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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

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

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome:

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

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

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

giro-ditalia-2017-stage-19-preview

Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome:

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

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

After a day’s rest at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the riders are thrown back into the deep end upon Stage 16, potentially the most foreboding day in the saddle for much of the peloton. This is an occasion for the purest of climbers to take full advantage of and shall be the greatest test thus far of Tom Dumoulin’s ability to stay in the maglia rosa. A 222km long route from Rovetta to Bormio is only made longer by a triptych of ascents intended to carve great divides amongst those gunning for the general classification podium in Milano. The first leg breaking challenge is the Passo del Mortirolo, possessing a notoriety for its gruelling slopes, this ascent is in fact somewhat easier due to being ridden from its less intense side. The average gradient of the 12.8km climb is 7.6%, while the steeper sections hover between 9% – 10%, potentially proving a quiet affair with so much more climbing to follow throughout the day. The subsequent sharp descent soon leads back onto rising roads, reaching the foot of the first of two contrasting climbs up the famous Stelvio. The 21.7km rise is the highest point of this year’s race, earning the title of Cima Coppi, averaging 7.1% from bottom to top. From here a long descent begins, taking the riders down to the base of the second ascent of the Stelvio, the 13.4km Umbrail Pass. This is to be tackled at an average gradient of 8.4%, though much of the difference shall be made by the slopes which kick upwards to 12%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will thunder down the resulting descent, a tricky affair which leads onto an equally technical finale in Bormio.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana should view Stage 16 as an ideal opportunity to inflict maximum damage upon Tom Dumoulin and other rivals in the general classification. He usually relishes these ascents, especially when part of long attritional stages like today, allowing him to maximise any advantage which he is able to open up on the maglia rosa. We are yet to see the best from the Colombian rider, yet given his plan to peak in the final week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, this might be the day we see the Movistar captain attack with all guns blazing.

Ilnur Zakarin appears to be peaking in the third week of a grand tour once again, the Russian climber now a real candidate to pick up stage honours during this barrage of difficult stages. As one of the purest climbers amongst the general classification names, Zakarin has often showed himself to be unmatchable on these longer and steeper ascents, possessing the ruthless tactical nous required to win when part of an elite group deciding the outcome.

Thibaut Pinot will find the day’s three main climbs to his liking, allowing him to set a strong tempo for the majority of the ascent and attempt to stick the pace of main rival Nairo Quintana. Rivals may try to expose his apparent weakness for descending by upping the pace on the final descent, something which might motivate the Frenchman to launch a preemptive attack on the last climb and open up a gap before they can target him. Whatever the plan, Pinot is one of the few capable of matching Quintana for the most part on Stage 16 and will prove an interesting watch during the final kilometres.

Pierre Rolland is still hunting for an elusive stage win at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, proving to be one of the most active provocateurs during the opening skirmishes and has previous form when it comes to emerging victorious upon these big days in the mountains. He fits the terrain well on Stage 16, an ideal platform for the Frenchman to settle into a strong rhythm and aim to sail off into the distance to victory.

Others to consider are Vincenzo NibaliOmar FraileMikel Landa and Domenico Pozzovivo.

Outcome:

1st Pierre Rolland 2nd Mikel Landa 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Spokenforks collected another correct prediction as a result of the immense sprinting prowess of Fernando Gaviria, demonstrating one of the best sprints we have witnessed in recent history. Regardless, Stage 14 shall certainly not be a day for the sprinters, the day structured to build to an almighty crescendo which may lure the best out of the general classification contenders once again. Starting in Castellania, the course is an incredibly flat affair as it makes its way to the uphill battle atop Oropa, clocking a total of 131km along the way. The short stage should ensure we witness fireworks amongst the big name favourites, while the summit finish could prove a springboard for an outsider to steal the glory and sneak a win from beneath the nose of the maglia rosa hopefuls.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana was never expected to contest the previous time trial victory, but to lose as much time as he did was a surprise for many. The Movistar rider shall not have expected to be so far off the leader’s jersey at this point of the race, making today’s climatic finish a golden opportunity to begin chipping away at the deficit. The ascent of Blockhaus provided blunt realisation to his rivals, the Colombian already riding in imperious form, despite expectations for him to peak later in the race. This short ascent is not ideal, but with the steeper sections and irregular nature in parts, there is little doubt that he will attempt something in order to gain time here.

Tom Dumoulin will need to keep a close eye on his strongest rival Nairo Quintana, yet this relatively short finale to the day, should mean that the Dutchman does not need to dig too deep in order to keep his healthy advantage. With no other climbs en route to the finale, there is little doubt that Team Sunweb will have everyone at their disposal to protect their captain’s lead. Dumoulin does lack the explosive attack required to match the anticipated moves on this stage, but with such a considerable margin already, it would be of no surprise should he choose to concede time here in order to stay fresh later in the race.

Thibaut Pinot is certainly not renowned for his prowess against the clock, yet many were disappointed in his performance in comparison to recent results, meaning he will have to start attacking days like these as soon as possible to keep his podium chances alive. Though he was easily distanced by Quintana upon the slopes of Blockhaus, today’s shorter ascent could allow the Frenchman to utilise his explosive attacking nature to better effect. If stage honours are of a greater focus on Stage 14, then Pinot will need only to stick close to the front of the pack, seeking to sprint hard for the finish line in an attempt to take the victory.

Vincenzo Nibali has shown a glimpse of the form which previously secured grand tour titles, making it an obvious risk to rule him out of contention on Stage 14. With little to worry about throughout the day, Nibali can focus entirely upon the summit finish, a climb which should see the Italian produce some of his best racing. The ideal situation which he will be hoping to orchestra is one of a late move, keeping pace with the likes of Dumoulin and Quintana, before investing everything in a last gasp effort to take the stage honours late in the day.

Pierre Rolland shall be on the hunt once again for a stage victory, the Frenchman rightly confident in his form at this year’s Giro d’Italia. With such a large part of the day’s racing to be contested upon flat rides, it is not ideal for him to make a success of the breakaway, but he will be a face to watch for if everything comes together in the final kilometres of Stage 14.

Others who will have eyes upon gaining time on the maglia rosa or a stage victory are Ilnur ZakarinBauke MollemaDomenico PozzovivoMikel Landa and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

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

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome:

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

Outsider: Omar Fraile

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 15 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s monstrous Queen Stage of 2016’s Giro d’Italia confirmed that Esteban Chaves, Steven Kruijswijk and Vincenzo Nibali look to be the strongest climbers from the general classification contenders as we approach the third week. Stage 15 throws another potential banana skin beneath the wheels of the favourites today with a 10.8km uphill time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi. The almost constant ascent from start to finish is poised to truly begin opening the gaps up on the general classification, potentially extinguishing the ambitions of some riders upon its slopes.

giro-ditalia-stage-15-preview

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves made yesterday’s victory look much easier than it actually was, gauging his efforts neatly within the chasing group to close down Darwin Atapuma and eventually sprinting to victory with a late surge to the line. Given his performance, it is easy to see him as the favourite for Stage 15’s time trial, especially as the contest is more about climbing talent than it is technical time trialling prowess. Assuming that Chaves recovers well overnight, the Colombian has a fantastic chance of making it back to back wins at a grand tour with an impressive climbing performance against the clock.

Vincenzo Nibali may have struggled to follow the day’s decisive move, but given the huge demands and efforts required, it is possible to suggest he has identified today as a way of recouping time having limited his losses yesterday. The biggest issue however is that he did not look like a man in control of his suffering on Stage 14 and instead genuinely looked unable to summon the required strength to follow the likes of Chaves and Kruijswijk when it mattered most. Nibali attacked earlier than expected too, potentially hinting at anxieties regarding his condition by using offence as the best defence. Regardless, this course suits him well and he cannot be discounted purely due to a single off day in a three week grand tour.

Steven Kruijswijk is currently turning in the level of performance which has long be anticipated from the talented Dutch climber and is certain to be one of the fastest home on Stage 15. The trouble for Kruijswijk is that this short time trial is likely to make it difficult for him to truly lay down the power and challenge his rivals. Being a larger and more powerful climber should allow him to gain time on the opening section and later false flat sections though, which could potentially equal enough to give him the win.

Rafal Majka has a good history for performing on days like these and has been one of the stronger climbers at this year’s Giro d’Italia beneath the top tier of Chaves, Kruijswijk and Nibali. The Polish rider is well skilled in measuring his efforts, ranging from time trials to breakaways, so is worth keeping an eye upon here.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s showing thus far has been rather mixed, showcasing a threatening sharpness in the first week, before then diminishing somewhat after several crashes during the earlier rain-soaked time trial. Unlike Nibali, Zakarin did appear to be pacing himself in the wake of the attacks today, so potentially stands to be one of the fresher GC contenders on Stage 15. The Russian is a time trial specialist who has grown to become a convincing climber, so today’s task should play to his strengths perfectly. His time here is likely to provide us with a strong indication of his chances of finishing the third week with a chance of a podium place too.

Alejandro Valverde was one of the first to be dropped after Nibali, Chaves and Kruijswijk all exchanged attacks and sent him sliding out the back door. The Spanish rider has done little to convince people of his form at this Giro thus far, but given his time trialling capabilities, he should turn in a respectable time; even if it does not threaten for the win.

Sebastian Henao, Domenico Pozzovivo, Primoz Roglic, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Pirazzi are all names likely to fill the day’s top ten placings.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Steven Kruijswijk

Oman

Rapido Guide: Tour of Oman Stage 4 Preview

Course:

The decisive Green Mountain finish is included once again at the Tour of Oman, poised to shake up the general classification by the end of day four. The preceding kilometres of this 177km stage are relatively simple enough and will no doubt give the breakaway time to do their thing before being caught around the base of Green Mountain. The ascent is 7.5km in length and has an agonising 10.7% average gradient, but the concluding 4km are what shall break the legs of many here; the roads reaching as high as 13% before the finish line is within view.

Omsn

Contenders:

Domenico Pozzovivo has encouraging form upon this testing climb and looks to be in fantastic condition so far in Oman, the Italian will be a strong contender on a finale which plays to his strengths convincingly so. His AG2R La Mondiale teammate Romain Bardet offers a strong dynamic between the two of them on this crucial stage, perhaps one attacking first in order to allow the other to follow on the coat-tails of their rivals; Bardet will need to be watched for sure. Vincenzo Nibali has given us a small indication of his form so far here and will be all too aware that he only needs a few seconds to secure the leader’s jersey today on stage which is within is abilities to perform upon. Other riders such as Serge PauwelsDan Martin and Jacques Janse van Rensburg are worth keeping an eye upon too.

Outcome:

1st Domenico Pozzovivo 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Romain Bardet