbing gradients which touch 27%; under 2km of gruelling climbing. A relatively extended period without climbing lasts until 226km has been completed, from which point the final fireworks are anticipated to be ignited. The climb to Civiglio is a likely launchpad for an attack, a 4.2km rise which peaks at 14%, with riders reaching the summit and hurtling down to face their final climb of the day; San Fermo della Battaglia (3.3 km, avg. 7.2%). The final kilometres are not technically demanding, though after such a fatiguing affair, even the slightest inclines are bound to be magnified.

 

Il Lombardia Race Preview 2017Il Lombardia Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Rigoberto Uran has shown to be in brilliant form late in the year and will find the finale of this year’s race suited to his talents. The Colombian looks to have peaked perfectly for this last monument and will enter the race with great confidence of succeeding in his endeavours. Able to stick the pace of the favourites on the steepest sections and possessing a punchy acceleration which few can match, Uran is a major contender on a day where those lacking in condition will be hit hardest.

Vincenzo Nibali shall have flashed a grin when first seeing the course for 2017’s edition of his native monument, the route mirroring the one which previously delivered him the win at this race a couple of years ago. With the demands meeting that of a queen stage at a grand tour, Nibali is certainly equipped with the tools needed to survive, but it is still uncertain whether he is truly poised to put his rivals to the sword once again here. If still in contention after the ascent of Muro di Sormano, then there is a strong possibility he will seek to breakaway solo in the remaining kilometres and replicate his win of 2015.

Adam Yates was not far behind Rigoberto Uran during the week’s Milano – Torino and will believe that a tweaking of tactics could land him a major victory to add to his growing palmarès. He has had to endure an awkward year of racing, but now looks to be edging closer to the kind of form which makes him a true contender on such a tough day of attritional racing. Yates will need to focus on conserving energy for as long as possible, as with terrain which is not perfect for the British rider, he knows that every ounce of power will be required to make one big attack stick right to the line at Como.

Julian Alaphilippe appeared on course for the World Championship title late in the day at Bergen, but the race failed to follow his plan ideally, though Il Lombardia offers an ideal remedy to that misfortune. Another who is likely to favour a late solo move, the Frenchman will benefit from a more conservatively ridden race, allowing him to exploit the tactics of bigger favourites and commit to his move when others are beginning to flag. His performance at the World Championships off the back of the Vuelta a España was particularly encouraging, with expectations high for a good performance as a result.

Bauke Mollema is certainly capable of springing a surprise upon the big name contenders at this year’s Il Lombardia, with a tougher route providing him with some ideal opportunities to try and escape the bunch. The Dutchman has clearly targeted this race with full intentions of animating the proceedings when possible, aiming to pounce near the end of the day with one of his unmarked moves which has previously secured him major honours in the past.

Outcome:

1st Rigoberto Uran 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Bauke Mollema

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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

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Though yesterday was billed as a day for the sprinters, other than the blisteringly on form Matteo Trentin who took the win, it failed to be the conclusion which we were anticipating. Regardless, that quasi-sprint was a brief reminder of the fast men being present at La Vuelta, as Stage 14 immediately returns to the mountains with a summit finish. Beginning in Écija and finishing atop Sierra de la Pandera, the day clocks in at 175km and is essentially climbing for the entire duration. Rising gently from the starting line, the first recognised climb is encountered after 76km of racing in the shape of the Category 3 Puerto el Mojón, an 8.8km challenge which averages a gradient of 3.7%. After the subsequent descent, the peloton will face an extended period of rolling terrain, finally reaching the next significant ascent around the 144km marker. The Category 2 Alto Valdepeñas de Jaen is similar to its predecessor at 8.5km and averaging 4.8%, though it is what follows so soon after which makes it crucial. The Category 1 Sierra de La Pandera totals 12km from bottom to top and possesses an average gradient of 7.3% on paper, though the reality is that of a climb which is irregular throughout. Tipping upwards to beyond 10% in the opening couple of kilometres, the climb momentarily softens, before swinging between 5% – 13% en route to the summit. It drops down just before the finish line, though the last push to the chequered flag will be against a reasonable incline.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 14

Contenders:

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins and should find the final third of today as having the sort of terrain which brings his skills to the fore. With little in the way of flat roads, a few rapid descents and climbs which repeatedly kick between gradients; the Frenchman is a clear frontrunner today. His previous effort several days ago was encouraging, suggesting he has not suffered too greatly from arriving here off the back of Le Tour de France and is still posing a genuine danger to the rest on these tough finales.

Darwin Atapuma was the main accomplice in Romain Bardet’s attack earlier in the race, the two combining well together late on and there is no reason to suggest why Atapuma may not find himself in that position once again. Evidently feeling good at La Vuelta, he will be confident of making a breakaway early on, though might now be more aware that he shall need to avoid going head to head with riders of Bardet’s calibre for the stage win.

Rui Costa has not been as active as perhaps expected, but the realisation that a convincing general classification placing was not possible, should now provide him with the freedom to try and follow the key moves on Stage 14. Though not a pure climber, he is very successful when it comes to placing himself in the best possible situation to win from and there is every chance that he may already have too great an advantage to catch once on the final climb. He can certainly sprint well after a tough day, so with a final kilometre which dips down and then up again to only a few degrees, he might be the best bet to win from an elite group.

Pello Bilbao will be hoping to make the cut today, his form bubbling under particularly well at the moment and he will not wish for this to be wasted amongst the peloton all day. Though duties to his team and team leader Fabio Aru could prove impossible to escape, the natural selection process of the final climb could see him as their best placed rider regardless. Bilbao exited the rest day looking sharp and stands a good chance of making it count for something if given the freedom to try.

Joe Dombrowski could be amongst those who choose to try their luck from a long range breakaway, though this perhaps is not tough enough to really get the best from him. The lithe limbed climber is still without a grand tour stage win surprisingly, though that is no true reflection upon his capabilities for these mountain stages. If he can find himself in a well drilled and strong move, then the American might finally strike it lucky.

Others to look for include Adam YatesRafal Majka, Igor AntonJulian Alaphilippe and Sergio Pardilla.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Pello Bilbao 3rd Joe Dombrowski

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Another day with starts with relatively little to speak about, the short 160.1km Stage 12 route from Motril to Antequera should be another contest with plenty of aggressive riding late on in order to entertain. After 80km of almost perfectly flat racing, the peloton will begin the first of two ascents on Stage 12, the Category 1 Puerto de Leon. A 17.4km long climb which averages a modest 4.9% gradient overall, though the reality is that of a mountain which reaches double figures in the first third, before dipping downwards and kicking up once again for the final kilometres. The summit will signal the beginning of a gradual descent towards the concluding climb of the day, the Category 2 Puerto del Torcal, a 7% average gradient climb which lasts for 7.6km. A rapid charge from the top will then signal the final 20km rush to the line, which is a simplistic finale with only a slight incline in the final few hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

Contenders:

José Joaquín Rojas has been looking particularly strong as of late and should have another chance at getting into the day’s key breakaway move. His strength should allow him to work alongside more powerful riders on the opening flat section, but once they hit the mountains, then Rojas will be able to contribute towards helping to thin the ranks of contenders down. There is no question that he is one of the fastest riders present who could win from a small sprint after a day like this, making him a standout candidate for the win on Stage 12.

Adam Yates was highlighted for yesterday’s stage, though it was his brother who was seen animating the racing instead, thus we will point to Adam once again for today’s contest instead. He lost ten minutes during yesterday’s tough finale, though might be able to summon up the energy to contest this more realistic prospect today. A still developing talent, it is difficult know how fatigued he is already, though he remains a danger if able to smuggle himself aboard the breakaway.

Julian Alaphilippe will be top of the list of favourites for many casting their eyes over today’s contenders, the Frenchman riding in imperious form and certainly deserving of another stage victory as a result. He is a canny tactician who is able to gauge his efforts very effectively, especially when riding alongside those many would expect to be either climbing stronger or finishing faster. If he can find himself in a potential winning position once again, then it might be a forgone conclusion as to where the stage victory shall be heading.

Rui Costa has become more proficient at breakaways in recent years, making him a definite name to consider on a course such as this in the second week of a grand tour. Certainly capable of making any selection which forms during the faster flatter section early on in the stage, Costa can climb with the best on his day and a likely sprint finish just plays to his strengths yet further still.

Luis Léon Sanchez has repeatedly failed to strike out for glory when expected, perhaps suffering from the constraints of greater team duties, yet this is another day which should certainly entice him into action if afforded the opportunity. Another ride who possesses the requisite blend of power on the flat and endurance for the climbs, there is little argument to be made against him if featuring in the key move on Stage 12.

Others to watch out for are Pello BilbaoOmar FraileAldemar ReyesEnric MasDaniel Moreno and Lachlan Morton.

Outcome:

1st José Joaquín Rojas 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Julian Alaphilippe

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises a spectacular finale at the end of a 187.5km journey from Lorca to Observatorio Astronómico De Calar Alto, as a quick double header of Category 1 ascents are crammed into the second half of the day. Though climbing immediately from the start, this is a short lived feature, as the road settles downwards once again for a considerable period of time. Having begun to rise again after 75km of racing, the serious climbing starts to bubble up once beyond the 100km marker, as an anxious peloton approaches the Category 1 Alto de Velefique. The 13.2km climb does not hesitate to begin testing the day’s contenders, ratcheting up to 11.5% early on and sustaining an average gradient of 8.6% from bottom to top; though a final kick of 15% is present at the summit. A sharp descent immediately follows and offers little in the way of recovery before tasking the bunch with battling their way up the Category 1 Calar Alto. A 15.5km climb which averages 5.9%, though this is somewhat misleading, as much of the steeper climbing is front-loaded during the ascent. Opening with 12% and not dropping below 9% for the opening 5km, it then softens relatively in the middle, before finally reaching 10% in the final kilometre ahead of flattening out at the line. It will require a great effort to survive, let alone win Stage 11.La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Ilnur Zakarin has proven to be one of the few riders who is improving as these tough mountain stages progress and could now be at the point he begins to establish an advantage over some rivals. He might not have the complete freedom to truly escape the indomitable Team Sky train, but if the race is relatively tight during the final ascent, then the Katusha captain has a great chance of getting the jump on everyone else. There is a possibility of bad weather during Stage 11, something unlikely to undermine his chances, though it may mean he needs to take the descent between the two categorised climbs less aggressively than normal.

Rafal Majka shall be the pick of many pundits on a day expected to be highly attritional late on, even before the possibility of thunderstorms has made any sort of impact. He showed a glimpse of his best form during last week and a rest day since then should only have helped that to crystalise yet further still. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an elite general classification group, the Polish rider has demonstrated his talents for days like these before and could emerge the favourite to romp home to victory.

Romain Bardet may have eyes set upon tougher stages than today’s challenge, but this would prove a greater exercise in establishing whereabouts his form is at the moment. A courageous descender in any weather, he could make an advantage stick after the Alto de Velefique and push hard to sustain it right the way to the summit finish on Stage 11. Given the final steep ramp to the line, it might benefit the Frenchman to be part of a well working group for as long as possible, before then utilising his talent for dominating these wall like inclines to win.

Jan Polanc has previously caught the peloton napping on grand tour stages like this and is certainly capable of repeating this achievement once again given his current form at La Vuleta. Having recently conceded time upon the general classification, there is a good chance he will no have a greater level of freedom to pursue the day’s breakaway moves and will be a tough rider to reel back in if escaping solo late in the day.

Others to consider from long distance breakaways and late attacks are Joe Dombrowski, Adam Yates, Tejay Van GarderenChris FroomeOmar FraileAlberto Contador and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Rafal Majka 3rd Jan Polanc