Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 3


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


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.


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

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 13 Preview


The longest stage of this year’s La Vuelta a España, Stage 13 totals 213.4km as it traces its way from Bilbao to Urdax-Dantxarinea, taking in four Category 3 ascents in the process. The composition of the day will make it extremely difficult to control, many teams looking to make life easier by placing a rider in the day’s breakaway to avoid chasing for 200km or more. None of the climbs on Stage 13 are particularly intimidating, but the fact all four are summited in a little over 60km, will ensure that the attritional nature of climbing each in such a short period impacts strongly on the outcome in Urdax-Dantxarinea. The final 31.7km take the form of a lap with gently rolling terrain, though the last 380m to the line hits a gradient of 1.5% – 2% and leads into a tricky roundabout 240m from the finish.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 13 Preview


Fabio Felline was once again a nearly man on yesterday’s stage, finishing on the podium in third, but will be convinced that a victory is still within his grasp. If teams interested in a bunch kick collaborate convincingly enough today, then it may be the last chance of a sprint finish before the final day’s run into Madrid. Felline will be interested in joining a breakaway too however, his current form suggests that the day’s terrain is unlikely to break him and he would be the fastest man expected to join the move on Stage 13. The two biggest factors which may improve his chances further still are the slight drag up to the line and the draining nature of the four climbs packed into such a short period of time.

Gianni Meersman is another rider who often performs best after a tough day in the saddle and will seek to take advantage of his rivals’ tired legs by the time they reach Urdax-Dantxarinea. Given that we appear to be seeing some of his best climbing form at a grand tour right now, combined with a brilliant lieutenant in the shape of Zdenek Stybar, Meersman is an obvious contender for the win on Stage 13.

Kristian Sbaragli displayed a hint of the form which has previously secured him a grand tour stage win and could be finally finding his feet as we pass into the second half of the race. He has not committed a great deal of effort up until yesterday and he will be encouraged after yesterday’s realisation that he is not far off the pace of the frontrunners. The attritional climbs and slight drag to the line could be enough to see Sbaragli make it over the line first today.

Nikias Arndt cannot be discounted from appearing in the mix, despite a series of unfortunate attempts at sprints so far at the race. Generally speaking, Arndt is often one of the strongest climbing sprinters when contesting a stage such as this and would not be foolish to invest a great deal in trying to win Stage 13. His team provides a reasonable amount of protection, but it is their leadout skills which could be the factor which swings the outcome in the favour of Arndt.

Zdenek Stybar is a perfect alternative for Etixx-QuickStep if Meersman does not believe he can win today’s stage. The powerful Czech rider is well-suited to the challenges at hand and will be incredibly tough to beat as part of a reduced group which makes it to the finish first. If he makes it into the right move and does not find life too hard on the day’s climbs, Stybar has a great chance of picking up another win for his team at 2016’s La Vuelta a España.

Beyond those mentioned above, Gianluca BrambillaDries DevenynsJens Keukeleire and Jempy Drucker are all capable of featuring in the day’s action.


1st Fabio Felline 2nd Kristian Sbaragli 3rd Nikias Arndt

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 12 Preview


After yesterday’s surprising exchanges between the general classification favourites, Stage 12 should follow a more orderly script, but that is not to say that the outcome will be easy to predict here. Stretching over 193.2km from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao, today’s stage takes in a total of four categorised climbs and will see the roads packed with some of cycling’s maddest fans as it passes into the Basque country. The immediately steep start to the day should lure out a breakaway with a greater number of climbers present, especially those eager to accumulate points in the chase for the mountains classification. The first ascent of the day is also the toughest, the Category 1 Puerto de Las Alisas is 10km in duration and averages a steady 6% gradient, after which the pack drop down to another flat section ahead of the next climb. Second on the day comes the Category 3 Alto La Escrita (6.4km avg 4.5%), then a longer run of flat terrain leads into the first of two finishing laps and onto the Category 2 Alto El Vivero (4.2km avg 8.5%), which will be summited a second time with less than 13km from the finish. Tactics on the concluding finishing circuits will play a huge part in the outcome of Stage 12 and it will be a late call as to whether a small move can stay clear into Bilbao.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 12 Preview


Fabio Felline has come agonisingly close to a stage victory on a couple of occasions at this year’s race and is likely to have requested that his Trek-Segafredo teammates commit to the day’s chase in hope of setting himself up for a win in Bilbao. His climbing ability has really caught the eye in this opening week and a bit of racing, now raising the question as to whether or not rivals can make life tough enough for him on the final climb.

Gianluca Brambilla should now find himself with a great deal of freedom to attack by the peloton, as a result of having blown a large amount of time on the general classification. This type of hilly terrain, which concludes with a descent to the line, is perfect for Brambilla to launch a late attack; while he shall also be a favourite to win from a reduced bunch sprint if required to.

Alejandro Valverde could be tempted to contest the finale here, a rider who often emerges as the strongest on a course which concludes with a late ascent that leads into the finish. His focus is now focused upon securing himself another grand tour podium finish, so may instead wish to simply follow the wheels of rivals and ride defensively during what may be a tougher than expected last climb. As ever though, if he is present in a lead group which splinters from the peloton late in the day and reaches Bilbao first, then Valverde will be many’s pick for the win.

Omar Fraile seems certain to join the day’s breakaway in order to continue his mission to secure the mountains classification and shall see the start to Stage 12 as an ideal springboard to do so. The main negative aspect for Fraile in regards to winning the stage is the amount of effort he is likely to invest when securing his points, certain to blunt his ability somewhat come the final climb.

Thomas De Gendt and Alexandre Geniez will be alert to the movements of Fraile in an attempt to prevent him gaining a greater advantage on the pair of them. De Gendt is perhaps the more likely of the two to go after the stage win given his recent form, while Geniez could be playing the long game and instead focus upon collecting points rather than stage honours.

Others with the potential of taking the win include; Luis Leon SanchezMathias Frank and Dries Devenyns.


1st Gianluca Brambilla 2nd Fabio Felline 3rd Thomas De Gendt


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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 6 Preview


Another day of rolling terrain awaits the peloton on Stage 6 as they tackle the 163.2km route from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra. Opening with an 86.6km circuit which loops back to the day’s starting city, the riders will have plenty of time to get their legs up to speed while rattling over the relatively tame terrain. The greatest pressure shall come from the battle for the breakaway, many teams aware of how unpredictable this year’s race appears to be and are already eager to make this count before opportunities dry up. The peloton will then begin facing their first serious ascending roads, culminating with the Category 2 Alto Alenz which lasts for 10.9km and sustains an average of 5.1% throughout. The following descent leads the pack to the foot of an uncategorised climb, a 13.3km ascent which has an average gradient of 3.4% and eventually flattens out with 20km remaining. From here follows a 1.8km drag (avg 6%) which finishes at the 3km to go banner, after which the final uphill section shall be the last 300m to the line with an average gradient of 3.5%.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 6 Preview


Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take victory if the peloton bring back the day’s breakaway in the final kilometres. He is an extremely opportunistic rider who does not hesitate to seize upon the chance for bonus time or stage wins, though the day does appear to favour a breakaway more than a sprint finish. The natural momentum of the peloton may unintentionally sweep up the escapees during the final drags into the finish and this scenario would likely make Valverde the man to beat in Luintra.

Fabio Felline came extremely close to picking up the stage win yesterday and would surely have got the better of Gianni Meersman had the Belgian’s teammate Zdeněk Štybar not contributed such a brilliant effort to secure Etixx another victory. Felline has proven that his form is strong enough to challenge in the sprints and has previously joined late moves on courses similar to this, arriving at the line as the group’s fastest finisher.

Simon Clarke offers a great chance for Orica-BikeExchange to make the day’s move and thus reduce the pressure on them to chase down the leaders. The Australian looks to be in good form at La Vuelta a España and is the type of rider who is equally dangerous sprinting for the win from either a long distance breakaway or last minute move.

Samuel Sanchez and Philippe Gilbert are BMC’s best cards to play on Stage 6, both riders eager to take grand tour stage victories late in their careers now. Sanchez has been riding at the level of some of the biggest general classification contenders at this year’s edition and can clearly deliver a strong attack when required, though he may find his ambitions hamstrung by the team’s need to protect the red jersey of Darwin Atapuma instead. The fact that Gilbert suits this course so well should provide him with a greater level of freedom to attack in the final kilometres, and if the race develops favourably for him, then it is difficult to see many beating him in a head to head slog up to the line.

Zdeněk Štybar buried himself for Gianni Meersman yesterday as his teammate took Etixx’s second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España. Today’s offering may prove an ideal chance to swap the previous day’s roles around and instead support Štybar in a finale which could provide an ideal launchpad in the final kilometres for him to attack upon and solo to victory; a talent which has already secured high profile victories for him on several occasions.

There is a great chance that the day’s early breakaway will in fact make it to the finish first, riders who could all make the cut and subsequently steal stage honours on Stage 6 include; José GonçalvesEnrico BattaglinThomas De GendtDries DevenynsHugh CarthyRobert GesinkAlberto Losada and Rein Taaramäe


Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Philippe Gilbert 3rd Simon Clarke

Breakaway: 1st Thomas De Gendt 2nd Alberto Losada 3rd Samuel Sanchez

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 5 Preview


Stage 5 is a 171.3km jaunt from Viveiro to Lugo, a predominantly rolling affair which should appeal to the sprinters, and strongmen especially given that it is the closest day they will get to a flat stage ahead of the final day’s ride into Madrid. The day only includes one climb, the 11.8km Category 3 Puerto de Marco de Alvara (avg 3.6%) and should prove manageable enough for the fast men to overcome en route to the finale. The run into home is a technically demanding passage and could prove troublesome for a few of the day’s contenders, featuring an uphill drag which may blunt the top speed of some involved.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 5 Preview


Niccolo Bonifazio was unfortunate to not take the win on Stage 2 when a crash in the final kilometres caused panic amongst the peloton. Trek-Segafredo have already confirmed their intentions to guarantee a sprint finish for Bonifazio on Stage 5 and will not want to let this rare opportunity pass them by at this year’s Vuelta a España. He is strong enough to survive the late drag to the line and will be confident of being the fastest sprinter left during the run in to home.

Fabio Felline will be the ideal rider to call upon for Trek-Segafredo if the finale proves to be a tougher affair than expected and thus sends teammate Bonifazio out the back door early on. Felline has recently rediscovered his form during the Tour of Poland, suggesting he may be harbouring sharper condition than many will be anticipating here. Felline is capable of joining any last gasp move in order to reduce the pressure on Trek-Segafredo to chase and is also one of the fastest puncheur styled riders likely to remain if a late move slips away from the peloton.

Gianni Meersman picked up the win on Stage 2, though much of this may have been due to the chaos caused by a crash as they approached the final kilometres. His leadout train compensates a great deal for the fact that Meersman is not the fastest sprinter here, but the probability of today’s finish being tougher than expected will play into his hands perfectly.

Kristian Sbaragli is another rider who often rises to the top once the typical fast men begin to fall away, as demonstrated when winning Stage 10 of this race last year. The Dimension Data rider may not have the most efficient leadout, but the strength is there, meaning he could prove tough to better if everything goes to plan for the African outfit.

Dries Devenyns is no stranger to making life tough for the peloton, often striking out late in the day and forcing the sprinters’ teams to bury themselves in pursuit of the strong Belgian rider. He arrives here off the back of an impressive performance at the Tour de Wallonie which delivered him the final stage and the overall title. The assumption today is that the final 10km are likely to be a much tougher challenge than the roadbook suggests and Devenyns is a perfect candidate to make a last gasp move in pursuit of victory.

Other potential sprinters and strongmen who could challenge for the win include; Magnus CortNikias Arndt, Philippe Gilbert, Luis Ángel Maté and Michael Schwarzmann.


1st Fabio Felline 2nd Dries Devenyns 3rd Luis Ángel Maté 

Rapido Guide – Branbantse Pijl 2016


While most fans and riders are still recovering from the maelstrom which was Paris-Roubaix, this week’s stopgap ahead of the major Ardennes Classics is filled by the lumpy Branbantse Pijl, serving up an insight as to 2016’s favourites for Amstel Gold, Fléche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège



Orica-GreenEDGE will fancy their chances of adding another victory to their recent Paris-Roubaix triumphant through the ever-improving Michael Matthews. The young Australian rider’s ability in a sprint has been impressive for some time now, but it is his growing talent on the climbs which have moulded him into the deadly rider we see now. Twice a runner-up in this race, Matthews clearly performs well on this type of course and used this as a stepping stone to the bigger Ardennes Classics last year; almost delivering him his first win there. His biggest concern in pursuit of victory will be controlling the breakaway and covering attacks via his Orica teammates on a rolling course which benefits aggressive riders.

Those mostly likely to rival Matthews in a potential sprint finish are Bryan Coquard (who can contribute to the chase with his Europcar team) and Sonny Colbrelli (limited chasing resources). Tony Gallopin has an encouraging record here and certainly has the skills to convert this into a victory; often the fastest in an elite group and strong enough to go solo. Other riders who are bound to catch the eye are Dries DevenynsTim Wellens and Silvan Dillier.


1st Michael Matthews 2nd Bryan Coquard 3rd Tony Gallopin