Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 2

Course:

French rider Bryan Coquard took a surprise victory on the opening day of this year’s Tour of Oman, but with plenty of climbing and an uphill finish on Stage 2, the sprinters will have to work hard to fight for another bunch kick. The day’s ride from Sultan Qaboos University to Al Bustan totals 167km and features four categorised climbs along the way; the last of which appears around 5km from the finish. It is the wind which is likely to prove most decisive here, previously dictating whether an elite group forms under intense strain or a block headwind keeps the bunch together for a reduced sprint, either way it will prove influential once again. The final kilometres are bound to be hectic if the race begins to fracture, as riders attempt to calculate their best chances of winning, from either a late move or reduced bunch kick.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 2

Contenders:

Fabio Felline fits this stage particularly well, and if already possessing decent form as believed, then he  will have several options as to how best he can approach the day with eyes on the win. Strong enough to join the breakaway if required, or fast enough to dominate a sprint of likely protagonists, Felline will have a tough time choosing which approach is best. Regardless, days tailored to his strengths like this are not that frequent throughout the season and there is no doubt he shall aim to make the most of it.

Greg Van Avermaet is gearing up for another big push at the Spring classics, which means testing the waters at some point during these early season forays into potential race winning form. The Belgian icon suits this day, but is another who could benefit equally from being part of a late move or keeping his powder dry for a small group sprinting to the line. We have seen how tough he is to beat for several seasons now when on top form, and even if he is only nearing this, he could emerge as the dominant force in the final moments of Stage 2.

Søren Kragh Andersen will favour this terrain and has previously secured a stage win at this race, hinting at what his condition is likely to be once again this year. One of the strongest riders here in a head to head charge to the line, the Dane will want to be ditched by plenty of other riders on the final climb of the day and he is bound to find allies hard to come by as a result. A strong team performance here will do him wonders, and if he can make the cut, then the sprint finish could be made to look a breeze by the youngster.

Nathan Haas is a rider the bunch would be foolish to allow an advantage late in the day, as on a course which plays to his strengths, he could prove extremely to difficult to pull back before the line. Though he did not manage to reach his ambitions at the Tour Down Under, he was certainly one of the strongest riders there and he will have carried this across to Oman with hopes of converting it into victory on this occasion. If the wind can do him a favour and thin the ranks out, Haas is a contender likely to benefit well  from it.

If the race does remain together for the most part, whether due to strong team management or a block headwind, the sprinters who are most capable of staying in touch to take the win are Nacer BouhanniGiacomo Nizzolo and Bryan Coquard.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Søren Kragh Andersen 3rd Giacomo Nizzolo

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Amstel Gold – Race Preview 2017

Course:

A hectic week of frantic cycling in and around the Ardennes region begins, as ever, with one of Dutch cycling’s greatest treats; Amstel Gold. Forming part of late spring’s famous triptych, the next eight days will be crammed with some of the season’s most aggressive riding as the peloton tackle Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège in almost a single week. Each race favours a slightly different style of rider, though they each demand an individual to be strong, combative and intelligent in pursuit of victory. Today’s task is a 261km journey from Maastricht to Berg en Terblijt, taking in narrow roads on constant undulating terrain, creating a bunch who sees its anxieties grow as they seek to peer around the next corner. Positioning shall be a key factor for those hoping to perform well at Amstel Gold, making the battle for the front an intense contest as soon as the starting flag has been waved. A total of 35 officially recognised hills feature on course, few of which would invoke much trepidation normally, but mole hills become mountains once the race passes 200km of sustained racing. Suffice to say, Amstel Gold often becomes an attritional affair which builds tension ahead of the final attack on the finishing climb, but this course is slight different than normal. Instead, the finish in 2017 should allow a greater number of riders to come into play, favouring the strongest sprinters who are capable of surviving a day like this in good shape. Gone are the days where riders sought to put everything down on the final ascent of the Cauberg in order to win, though the iconic hill does feature throughout the day, 2017 looks set to be a reduced sprint amongst the toughest of riders.
Amstel Gold Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Michael Matthews is one of several riders expected to challenge once again for the win at Amstel Gold, despite having never managed to convert several good showings at this race into a victory thus far. The Australian has continued to develop his ability to survive hard days in the saddle, able to emerge when it matters most at the end of the stage, easily putting rivals to the sword with his blistering pace. Matthews is not scared of joining a breakaway either, making him a crucial rider to mark for those also seeking victory, as it is unlikely any move capable of staying away could feature anyone faster than himself. Though his previous form here is exciting, the course changes will make it harder for Matthews to gain an advantage over pure sprinters, as the finish is no longer upon or shortly after the Cauberg.

Fabio Felline has been on the rise since last year and will enter today’s race with plenty of confidence that a podium place is well within his capabilities right now, if not more. His efforts during the early part of the season have showcased his durability for arduous contests, able to match some of the best in the world as the pedal revolutions tick higher and higher. The Italian is another who is dangerous due to his ability to win from either a bunch kick or breakaway move, so will not be afforded a great deal of freedom by the bigger favourites. However, his greatest issue is that he is not on par with the elite climbers and sprinters, meaning any move he makes will need to be intelligent enough to compensate for this difference in ability.

Bryan Coquard finished an impressive fourth place at last year’s edition of Amstel Gold, only losing out to Sonny Colbrelli in the sprint for third place on the day. The French rider possesses an immense turn of speed, often emerging late from behind his more powerful rivals, accelerating past them as the finish line rapidly approaches. Coquard looks to have developed a greater degree of strength and determination to stay in contention when things get tough at races such as these; with last year’s result testament to that fact. He may not have enjoyed an eye-catching Spring like others here, but the general feeling amongst those in the sport, is that Coquard has the form necessary right now to win Amstel Gold.

Sonny Colbrelli continues to surprise people with his results during the early part of 2017, appearing here off the back of victory at De Brabantse Pijl last week. Colbrelli has good form at Amstel Gold in recent years and should find that the course alterations play into his hands more than any other major contender present. Also, his team features defending champion and two time winner Enrico Gasparottoable to guide him through the maelstrom with his wealth of experience at Amstel Gold. Colbrelli is one of the best at surviving tough races, demonstrated clearly by his recent showings at Milan – San Remo; one of the hardest races a rider can face each year. With a strong combination of individual and team strength, there is a great chance that the trophy will remain in Italian hands for another year.

Greg Van Avermaet should be another rider who finds the recent route chances favourable for his chances of winning Amstel Gold. Currently enjoying an incredible year of form and successes, the Belgian hero will still emerge motivated as ever to perform well enough to challenge for the day’s honours. Assuming that the main bunch is slowly whittled down throughout the day, it is hard to see Greg Van Avermaet being absent from such a group and from that position he is currently unbeatable in a reduced sprint.

Alejandro Valverde is a rider who shall not be overjoyed by the finish no longer being determined by the testing Cauberg, so will need a new plan if he is to succeed today. The start of the season has proven fruitful for the veteran Spanish rider and many are hinting that he is in some of the best Spring form ever seen from him. As there is no longer the steep springboard on offer to catapult him to the finish line, he is now another rider seeking to be part of a much smaller group which battles it out for the victory. Should the situation arise, then Valverde is one of the hardest men to beat in a flat sprint after such a long and gruelling race.

Philippe Gilbert delivered a miraculous victory at De Ronde Van Vlaanderen a few weeks ago and has been a dominant force during the last couple of months. The Belgian champion will however struggle to replicate his previous dominance at this specific race, as the Cauberg lacking finale makes it much tougher for Gilbert to drop riders who can sprint faster than himself before the line. It is likely that he will need a much more attritional day in order to improve his odds of winning, but it is not impossible to see Gilbert once again becoming champion, especially given his current form.

Outsiders who are worth watching throughout the day are; Enrico Gasparotto, Ben Swift, Michael Albasini, Diego Ulissi, Tim Wellens and Simon Gerrans.

Outcome:

1st Sonny Colbrelli 2nd Michael Matthews 3rd Fabio Felline

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 16 PREVIEW

Course:

Normally a rest day, 2016’s third Monday will in fact be another day in the saddle which exceeds 200km, as the peloton slink their way across France and into the day’s finish at the Swiss city of Berne. Yesterday’s immense amount of climbing saw an explosive race in the breakaway, but the high temperatures and ever increasing gradients nullified the anticipated attacks within the general classification favourites, but many of today’s contenders are bound to have suffered regardless. Stage 16 throws down a 209km route from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne, a rolling day which the sprinters’ teams know could be the penultimate bunch kick before Paris, assuming they get their calculations correct to prevent a late move going clear.

 

Tour de France Stage 16 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Peter Sagan makes everything look so easy, chewing up the road and spitting it out with the comfort of a man en route to the café for a Sunday’s worth of coffee and cake. Today has a very Sagan feel to it, the opportunity for long breakaways, late solo moves and uphill sprints over pavé should definitely lure the reigning World Champion to the fore as the final decisive moments approach. The actual impetus for him to perform may in fact stem from the fight for the green jersey with Mark Cavendish, as Sagan knows that a hard ridden race here could blow the Manxman out the back door and thus extend his lead in the competition with a potential victory.

Bryan Coquard has established a growing reputation for dominating this type of finale and has shown form in this race deserving of a stage win already. The French are still without a win at 2016’s Tour de France and are running out of opportunities to remedy this fact, thus Coquard’s French team Direct Énergie will be extremely motivated to help him onwards to Stage 16 glory.

Alexander Kristoff was not far off taking the win on Stage 14 when chasing home Mark Cavendish to finish second and now looks confident as the race enters its final week. Given the accumulative fatigue by this point of the race, Kristoff begins to emerge as a greater threat to the ambitions of his rivals here, the Norwegian often one of the strongest men remaining towards the end of a grand tour. Katusha seem certain to boss the front of the peloton, attempting to prevent any breakaways going clear and deciding the outcome before Kristoff even catches sight of the line.

Michael Matthews should feel somewhat more relaxed as a result of taking the win on Stage 10 last week and will be a danger today yet again. The race should be ridden hard late on as the likes of Katusha and Tinkoff attempt to limit the odds of a breakaway making it to the line and similarly aim to knacker sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel before they reach the finish. The terrain should be of no great concern for the Australian, while his climbing prowess marks him out as one of those most likely to have recovered from yesterday’s mountainous efforts.

Edvald Boasson Hagen provides a great alternative to Mark Cavendish on Stage 16, the powerful Norwegian picking up several similar victories earlier this season. With a mixture of pavé and uphill drags in the final kilometres, EBH will be open to joining any potential late moves, as much as he will hope for a reduced bunch sprint to decide the day.

Marcel KittelAndré Greipel and Mark Cavendish are the purer sprinters who may struggle to remain at the front of affairs as the race enters its final moments in Berne. Kittel has recorded wins on far harder finishes than this, Greipel is the most consistent on similar terrain and Cavendish’s form right now gives the impression that anything is possible.

For late breakaway candidates, Greg Van AvermaetJasper StuyvenFabian CancellaraJan Bakelants and Sep Vanmarcke all fit the bill.

Outcome:

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

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 14 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s dominant performance by Tom Dumoulin secured him a second stage win at this year’s Tour de France and another correct prediction by Spokenforks. Finishing in second place after Stage 13’s individual time trial was Chris Froome, demonstrating that even the circus of Mont Ventoux would not be enough to prevent him gaining further time on his rivals. Today’s affair is a 208.5km route from Montélimar to the Parc des Oiseaux at Villars-Les-Dombes, offering up the type of tricky terrain which can see breakaways get the better of a miscalculating peloton and its sprint trains.


Tour de France Stage 14 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Peter Sagan appears to be in imperious form once again at Le Tour de France, likely to weigh up either joining a breakaway move or saving his efforts for a sprint finish on Stage 14 today. Given the compounded fatigue from Mont Ventoux and yesterday’s individual time trial, sprinters and their teams might struggle to control the race and even come up short in the final bunch kick. These factors point to a strongman sprinter benefiting and Peter Sagan should certainly fancy his chances of being in the mix for another stage win here.

Mark Cavendish has lost his key man Mark Renshaw and will now see his odds of taking the remaining sprint stages reduced due to his absence. The Manxman has tried to conserve his energy during the preceding two stages and will want to secure another stage victory, especially with so few days left afforded to the quick men. Regardless of his team’s diminished strength, Cavendish has demonstrated this year that he is a master of following the right wheels amidst the maelstrom, so he is unlikely to be concerned in that regard.

Edvald Boasson Hagen offers a great alternative at Team Dimension Data instead of Mark Cavendish, the Norwegian champion is immensely strong at this year’s race and seems destined to pick up a win at some point. Today would allow him to launch a late attack if desired, but it seems more likely that he will attempt to take Stage 14 in a sprint; one which is anticipated to be far from organised.

André Greipel is still yet to collect a stage win at this year’s Tour de France and looks to becoming increasingly desperate in his pursuit of victory. The German’s team remains one of the leading trains in the sprint finishes, yet for several reasons, Greipel is yet to truly contest a sprint finish off the back of an efficient leadout. Call it blind faith, but it seems unlikely that he will go the entire three weeks without a victory, so will still be a favourite on Stage 14.

Marcel Kittel picked up a relatively unexpected stage victory earlier in the race and shall feel the pressure lighten as a result, providing himself and the team freedom to approach these final sprint stages more relaxed. There are question marks over his condition exiting the preceding couple of days, like many mentioned here today, but he should certainly feature prominently off the back of another great Etixx performance.

Bryan Coquard will still be motivated in his ambitions of winning a stage this year as a result of his impressive performances earlier in the race. Though he is normally only a contender upon finishes with uphill drags, the anticipated attritional nature of today and recent stages can certainly open up the odds of him taking a win at last.

Dan McLay remains a dark horse for these final stages which may end in a sprint finish, especially as it is difficult to gauge his condition exiting the first run of mountains. If however he is feeling as good as he was before the first major climbs, then the tired legs of his likely rivals will offer him the belief that a win is well within his grasp on Stage 14.

Alexander Kristoff has turned in a mixed bag of performances at 2016’s edition so far, but these sort of transitional stages can often see Kristoff come to the fore as bigger teams burn through their riders at a greater speed than normal, often as a result of strong breakaways proving difficult to pull back. The Norwegian may not be in the same pomp as last season, but if he chooses to invest 100% into a single day like this, then he will prove as difficult to beat as ever.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 10 PREVIEW

Course:

The preceding rest day shall seem like a distance memory as the peloton’s Andorran adventure continues for another day here on Stage 10. From Escaldes Engordany to Revel is a 197km journey which opens immediately with a tough task, climbing the 22.6km long Port d’Envalira (5.5%), a Category 1 ascent that will put many riders into the red as soon as they roll out. A breakaway has a great chance of determining today’s outcome, though much will be decided by the final run into Revel, the Category 3 Côte de Saint-Ferréol (6.6% avg) appearing poised to play a crucial role.

Tour de France Stage 10 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Peter Sagan looks to have the option of either joining the day’s breakaway or save his efforts and aim to take the win in a larger bunch kick at Revel. He will be aware that a win here should return the green jersey to his hands once again, but it could prove tricky deciding which method offers the best chances of another Tour de France victory.

Edvald Boasson Hagen entered the race with a great deal of form and has everything going in his favour to suggest he can pick up a stage win during 2016’s Tour de France. The Norwegian enjoys tough days in the saddle which help to reduce the number of contenders, so the finish into Revel should catch his eye as an ideal platform to ratchet up the pressure on his likely rivals.

Michael Matthews has not been as prominent as perhaps many had expected him to be during these opening stages, but Stage 10 offers an ideal opportunity to remind pundits that the Australian is still at the race. His Orica teammates can certainly take advantage of the Côte de Saint-Ferréol near the finish, applying the requisite pressure to crack the purer sprinters and set up a battle amongst the puncheurs and stronger fast men.

Bryan Coquard would have seen few complain about him collecting a stage win in the opening week, but unfortunately he has not quite managed to achieve this thus far. The French rider is evidently in brilliant form right now and will not hesitate to utilise his team’s strength to try and set himself up for the win here. Coquard is light enough to make it over the final climb and has demonstrated already that he is one of the fastest here; bigger names would be foolish to discount this precocious talent.

Marcel KittelMark Cavendish and André Greipel would be the leading names for today’s finish, but the monstrous Port d’Envalira ascent which opens Stage 10 will be a great task to overcome in order to contest any form of a sprint. It seems unlikely that such a long opening climb will be contested without any attacks being initiated with the hope of placing the afore mentioned trio in jeopardy and therefore out of contention.

Alexander Kristoff would have been a favourite for this stage a year ago, unfortunately there has been little to encourage his usual backers in recent weeks that the Norwegian will be a frontrunner by the time they reach Revel however.

Those likely to form part of a breakaway or last gasp attack include: Greg Van AvermaetTony GallopinJan BakelantsJasper StuyvenTom Jelte-SlagterLaurens Ten DamStephen Cummings and Nicolas Edet.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Peter Sagan

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 6 PREVIEW

Course:

The sprinters are afforded one more opportunity to strut their stuff ahead of the race’s entrance into the first true mountains of this year’s Tour de France. Stage 6 is a 190.5km route from Arpajon-Sur-Cére to Montauban, a day where lumpy terrain transitions towards the oncoming mountain passes which will ignite the first moves in the battle for the maillot jaune. Luckily for the sprinters though, today’s finale is a flat affair and should inspire enough teams to chase down the day’s breakaway in order to set up a bunch kick.

Tour de France Stage 6 Preview 2016

Contenders:

André Greipel has done a fantastic job of avoiding a stage win up until now, but today’s offering should be dominated by his Lotto-Soudal team and subsequently lead the charge for today’s battle. The approach to Montauban is a rather technical affair and will demand a strong team to guide their leader through the obstacles before dropping him off in the final meters; Lotto-Soudal can do precisely that. The finishing straight suits a power based sprinter more than any other, and for that reason, Greipel must be viewed as the favourite.

Mark Cavendish may not be able to generate the huge watts of his rivals, but he is an extremely wily character who is certain to have studied today’s finale in order to thread his way to the fore before attempting another cunning sprint. His leadout train has proven its abilities in this opening week and looks to have gelled efficiently enough to rival the big name sprint teams. Out of all the contenders for Stage 6 honours, Cavendish looks the most likely to capitalise on the potential errors of his anticipated competition here.

Marcel Kittel caused quite a stir to take victory upon Stage 4 and has sent a strong message to his rivals that his usual potent form is beginning to return to him. The German ace is capable of churning out huge watts on a finale such as this and it is plausible to suggest that Stage 6 will be decided with a drag race between himself and fellow countryman André Greipel.

Dylan Groenewegen has begun his ascent to sprinting’s top table in 2016 and should not be discounted from causing an upset here with his immense turn of pace. The Dutchman has spent most of his time in the sprints thus far making up ground late on, but if everything clicks today and he is delivered into a good position, then he is clearly a contender.

Expected to complete the placings on Stage 6 are Bryan CoquardPeter SaganEdward Theuns and Dan McLay.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd Dylan Groenewegen 

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 4 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s monotonous affair felt like it stretched on for days at times, so many are unlikely to be looking forward to this even longer course which forms Stage 4. The 237.5km journey from Saumur to Limoges is the longest stage of 2016’s Tour de France, another long day in the saddle required to lead the peloton back down from their northerly beginning in Normandy. The most rolling of days so far, the sprinters shall have looked at this as another great opportunity to take a win, but once again an uphill ride to the finish line could cause an upset.

Tdf Stage 4 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish collected his second victory of this year’s Tour de France and has subsequently drawn level with the (in)famous Bernard Hinault in overall stage wins at La Grande Boucle. There is little to suggest that he cannot pick up another win here, though he will once again require a successful run to the line and today’s power based sprint does favour less so. Regardless, the diminutive fast man has already won twice thanks to his immense guile and enviable ability to always find the right wheel to follow.

André Greipel came so close to winning Stage 3 that he even thought he had done it, yet he had to endure the painful reveal of a slow-motion replay which displayed Cavendish beating him by the width of a tyre. The finale here is much less technical than yesterday, is slightly uphill and all plays to the strengths of the immensely strong German rider who is expected to get the best out of his team today.

Peter Sagan has looked in brilliant form thus far and you cannot help but feel that he has not even started to leave his mark on 2016’s edition. This drag to the line does favour Sagan somewhat, but a few extra percentages of incline would have genuinely marked him out as the favourite to win in Limoges. As ever, the lack of support afforded to Sagan in these bunch kicks often leaves him isolated, requiring him to do that little bit extra which can leave him short at the line.

Marcel Kittel  is likely to remain in contention once again here, though the finale itself does not exactly suit him as well as anyone wanting to back him would like. There is little as of late to suggest he will be the man to beat today, but if his Etixx team finally clicks efficiently, then Kittel could once again return as a frontrunner.

Michael Matthews came unstuck during Stage 3’s technical run into town, but today’s simplified finish and uphill stretch should suit him much better. Given the distance and rolling nature of the stage, Matthews should feel confident of being in the mix come Limoges and has a strong line up to help him do so.

Bryan Coquard was not far from matching the best on Stage 3 and dropped a definite hint of his condition heading into this grand tour. The Frenchman enjoys these uphill finales greatly and has established a reputation in recent years as the man to beat on such terrain; today could prove to be a strong reminder of this.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd André Greipel 3rd Bryan Coquard