Milan - Sanremo 2018 Race Preview

Rapido Guide: Milano – Sanremo 2018

Course:

Not much to shout about in regards to 2018’s course for Milano – Sanremo, as it is an identical affair to last year’s, maintaining its reputation as one of the least tinkered with monuments in recent seasons. Though clocking in at 291km of racing (300km if you include the neutral zone), it will once again be a day which is unlikely to see any noteworthy action before the peloton as easily passed the 200km marker. The triumvirate of Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta will provide the day’s contenders with the first real indication as to whether their legs feel favourable or not with less than 60km remaining. After this comes the historic double of the Cipressa and the Poggio, the descent off the latter reaching level ground once again with only a little over 2km of racing to go. Though we may have to wait late in the day to see it, with so few opportunities to break the race apart, there should be another great curtain raising battle to this year’s monuments at Milano – Sanremo.

Milan - Sanremo 2018 Race Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan enters most of the calendar’s one day races as the favourite, though does not possess the best record in the classics or monuments when considering how long he has been the sport’s greatest active rider. He came close to taking the win last year and has already stated that he will approach things differently this time in pursuit of the win, perhaps choosing to keep his powder dry and allow others to really push the tempo. Whatever the plan is, there is no doubt he shall be a major protagonist in the final decisive kilometres, where it is tough to imagine him losing if part of any group which turns the last corner onto the Via Roma.

Arnaud Démare won this race in surprising fashion a couple of years ago, but given his recent form, it would be far less of a shock to win it a second time than the first. He copes well with this type of arduous racing and is one of the few who can still turn in close to his best sprint after well over 250km of racing. The team at his disposal is extremely strong in support of the French national champion, focused almost entirely upon controlling the race and manoeuvering Démare into a race winning position. Despite having already won here, as a not particularly flashy rider, it is easy to overlook his talents; his rivals would be foolish to do the same.

Sonny Colbrelli has maintained a great record at Milano – Sanremo over the years and 2018 looks to be one of his best build ups to the big day of all. His recent victory upon Hatta Dam at the Dubai Tour proved his great strength when roads head skywards, which will no doubt be useful late in the day here. He would do best to allow other bigger names to close down the attacks when necessary, as previous years have seen the Italian use up too much energy before the finish line is in sight.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the defending champion and will feel relaxed heading into the day, with nothing to prove and no real pressure to repeat his win at a notoriously tough to predict monument. Regardless, he will be a likely face amongst those hoping to split the race apart and avoid a significant bunch sprint deciding the winner this year. This no doubt that means attacking hard over the Poggio, which given his success last year, will be interesting to see who reacts first to such a potentially dangerous move.

Elia Viviani is the purest sprinter with the most realistic chance of surviving the final quarter of racing with a potent turn of pace still at his disposal. Having enjoyed a brilliant start to life at Quick Step, the Italian ace is looking in sparkling form and more confident than ever in his abilities to reach the top of the sport. With a talented selection of teammates by his side, Viviani shall be well protected, allowing him to focus on exiting the final turn of the day in a race winning position.

Others to watch for are Alexander Kristoff, Caleb Ewan, Julian AlaphilppeMatteo Trentin and Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Sonny Colbrelli

Advertisements
Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 3

Course:

As highlighted in yesterday’s preview, Nathan Haas was earmarked as a rider most likely to benefit from a tough finale and heavily reduced numbers heading into the finish, thus it was of little surprise to see him take a much deserved win in the end. Stage 3 is a 179.5km route from the German University of Technology to Wadi Dayqah Dam, featuring plenty of rolling terrain, with the majority of the focus upon the final few kilometres which culminate in an uphill dash to the line.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 3

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet was a key protagonist during Stage 2 and there is no doubt that many would have backed the BMC rider to take the win from the reduced lead group, but the Belgian was well beaten by Haas unexpectedly. Regardless, today is another well suited opportunity to pursue victory and Avermaet is bound to find himself the favourite yet again. If he can stay in the lead group and get a clear run to the line, then it shall be a huge ask to deny the Belgian classics specialist for a second consecutive day.

Nathan Haas is now an interesting prospect in the contest for the overall victory and may emerge as a tough rider to relinquish his ownership of the leader’s jersey. If he so wishes, he can now look to ride defensively and even lean upon his rivals to chase down those who are considered a threat to everyone hoping to win 2018’s Tour of Oman. This is another day which plays to his strengths, and given his current form, he should not be discounted from doubling up here on Stage 3.

Søren Kragh Andersen was unfortunate enough to be snarled up by two separate accidents yesterday, the last of which was only 15km from the finish, meaning he waved goodbye to any chance of contesting the sprint. He does not seem to have been affected by these crashes though and shall be extremely motivated to seek redemption of sorts by working hard for the win here. If he does manage to make the cut, he could be the fastest man present and would surely lead the charge to the line home with ease.

Fabio Felline performed well yesterday, showcasing the talent we had seen little of during a disastrous 2017 season previously. The Italian rider is pleased with his return to action thus far, now sensing some semblance of form and eager to find himself atop the podium again soon. He is a tactically astute rider who often reads the race better than most from a breakaway or small bunch, meaning one well timed attack on the final slopes could be enough for Felline to take the win.

Others to consider are Magnus CortAlexander KristoffAlexey LutsenkoDries Devenyns and Giovanni Visconti.

Outcome:

1st Søren Kragh Andersen 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Fabio Felline

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

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 4

Course:

A relatively short 128.2km forms Stage 4 of 2018’s Tour Down Under, leaving Norwood and racing into the newly introduced finishing town of Uraidla after some serious climbing late on in the day. An interesting stage which may prove a closer fought affair than many first thought, the focus is still likely to be upon the traditionally decisive Wilunga Hill on Stage 5 to realistically crown this year’s winner overall. Expectations are that the puncheurs are likely to demonstrate a greater impact than the pure climbers late on here and a last gasp charge to the line could decide the honours.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Four 4 Preview

Contenders:

Nathan Haas has been working hard already this week, picking up bonus seconds whenever possible and doing his utmost to steer clear of trouble by utilising his Katusha Alpecin teammates perfectly as protection. Additionally, there is enough talent around him to suggest he shall not be left alone during the crucial moments at the end of the day, potentially allowing him to lean on rivals to chase down his teammates in order to counter attack for the victory. With a quick turn of pace, Haas could capitalise from a reduced bunch kick and seize control of the race ahead of the pivotal penultimate day.

Richie Porte is the best climber at the race, but today will be more about staying with the pack and avoiding any significant time losses to major rivals. As ever, his goal is to produce another barn-storming ride up Wilunga Hill, but he will not refuse the opportunity to take the win today if it should arise. Entering Stage 5 as race leader would make Porte’s chances of overall victory even greater, as with less impetus to break the race up, he could simply sit on the wheels all day.

Jay McCarthy often finishes powerfully on stages such as these, and with such a strong team to support him, there is a great chance of him scoring the win on Stage 4. As one of the few contenders today who has already shown good form in 2018, his performance at the National Road Race Championships suggested he is already riding well and would be a threatening rider to allow a free ticket right into the final kilometre.

Diego Ulissi did not perform as strongly as anticipated yesterday, though still deserves a serious mention here on favourable terrain once again for the Italian. Though the last climb is a great springboard to launch his attack upon, the downhill run into town is not favourable really, but his capabilities in a reduced sprint could still deliver him victory if riding smart on the day.

A strong field of further candidates all have the potential to win in Uraidla: Rui CostaEnric MasPeter SaganTom Jelte-SlagterDaryl Impey and Peter Kennaugh.

Outcome:

1st Nathan Haas 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Richie Porte

Paris - Roubaix 2017 Race Preview

Paris – Roubaix – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The season’s cobbled campaign reaches its crescendo at Paris – Roubaix once again, the preceding weeks of gruelling Spring races in Northern Europe having given us a glimpse of who is mostly likely to survive another ‘Sunday In Hell’. Stretching a total of 257km from the start at Compiègne – Choisy-Au-Bac to the historic finale at the Roubaix velodrome. Tackling 29 official sectors en route to the finish, riders will not only require the strength and determination to succeed, but also the light touch of luck to steer clear of danger throughout the maelstrom. The riders are gifted 100km to prepare themselves for the barrage of challenges, hitting their first cobbled sector after the century marker and finding little in the way of relief until the finish line is crossed or they climb off their bike. As ever, much anxiety will be heaped upon the riders’ passage through the crucial sectors of Care Four de l’Arbre, Mons-en-Pevele and Arenberg forest; the fight for position entering these being some of the most intense riding during the day. Of all the classics which form the monuments in cycling, Paris – Roubaix is perhaps the one which sees the greatest number of star riders lose out through bad luck rather than poor form, meaning an upset is always on the cards at this iconic race. Regardless, whomever is crowned 2017’s champion will have achieved it through no fluke, as every rider who enters the Roubaix velodrome does so gripped by exhaustion. There is no ‘easy’ way to win Paris – Roubaix.

Paris - Roubaix 2017 Race Preview Route

Contenders:

John Degenkolb was unable to defend his title last year due to a training accident which almost cost him a finger and will now be extremely motivated to compensate for his previous absence by performing strongly once again. The German seems built to dominate this race and it is easy to imagine that this 2017 edition may have been poised to complete a hat-trick of wins had he been able to contest the monument last year. His immense strength has seen him as one of the best riders behind the likes of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet during the early semi-classics this year, but on many of those occasions it was the dreaded hellingen which prevented him from challenging for the win. Today features no such cobbled climbs, making it a levelling factor which plays into his hands. It will take plenty of effort to detach Degenkolb, should the frontrunners fail to achieve this, then nobody will be faster than the German at the end of this race as they enter Roubaix.

Peter Sagan saw his ambitions of defending his title at Ronde van Vlaanderen wiped out by a rogue coat, causing himself Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet to crash upon the cobblestones. His classics campaign has not been as easy as many expected, Sagan having to cope with negative riding and limited team support compared to teams such as Quick – Step and Trek – Segafredo. Though the results may not immediately demonstrate it, Sagan has been indomitable for much of these semi-classic races and will believe himself strong enough to compensate for a lack of team strength once the race becomes a ‘man vs man’ battle. He is not always the fastest at the end of a tough race such as this, so will need to focus upon conserving energy and allow Quick – Step to take control of affairs for the day.

Oliver Naesen has risen rapidly during the Spring to become one of the few riders capable of matching the likes of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet. He was in a fantastic position at the Tour of Flanders, but was unfortunate enough to be taken out by a spectator alongside Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet before he could make any moves for victory. Naesen is an aggressive rider who will not wish to simply sit on the wheel and wait to be ridden off, capable of attacking solo from range, he is also talented enough to be a danger in a sprint. However, those most likely to match him are all faster than he is on paper, but nothing is guaranteed once Paris – Roubaix reaches its conclusion. The course suits Naesen’s skills extremely well, and if he rides a cunning enough race, he will be the most likely to cause an upset.

Greg Van Avermaet has become the classics specialists which many had long expected him to become, dominating 2017’s opening classics with apparent ease and the only man able to put Peter Sagan to the sword when given the chance. The Belgian is not as well suited to the rigours of Paris – Roubaix however, as much of Avermaet’s riding is built around his immense acceleration on some of Europe’s toughest cobbled climbs. He is in the form of his life right now, so he cannot be dismissed simply because the terrain is not perfect, instead it is likely that Avermaet will look to follow the wheel of favourites such as John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan, expecting to then dispatch them with ease in a sprint for the line.

Alexander Kristoff is not currently in the same monstrous form as that which delivered him immense success in 2015, yet there are signs to suggest he is once again on the rise to the top. Kristoff does not possess an eye-catching history at Paris – Roubaix, which is surprising when considering his physical attributes, though he certainly has what it takes to succeed if he commits everything to it. His ability to suffer through the hardest of days in the saddle is well documented, but given the encouraging weather forecast for the day, this year’s edition is unlikely to be the attritional affair which would see Kristoff become favourite.

Tom Boonen bids farewell to life as a professional cyclist with one final appearance at Paris – Roubaix, a race which he has conquered on four occasions, confirming himself as one of the greatest Belgians to have ridden this race. Boonen will be inspired to deliver a famous farewell to the sport, aiming to claim victory for a fifth time and become its most successful competitor in history. Quick – Step are once again the strongest team in this one day classic, but their mix of potential victors means Boonen will not be afforded total support. Plenty needs to go in his favour throughout the day to arrive at Roubaix with the leading riders, but should he do so, there is no doubt that he has the gritty determination to lift the cobblestone one last time.

Others who are anticipated to animate the race and challenge for the win are Niki TerpstraZdenek StybarLuke DurbridgeIan StannardLuke Rowe and Florian Sénéchal.

Outcome:

1st Oliver Naesen 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Tom Boonen

Paris – Tours Preview 2016

Course:

One of the most historic races in professional cycling, Paris – Tours has long been one of the final contests to bring the curtain down upon another year of racing and specifically stands as a final opportunity for the peloton’s sprinters to secure glory before winter calls time on another season. Somewhat altered in 2016 due to the anticipation of the oncoming World Championships, this year’s course has removed the usual decisive late hills and also added around an extra 20km of racing; both as an attempt to liken it to the demands of Doha’s contest to crown this year’s World Champion. As a result of these changes, the quality of sprinters at Paris – Tours this year has increased greatly, promising a thrilling showdown amongst some of the fastest men on two wheels before the big day in Qatar. For the challenge at hand, the riders will travel a total of 252.5km from Dreux to Tours, a relatively tame passage which should prove easy enough to control for 2016’s peloton, thanks to a much stronger field of bunch sprint focused teams. Attacks from breakaway hopefuls are bound to occur once the peloton near the finish with 30km – 50km still remaining, but the likelihood is that we will see a hotly contested sprint in Tours, as some of cycling’s most talented fast-men duke it out for glory and a glimpse as to the future of 2016’s rainbow bands.

Paris - Tours Preview 2016

Contenders:

Fernando Gaviria is part of a formidable Etixx – QuickStep team which boasts Tom Boonen, Zdeněk Štybar and last year’s winner Matteo Trentin. There are certainly questions regarding who exactly they shall back for the win today, but given Gaviria’s superior speed and encouraging form, he should be their ideal candidate to contest race honours here. He has proven able to handle such distances well and few teams will be able to match either the firepower or experience at his disposal if given the nod to lead the team today.

Nacer Bouhanni should be one of the fastest men left in contention as the race reaches Tours, possessing a leadout train which can deliver him perfectly into position, though this has proven inconsistent during the season. His performance at Milan – San Remo earlier in the year demonstrated his ability to cope with long races and he arrives here off the back of several great showings in recent weeks; Bouhanni may well prove to be the man to beat late on.

Arnaud Démare took victory at Binche – Chimay – Binche with an extremely powerful sprint which he initiated far ahead of where any of his rivals would have expected him to do so. Such a move secured him victory, but also demonstrated that the Frenchman is both in great strength and extremely confident heading into this penultimate race before the World Championships. Victory at Milan – San Remo in the Spring reminded people of just how strong Démare is, though it will be tough for today’s race to reflect a similarly attritional contest despite being 252.5km long; unless the day’s crosswinds prove more severe than expected. His team FDJ will commit everything to ensuring a bunch sprint and have grown to become a surprise package in the leadout battle in recent months, promising Démare a great chance of another late season victory.

Caleb Ewan is potentially the fast sprinter at this year’s edition and has enjoyed a good level of consistent form at the end of this summer, but his recent appearance at the Eneco tour was certainly less inspiring. A simple drag race would make Ewan the favourite here, instead he has to contend with numerous talented sprinters and their attempts to get a better run at the finish line than him. Though his Orica – GreenEDGE leadout is strong, it has suffered from inconsistency throughout the year and has seen Ewan lost when positioning proves the difference between a win or a passing mention in the race results.

Elia Viviani will view today as an ideal chance to stamp his authority upon the Italian World Championship team ahead of compatriot Giacomo Nizzolo with a good performance in Tours. Certainly one of the fastest at this year’s race, Viviani will need Team Sky to be running smoothly if he is to have much hope of surviving the 252.5km in good enough condition to threaten the greater favourites.

Other names worth keeping an eye upon are Tom BoonenMark CavendishSam BennettJens Debusschere and Dan McLay.  

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Fernando Gaviria 3rd Nacer Bouhanni