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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

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

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome:

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

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La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

La Vuelta a España once again looks to the team time trial to raise the curtain on they season’s final grand tour. An immensely testing and technical discipline, this 27.8km route from Ourense to Parque Nautico de Castrelo de Miño will prove a rude awakening for many in the peloton with only a handful of teams likely to relish this arduous opening to the race. The road rises immediately from the start, but soon becomes a more manageable rolling profile which will quicken the pace in the first half, before then offering up wide roads that shall prove ideal for laying down a huge wattage all the way to the line. A day for those who can generate and sustain large power outputs, this team time trial will be an extremely fast introduction to the next three weeks of life at La Vuelta a España.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 1 PreviewContenders:

Movistar have become one of the most consistent performers in this discipline, combining engine power with technical skill to great effect. Like the majority of teams at this year’s race, the composition of the squad leans strongly towards climbers, but Movistar look to have the strength required to perform competitively on today’s course. Though Jonathan Castroviejo is the only true specialist present for them, the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Rory Sutherland are all capable of putting in a performance to match him in this short challenge.

Sky may not have their ideal set of riders available for the opening day’s team time trial, but they shall remain motivated to secure a good performance in this highly pressurised discipline. Though they have riders competent in a time trial such as Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski, there will be concerns that the gulf in ability to the likes of Ian Boswell and Michal Golas is greater than that of other team’s rosters in contention on Stage 1.

BMC are the reigning world champions in this specialist exercise and will hope this foundation propels them onwards to success by the end of the first day. Unlike many here, their strength appears to stem from a lack of any true time trialist within their ranks, thus calling upon them to function efficiently as a whole team which does not expect one or two riders to carry the greatest load. It will be interesting to see how this approach performs in comparison to the likes of Movistar or Sky and their greater number of true TT riders.

Others who could all challenge for a podium place are former world champions Etixx-QuickStepTinkoff and Orica-BikeExchange.

Outcome:

1st Movistar 2nd BMC 3rd Sky

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Yesterday proved to be a more tame affair than anticipated for the general classification contenders, instead they were pleased to allow the day’s breakaway to acquire a lengthy lead and decide the stage’s outcome from within their ranks. Having kept their powder dry yesterday, today’s first of two stages in the Alps should see life at the front of the general classification animated once again in 2016’s Giro d’Italia. Stage 19 comprises a 162km trip from Pinerolo to Risoul, spending the majority of time creeping upwards for around 80km, ultimately concluding with the 12.8km ascent to Risoul.

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 PreviewGiro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

 

Contenders:

Steven Kruijswijk appears to have cemented himself as the strongest climber in this race after all attempts so far from his rivals have failed to crack him. Though he may not be directly pursuing this stage as a target for victory, the impetus of other general classification focused teams is likely to reel in the breakaway late on and may inadvertently set the Dutchman up for victory. The climb to Risoul is relatively consistent throughout its ascent and should subsequently play to the strengths of the Dutchman; marking him out as the most likely GC rider to win here.

Esteban Chaves is still relatively unconfirmed in regards to surviving the concluding week of a grand tour, but is certainly one of the best climbers here on paper at least. It looks like it will take a perfectly timed and potent attack to finally drop Kruijswijk, so his chances of a stage win are more realistic if he sits back within the lead general classification group and aim to beat the rest in an uphill dash.

Ilnur Zakarin looks to be gaining strength as the race enters its final decisive moments and could well be in search of an opportunity to gain time on his rivals and step up to the podium. The Russian’s chances of succeeding here increase the longer we have to wait for action from the overall contenders, Zakarin likely to come unstuck if the tempo increases too early on the final climb. Should the action remain limited until the final few kilometres however, Zakarin will be one of the favourites to take time and possibly a stage win.

Darwin Atapuma will be aware that a good performance on Stage 19 will place him firmly in the mix to win the mountains classification jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His performance upon the queen stage deserved the win, but he was robbed by Esteban Chaves and his fellow escapees in the final kilometres. With a showing such as that already in the bag, there is no doubt that Atapuma could go the whole way today and win.

Sky are still searching hard for another victory and are likely to turn to the likes of Nicloas Roche and David Lopez. Both have demonstrated encouraging signs in the last few days, be it sticking with the GC frontrunners or turning in solid breakaway efforts, thus marking them out as clear contenders. It may also be worth keeping an eye upon Philip Deignan, the Irishman has been anonymous up to now and subsequently makes him a very difficult rider to assess, but his ability to climb should be enough to keep him in the mind of Sky.

Giovanni Visconti saved his efforts yesterday and is thus likely to have an eye upon a good performance here in an attempt to make gains in the mountains classification; much like Atapuma. If he is totally focused upon accumulating points, then it is likely he will be out of contention for the stage win as a result of doing his utmost to be first over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Should events develop in a manner which see him part of a lead group deciding the win, then Visconti’s sprinting ability could be enough to better most rivals.

For further breakaway contenders; Tanel KangertIan Boswell, Joe DombrowskiBlel Kadri, Giulio CicconeRubén Plaza and Amets Txurruka could all play a part.

Outcome:

1st Steven Kruijswijk 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

Breakaway: 1st Darwin Atapuma 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Philip Deignan

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 13 PREVIEW

Course:

Stage 13 signals the 2016 Giro d’Italia’s first foray into the serious mountains of this season’s opening grand tour battle. Two pairs of Category 1 and Category 2 ascents feature during this 170km ride from Palmanova to Cividale Del Friuli, combining to shape a stage which looks destined to be won by a strong breakaway group.

giro-ditalia-stage-13

Contenders:

Nicolas Roche looks to be the most likely Sky rider to save their race in the wake of Mikel Landa’s abandonment due to illness several stages ago. The Irishman will see little point in finishing this three week anonymously within the general classification and will no doubt have now signed up to Sky’s campaign to now hunt out stage victories.

Tim Wellens is currently the first name on anyone’s list for breakaway contenders given his current form and is likely to try and join the break once again. The climbs could well be somewhat beyond his abilities, but it seems like he can cope with anything right now and he would be tough to beat in a reduced sprint come the end of the day.

Giovanni Visconti often performs on courses such as these, possessing the strength to join in the early part of the day and then survive the climbs in good enough shape to finish it off in a sprint. He sits in a grey zone general classification wise, not an immediate threat to the major overall favourites, but near enough to take the jersey if the chase miscalculates on the concluding descent.

Alessandro De Marchi is another rider who has already demonstrated form for this year’s breakaway attempts and is certain to once again force his way amongst Stage 13’s successful move. There are certainly question marks as to weather he could secure victory by the end of the day, but experience counts for a lot on days such as these and it would be no great surprise to see him out perform those who appear stronger on paper.

Ruben Plaza and Amets Txurruka are two rider for Orica-GreenEDGE who could potentially join the break in an attempt to make life a little easier for teammate Esteban Chaves and reduce their need to chase. Carlos Bentancur could perform on these ascents, but will need to be strong enough to make the selection process early on here in the first place.

Given the position of the day’s final climb and its subsequent descent right into the finish at Cividale Del Friuli, there looks to be guaranteed sparring from the general classification contenders. When it comes to descending, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde are the obvious candidates to up the tempo and really push their rivals to the limit on the tricky descent. Another rider who has shown a talent for similar antics at this year’s Giro is Esteban Chaves, who has consistently followed his rivals thus far when closing down such attempts to gain time.

Outcome:

1st Nicolas Roche 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Ruben Plaza

 

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 9 PREVIEW

Course:

Today’s 40.5km time trial from Radda to Greve shall provide our first true battle of the general classification contenders, taking the riders through Chianti’s rolling terrain and offering a technical challenge ahead of the Giro’s first rest day of 2016’s edition.

Giro d'Italia Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin may have lost the maglia rosa after Stage 8, but it is easy to imagine that he was instead saving his efforts in anticipation of winning the stage here and in the process take back the leader’s jersey. However, there has been much talk after the disappointment of Friday that he has actually been suffering from fatigue and may now instead struggle to turn in the type of performance we had anticipated from the Dutchman. Regardless, Dumoulin is still the most talented in-form time trialist on Stage 9 and is certain to be leading the pack once again.

Bob Jungels has already showcased his strength at this year’s Giro and will be confident of seizing upon Dumoulin’s potential weakness to secure his first grand tour victory. The terrain is to his liking and it will lean favourably to his technical abilities; he is very much a man to watch here.

Ilnur Zakarin is no stranger to time trials and certainly has the climbing talents to challenge for the win on a stage such as this, but his recent performances have raised some doubts. The Katusha rider will need to negotiate some technical and high power segments on Stage 9, but his recent focus on climbing performances are certain to have diminished his maximum output somewhat. This opening week has shown that Zakarin has the talent to aim for a podium place at the Giro d’Italia and could rather be focusing upon performing in the mountains and limiting his losses here instead.

Alejandro Valverde is an interesting pick for stage honours, the Spaniard is by no means a specialist time trialist, yet this type of rolling terrain could really help him produce a powerful performance. His showings during the opening week have wobbled somewhat, but it now looks as if he is finding his rhythm once again, potentially laying the foundations for a win on Stage 9.

Vincenzo Nibali‘s performance on Stage 8 looks to have quelled his critics concerns for the moment and appears to be a convincing stepping stone to securing him at least a podium place by the end of this tour. The Italian champion has had to invest the time and effort into his time trialling abilities in the last few years, now finding himself more competent than ever, so should definitely be considered for the win on terrain which allows him to call upon his climbing prowess.

Stefan Küng is a real wildcard today, the young Swiss rider is more than proficient in time trials and is extremely unlucky to find himself without a win having looked on course for Stage 1 victory before a crash derailed his chances. There are no question marks over his talent, but the real concern is whether or not he can perform upon this type of lumpy terrain.

Fabian Cancellara is of course Switzerland’s most legendary cyclist and has found his greatest glories when battling against the clock. The Swiss rider was ill ahead of the Giro’s start, but has since recovered, though to what extent exactly is not understood. Though this course does suit him convincingly, it is tough to imagine him winning after a poor build up to this challenge; a challenge where any weakness is exposed and magnified.

Other capable of finding themselves amongst the top ten by the end of the day include Esteban ChavesTobias Ludvigsson and Rigoberto Uran.

Outcome:

1st Bob Jungels 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 8 PREVIEW

Course:

Stage 8’s 186km route from Foligno to Arezzo looks to be perfect terrain for the specialist breakaway riders at this year’s Giro d’Italia to steal another win from the sprinters. Rolling throughout the day, the fireworks are expected to be lit once the riders strike upon the Category 2 Alpe Di Poti, averaging 6.5% before reaching ramps of 14% around the midway point. Depending on how great a lead the day’s break establish before the final climb, there is still a chance that an elite group of riders could duke it out for the win on roads which swing between 5% – 11% late on. If that was not already enough of a cocktail to inspire a stage worth watching, the race organisers have also included stretches of gravel roads along the way.

Giro d'Italia Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Tim Wellens put in a fantastic showing to secure Stage 6 after bridging across to the breakaway and then attacking solo to beat his fellow escapees. His condition is clearly very strong right now and certainly has the ability to make it four wins in four days here for Lotto-Soudal and extend his lead in the mountains classification, though he may struggle to find the freedom to do so.

Alessandro De Marchi is a specialist in winning upon stages such as today, rolling along powerfully for large parts of the day, before then dropping the hammer and attacking with everything he has to win. BMC will be looking to take advantage of opportunistic days such as these throughout the Giro and are likely to work hard to get into the key move.

Przemyslaw Niemiec will be an interesting man to watch on Stage 8, though he has no inspiring showings as of late to suggest backing him for the win, this route packs in all of his favoured attributes to lay the foundations for victory. Lampre-Merida have an alternative card to play with Diego Ulissi late on if required, so having Niemiec in the break would save them the effort of having to chase down the breakaway too.

Gianluca Brambilla has the skills to spend the day in the breakaway and then solo or sprint his way to victory on a stage such as today’s. Alongside this, the increasingly active general classification dynamic could still mean any escapees are swept up on the final climb and stage honours subsequently decided by an elite group forming on the downhill section into town. Should this occur, then Brambilla will certainly be one of the biggest dangers to others if present.

Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take the win on Stage 8 if an elite group of general classification riders ends up deciding the day’s winner. The Spanish rider is fantastic in an uphill sprint, while his descending abilities mean he is well versed in instigating or following attacks downhill. With an individual time trial and rest day following on from today’s stage, it could be a launchpad for an attempt to gain a buffer to his rivals before the race against the clock begins.

Adam Hansen appeared incredibly strong while leading André Greipel out for an unexpected win yesterday when ratcheting the tempo up on the front of the peloton in the final kilometres. Hansen enjoys being part of a breakaway and shall fancy turning anyone else over before the line judging by his current form.

Vincenzo Nibali lost time on Stage 6 and could view the finale here as the perfect opportunity to grab seconds back before the individual time trial. The Italian is never afraid of pushing the tempo downhill to the limit, a move which could perhaps drag the likes of Alejandro Valverde with him too.

Outcome:

Breakaway – 1st Alessandro De Marchi 2nd Adam Hansen 3rd Przemyslaw Niemiec

Elite Sprint – 1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Gianluca Brambilla 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

Milan - San Remo 2017 Preview

Milan – San Remo 2016 Preview

Course:

Having battled through the season’s mixed bag of early semi-classic races which have already encompassed Italy’s dusty gravel roads and Northern Europe’s treacherous cobbled climbs, Milan – San Remo signals the curtain truly being raised on 2016’s scramble to claim racing’s rarest of victories; a monument.

Throughout its previous 100+ editions, the route linking Milan to San Remo has remained relatively traditional, fluctuating only in regards to the amount and whereabouts of climbs en route to the finish. This has shaped the nature of the race for obvious reasons, but this year’s 291km affair should stick to the anticipated script of setting the race alight upon the double of the Cipressa and Poggio as ever. This year’s course lacks the tinkering from organisers we have seen recently when sandwiching an extra climb into the finale, and given that the finish line is once again upon the historic Via Roma, the sprinters will fancy dominating this traditional looking Milan – San Remo.

The Cipressa is 5.6km in length and sees its average gradient of 4.1% swing up to 9% for a time, though it ultimately remains a manageable task during these latter stages of the race. The tricky descent from the top will leave only 20km left to tackle, returning to flat roads before beginning the decisive Poggio 9.7km from home. This infamous climb is 3.7km in length with an average gradient of 3.7%, though its ramps reach 8% at times during the ascent. Attacks over the top are expected and it is this combined with the incredibly twisting descent which will make it tough for the sprinters to cling onto those attempting a late breakaway move.

Just over 2km of flat road will lead the riders onto the finish of Via Roma, a finishing straight of 750m setting the scene for what is expected to be a memorable sprint finish amongst the day’s favourites.

MSR

Contenders:

Michael Matthews put in a great showing at last year’s World Championship Road Race and has continued that form into 2016 by demonstrating his expansive skill-set, one which features a potent blend of climbing and sprinting capabilities. Having already reached the podium at this race, there is no doubt he can make the cut, especially in a year which suits sprinters more than any other in recent history. Matthews has the ability to follow a late escape as much as he does to duke it out in a sprint, either way, he looks to be the man to beat in the absence of defending champion John Degenkolb.

Alexander Kristoff no doubt has the skills to chalk up another win at Milan – San Remo, but it is the team which supports him in 2016 which raises doubts. The biggest hole which Katusha shall struggle to fill is that of Luca Paolini, the Italian a crucial part of Kristoff’s plan in the pursuit of any major win, but a crucial lieutenant he will have to go without this year. Regardless, Kristoff is likely to be the fastest in a bunch kick, but the greater strength and depth seen in the teams of his rivals’ could prove difficult to match late on.

Peter Sagan is still bereft of a classics win, but his form as of late on similar terrain should provide him with great encouragement to remedy that. However, Sagan seems to find a way of losing despite his fantastic positional skills and ultimately superior sprinting ability. For fans of the sport, a Sagan win would be excellent, but there remains a lingering doubt as to whether he can execute such a race to perfection; be that from a elite group move or larger bunch sprint.

Fernando Gaviria is by no means an unknown quantity when it comes to the WorldTour as of late, but his ability to contest the win over this distance is uncertain. The Etixx-QuickStep rider climbs extremely well, a talent only surpassed by his ability to dominate a sprint finish with tremendous speed. An easy ride into the final 20km will play into his hands well and he shall remain a serious contender if still present at that stage of the race.

Greg Van Avermaet has seen his form soar as of late and will be eager to hammer home such condition in pursuit of the win here. However, the Belgian will struggle to both drop his major rivals and also better them in a flat drag race to the line; a win would be extremely impressive given the company.

Fabian Cancellara is in fantastic form currently and shall do his utmost to add a major win to his palmarès before signing off into retirement at the end of this year. Though his physical prowess may have altered somewhat in recent years, the Swiss legend is wilier than ever, meaning he cannot be given an inch to attack in case of making it all the way to the line.

Others likely to feature late on or animate the race include; Alejandro ValverdeMark CavendishVincenzo Nibali, Stephen Cummings and Zdenek Stybar,

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Peter Sagan