La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

A somewhat bizarre structure to the stage, this intermediate day in the mountains should prove a fascinating affair to observe from start to finish. Leaving Villadiego and finishing atop the ascent of Los Machucos, the day entails a total of 180.5km of racing and should culminate in an exciting battle to the day’s uphill finale. It will take almost 100km of riding before the bunch begin climbing the first of the day’s recognised climbs, coming in the shape of the Category 2 Portillo de Lunada (8.3 km, avg. 5.7%). From here the peloton plummet downhill and do not begin to rise again until the early footholds of the Category 1 Puero de Alisas, lasting for more than 10km and maintaining a relatively even 6% throughout its entirety. Having conquered the penultimate ascent of the day, it is the final surge to the line which is likely to cause the most excitement on Stage 17. The HC Los Machucos is a testing affair which lasts for 7.2km and averages only 8.7%, though the reality is that of a climb which sees gradients swing from 10% to 25% at times. It will require a perfectly timed and incredibly strong effort to succeed here, though it shall certainly be one unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome seems to have confirmed that he is the strongest rider now at the race and could deliver a killing blow if winning Stage 17 today. Having recorded another dominant victory in yesterday’s individual time trial, a repeat demonstration of force would send his rivals fighting for the minor placings at this year’s Vuelta a España. He is not interested in simply winning this grand tour by riding defensively and now appears to be in the sort of mood which sees the Team Sky captain hammer home all advantages at any opportunity.

Vincenzo Nibali definitely gives the impression of a man who is currently on the up, thus marking him out as a contender on a day which concludes with agonisingly steep gradients. He certainly produces his best on these leg breaking ascents and should be a serious threat to the day’s stage honours if given a glimpse of victory.

Miguel Angel Lopez could be poised to secure another victory at this year’s race, as his current form seems to grow from one day to the next, hinting that we should expect another strong showing from the Colombian today. His performances on the toughest slopes of the Vuelta thus far have been brilliant, no doubt making him a serious contender for the win today. He may need to get the jump on some of the bigger names amongst the peloton, but he will only need a handful of seconds to convert into another win.

Alberto Contador is likely to animate the day in some form on Stage 17 and should be highlighted as a serious contender at this point of the race. No doubt eager to pursue a final career stage win at his home grand tour, Contador should view the profile of Stage 17 as one which lends itself quite neatly to his trademark long range attacks. If we see him attack from far out, it shall be a brilliant reminder of his swashbuckling abilities and a great way to sign off from grand tour racing.

Others to watch for are Ilnur ZakarinAdam YatesWilco KeldermanEsteban ChavesRomain Bardet and Darwin Atapuma.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Miguel Angel Lopez

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

A 174km task is at hand on Stage 9 of this year’s edition of La Vuelta, sending the riders from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol and setting the stage for a dramatic finale against a wall like climb. For much of the day, riding will be easy, as nothing truly noteworthy features until over 130km has been raced; that being the Category 2 Alto de Puig Llorenca. The 3.2km long rise averages a gradient of 9.2%, giving some riders an indication as to whether they shall have the legs required to perform in the final kilometres when visiting it again later on. The road then gradually descends, setting itself up for the anticipate melee as the bunch reach the Alto de Puig Llorenca for the second time, though they shall ride a longer 4km passage right the way to the top on this occasion. The irregular steep climb will make it hard for the favourites to settle into a rhythm, especially as ramps swing greatly from 8% to 25%, demanding riders to constantly shift their position and gearing.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Alberto Contador does not wish to exit professional cycling without some glory at his final home grand tour, marking him out as a likely antagonist in the closing moments of Stage 9. His form is certainly improving as the race develops, while today’s far steeper terrain plays to his strengths and could certainly diminish the gap in strength to Chris Froome which was seen yesterday. Contador is an intelligent rider who is likely to have already calculated the best point to attack from, yet he often rides based on the moment and nobody can exploit an opportunity to strike better than ‘El Pistolero’.

Chris Froome does already appear to be the strongest climber at the race and will be searching for a stage win to cement his credentials as likely overall winner. The gradients are not to his suiting, though he is likely to adopt an aggressive approach in order to act as defence, making it as hard as possible for his rivals when the road pitches down somewhat. As a punchier rider than most in the frame for today’s honours, Froome could choose to follow the attacks and simply pounce with a trademark acceleration during the final kilometre.

Rafal Majka has previously performed strongly on this concluding climb and will take confidence from yesterday’s efforts to feel capable of challenging once again today. His ambitions have altered in regards to those he initially held heading into the race, though a focus on winning stages instead of the general classification makes the Polish rider far more dangerous now.

Esteban Chaves needs to start finding his best form at the race, otherwise, it is beginning to look like he is suffering under the greater strength of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador right now. His explosive capabilities could inflict great damage upon his rivals, but Chaves will need to time such a move to perfection in order to avoid blowing up or simply towing others to the finish line.

Others to consider from a large group or breakaway move on Stage 9 are Joe DombrowskiMichael WoodsDarwin AtapumaSerge Pauwels and George Bennett.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Rafal Majka

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Only 5o0m short of being another 200km day in the saddle, the 199.5km journey from Hellín to Xorret de Cati offers a couple of categorised climbs ahead of the final push towards the day’s last summit and eventual downhill rush to the line. With no recognised climbing until the 100km mark has been passed, the first ascent comes in the shape of the Category 3 Puerto de Buar (6.1 km, avg. 3.4%) and is soon followed by the Category 3 Puerto de Onil (7 km, avg. 3.8%) which provide little to worry about in the way of inclines. From this point onwards, the focus shall be upon the finale, taking the shape of Category 1 Alto Xorret de Cati. With gradients touching 18% during the 5km passage, this is an ascent poised to decide the day; perhaps catching the eye of the general classification hopefuls in the process.La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves has appeared to be in encouraging form during this opening week of racing, though is yet to suggest he has the upper-hand over rivals such as Chris Froome. The Colombian rider is no stranger to such steep gradients, no doubt eagerly viewing Stage 8 as an opportunity to take a stage win and time from his major rival. With his potent sprint against the gradient, there is a great chance that nobody shall be able to match the Colombian when it matters most during the final kilometres.

Ilnur Zakarin appears to be on the rise in regards to the form and will certainly be a threat to the day’s stage honours as the first week of racing nears completion. The Russian rider is one of the few climbers who truly suits the finale on offer today and can also utilise his time trialing abilities to sustain any such gap he manages to acquire during the final climb of the day.

Alberto Contador shall not be happy to leave his final native grand tour with a mediocre effort, making the odds of him attacking hard on Stage 8 more credible than previously thought. The Spaniard has already conceded a considerable amount of time, perhaps generating him a degree of freedom in the final kilometres which nobody had previously expected.

Chris Froome has appeared to be imperious once again at a grand tour level and will be the favourite for many to capitalise upon this for many durning Stage 8. The Team Sky rider will hope to be part of an elite group which reaches the final climb first, utilising the team he has at his disposal to make life as tough as possible for his rivals, before kicking onwards to victory. He may not need to push hard on today’s stage, but if the opportunity does arise, then Chris Froome is one of the most likely riders to capitalise.

Tejay Van Garderen certainly has something to prove since suffering a degree of misfortune and forfeiting his previously encouraging placing on the general classification. Should the American choose to ride aggressively, then there is a good chance that he shall discover the freedom to make a move and aim to hold any gap right the way to the line.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 5 Preview

Course:

An intermediate type of stage which as the potential to cause trouble at the top of the general classification, Stage 5’s 175.7km route from Benicàssim to Alcossebre offers plenty of opportunities for the major names to unexpectedly turn the screw on one another. Soon heading uphill after the day’s departure, the first ascent is the Category 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, a 7.8km (avg 4.8%) launchpad for the day’s breakaway to likely form upon. From here the road drops away for a period, before climbing the Category 3 Alto de Cabanes (7.3 km, avg 4.4%) en route to the Category 2 Coll de la Bandereta (4.6 km, avg 7.6%.) The tempo of the day’s racing is likely to increase as they drop into the valley, preparing for the final Category 2 climb of the day; the Alto de la Serratella. Despite lasting a total of 13.2 km, its low average gradient of 3.7% makes it an extremely manageable affair for all the expected frontrunners on the day. The spotlight shall then be upon the gradual descent back to level ground, which is a short lived relief, as the conclusion of the day is the steep Category 3 Ermita Sta. Lucia. The 3.4km kick is far from a smooth ride to the top, finishing 1.4km from the finish line and possessing gradients which reach 20%. Anyone ahead on their own by this point will have no technical concerns during the run into the finale kilometre, though the road does kick up once more to 8% before the line.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 5 Preview

Contenders:

Romain Bardet was expected to be riding here on the hunt for stage wins, yet his showing thus far does suggest he could be aiming higher than this, regardless today’s finale certainly meets the criteria the Frenchman requires for another grand tour stage win. Often performing well on these steep drives to the line, Bardet will be expected to push hard over the top and aim to have a gap to his rivals heading into the final kilometre. However, if that is not successful, he is still able to turn in a convincing sprint effort against other climbers in a fight for the win. Given his apparent diminished threat to the general classification, he may be allowed to take this if he is unlikely to steal a great deal of time in the process.

Esteban Chaves knows that this will be a good opportunity to not only win the stage, but also put time into Chris Froome, potentially delivering him the leader’s jersey in the process. The irregular nature of the final climb, as well as the 20% inclines, do not suit Chris Froome at all and Chaves shall not hesitate to exploit this if possible. His form is often very strong for this final grand tour of the year and he has already performed convincingly enough to suggest there is a good chance he is the man to beat on Stage 5.

Michael Woods did not look an imposter when forming part of the elite leading group on Stage 3, dropping a big hint that he has a potential stage win in him for 2017’s La Vuelta a España. He will need his team to work hard and ensure the breakaway does not get to the final climb first, but if they do achieve this, then this is close to being an ideal finish for the Cannondale – Drapac captain. If the group of favourites begins to hesitate late in the day, Woods is a rider who will invest everything in jumping ahead and holding it right the way to the line.

Omar Fraile seems the rider most likely to strike out for the win from an earlier breakaway or move, a skill he displayed repeatedly well during Spring / Summer this year. He has been particularly well hidden during these opening stages, though the consensus is that he is simply keeping himself safe, rather than struggling to maintain pace with a hectic first week of racing. Should he make the cut for the day’s move, then it is hard to see anyone else alongside him being a greater favourite for the stage honours.

Other riders to consider for Stage 5 are Lachlan MortonJulian AlaphilippeAlessandro De Marchi and Chris Froome.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Michael Woods

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course:

A similar story and cast of protagonists is expected on Stage 18, as those with eyes upon the maillot jaune realise that time is running out to seize it before they find themselves charging through Paris for another year. Starting in Briançon and finishing atop the iconic climb of Col d’Izoard, the day totals 179.5km and should see the final melee from the most talented climbers at this year’s Tour de France. After a tame start to proceedings, the riders tackle the Côte des Demoiselles Coiffèes to ease the legs into the day, lasting 3.9km and wielding an average gradient of 5.2%. From here the road begins to subtly build upwards and directs the peloton to the base of the Category 1 Col de Vars (9.3km, avg 7.5%), which becomes much harder as the incline reaches double digits near the summit.

What is likely to prove an explosive descent then follow, plunging back down into the valley, a downhill chase which may prove too technical for some riders to follow the attacks upon. Everything then appears poised to be decided by the climb up Col d’Izoard, a task of 14.1km in length, with a somewhat misleading average gradient of 7.3%. Life is not too difficult as the riders ascend the opening 7km of the Col d’Izoard, though it is the second half which lays the foundations of a brutal war of attrition, fuelled by want of the yellow jersey. The latter half begins with a kick of 10% and then fails to do more than modestly drop below that for the rest of the way to the summit. A small dip in terrain occurs at Casse Déserte, though it is tortuous relief, as what follows leads to the constant grind of 10% in the final kilometre to the summit. The effort taken to win Stage 18 will prove monumental, but the effort to win Le Tour could prove greater still.

 

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome may well end up winning this year’s race without ever having looked particularly threatening, a victory which looks likely to become his most defensively ridden grand tour thus far. He knows that an individual time trial still awaits in Marseille, making this more of a ‘do or die’ situation for his rivals than himself. All of the questions regarding his condition entering the race were answered with claims of aiming to strike his form perfectly for these final mountain stages; making today the perfect time to showcase this if true. Normally by now in the Tour de France we have seen Chris Froome decimate his opposition with neatly orchestrated attacks of immense power and timing, yet the evidence is scarce to suggest he is in that sort of shape at present. Regardless, if the game plan truly is to put everything on the line today, then a full strength Chris Froome is bound to prove impossible to follow for his rivals.

Romain Bardet once again emerged as the most attacking rider from within the clutch of favourites who have a realistic chance of winning the race overall. As mentioned previously, the Frenchman relishes these tough Alpine stages and will consider much of this to be playing out within touching distance of his home region. Given the panache and swashbuckling tendencies he has, there is little doubt that Bardet will invest everything into winning Stage 18 and potentially Le Tour de France in the process. His team are strong on this type of terrain and have already proven capable of making life difficult for Team Sky when attempting to set Bardet up to gain time on his rivals. Though the Frenchman might not have enough to gain a race winning time gap upon Chris Froome, he is certainly talented enough to be first over the final 10% rise to the finish line.

Rigoberto Uran is the dark horse lurking in the shadows during this final week of racing, calculating best when to strike and potentially steal the yellow jersey from beneath the noses of both Chris Froome and Romain Bardet. Yesterday saw him collect a clutch of bonus seconds and move up to second place on the overall classification, though it is the savage final kilometres of today’s contest which will determine how serious his chances of taking yellow really are. Thus far his most aggressive riding has often come on days where a descent has led into the finishing line, more often staying safe in the group of frontrunners and allowing the prominent favourites to tear strips off one another. This might indicate that Uran is anxious of entering into a full head to head battle in the mountains, or may have simply focused upon staying as fresh as possible for this decisive day. He is the one most likely to benefit from any cat and mouse games being played by Froome and Bardet late in the day, as the closer he can attack to the line, the better his chances are of utilising his explosive power to great effect.

Mikel Landa would be a real contender for the yellow jersey if allowed to enter himself into the contest by Team Sky, yet has to commit his efforts into protecting the lead of captain Chris Froome instead. His form is no longer in question, as it is apparent how strong he is compared to the other major contenders right now, potentially being able to ride himself onto the podium if all goes well during Stage 18. Chris Froome is fully aware of Landa’s form and ambitions, perhaps agreeing to work as a double act to distance their rivals and earn the Basque climber a richly deserved stage victory in thanks of his loyalty.

Dan Martin is the only rider who could prove strong enough to stay in contention and thus dominant any potential sprint from an elite group of riders. There is no doubt that Martin will feel aggrieved by his misfortune at this race, having lost time as a result of Richie Porte’s costly crash and his own team’s miscalculations during Stage 16’s brutal crosswinds. A podium place would have been within his grasp had things gone to plan, so now he must hope that a stage win is still achievable and will have a greater degree of freedom to push onwards in the final kilometres as the general classification battle rages on behind him.

Other names worth considering are Alberto ContadorSerge PauwelsEsteban ChavesDarwin AtapumaDaniel Navarro and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

The breakaway could finally have a chance of being allowed a shot at victory by the peloton on Stage 15, something which has become a rarity during the opening two weeks of this year’s Le Tour de France. Starting at Laissac-Sévérac L’Église, the course takes in a very lumpy 189.5km route to Le Puy-en-Velay, featuring four officially categorised ascents and plenty of shorter digs to tire the hopefuls. Beginning with a small section of flat racing, the peloton will soon find themselves heading briefly downhill in order to approach the foot of the day’s opening climb, the Category 1 Montée de Naves d’Aurbrac. The climb itself is 8.9km in length and averages a gradient of 6.4%, concluding by almost immediately starting the next challenge of Stage 15; Côte de Vieurals. A Category 3 task, it is only 3.3km long and averages 5.9%, but could prove crucial in the formation of the day’s break as a result of its proximity to the first of the day’s climbs.

There is then an extremely long duration of rolling roads, with the rise towards L’Hospitalet du Sauvage able to impact upon the escapees, before the road then plummets rapidly downhill shortly after passing Saugues. From the valley the riders will ride upwards to tackle the Category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, a climb which could leave some struggling to find a rhythm at times, lasting 8.3km with a gradient which averages out at 7.4%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will chase one another down again, quickly overcoming the Category 4 Côte de Saint-Vidal as they accelerate towards the penultimate finish before the second rest day of Le Tour.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz should be the ideal card for AG2R La Mondiale to play on Stage 15, allowing them to sit back in the bunch with their leader Romain Bardet and leave those interested in the stage outcome to take up the chase. Performances up to this point have been encouraging from the French rider and should be enough to gain the backing of his team to make a move on the tough start to the day. Gifted in all three aspects required to compete well on this course (climbing, descending & sprinting), Vuillermoz could emerge as a key protagonist on a day expected to be decided by the breakaway.

Greg Van Avermaet has previously caused a surprise when successfully taking on grand tour stages of this nature and emerging victorious at the end of what many assumed to be too tough a task for the classics focused rider. BMC are now aiming themselves at stage wins as a result of Riche Porte’s abandonment and could choose to back the Belgian hero from their strong array of breakaway riders. Certainly the fastest in a sprint of those likely to make the day’s break, if Avermaet is on top form and able to control the accelerations throughout the major challenges, then he will be a tough prospect in any deciding sprint. His greatest issues however is joining the crucial attack early on despite a categorised climb not long after the start, meaning his team could turn to the likes of Damiano Caruso or Alessandro De Marchi instead.

Tony Gallopin briefly tried to get away from the peloton late in yesterday’s stage, but soon realised his efforts were better saved for today, especially given its more fitting course. He is returning to full strength after sustaining a foot injury early in the race and now looks to be poised to make a move in order to secure another memorable win at his home grand tour. A fully fit Gallopin is capable of making the cut on the first couple of climbs and fast enough to see off many of his likely rivals in a sprint at the end of the day.

Stephen Cummings could decide that Stage 15 is another opportunity to join the breakaway and hope that the peloton are more forgiving in comparison to his earlier efforts last week. Having taken both national titles the weekend before Le Tour de France kicked off, many were surprised by his strength and condition, given that he had been out of competition due to broken bones for some time. An extremely astute rider tactically, Cummings will not wish to waste energy in the rolling attacks which occur when riders seek to escape from the peloton. Instead, he will wait until he sees the right move beginning to form and then commit his efforts in order to increase its chances of sticking. If he can do this, then the final 40km – 50km offer him opportunities to go it alone and push for the win using his time trial talents once again.

Nicolas Roche will be hoping to bring some celebrations to BMC after a torrid first half of the race, now potentially the strongest man available to them, given his lack of lieutenant duties which are likely to have kept him relatively fresh compared to others with eyes on Stage 15. Very strong on his day, the Irish rider will be hoping to set a strong pace which ditches the faster riders hoping for a larger sprint, as he knows that a tough race is bound result in him being the fastest men left at the front of affairs.

Lilian Calmejane already showcased his talents a few stages ago and will be eager to revisit his exploits once again on Stage 15. No doubt marked more closely now than before his victory, the French rider will be expected to animate the selection process upon the opening climb of the day and pin his hopes upon slipping away from his rivals in the final quarter of the day to take another brilliant win.

Alberto Contador is the rider most likely to attack from the group of original general classification favourites, though admits himself that his focus is now upon stage wins rather than a good overall position by the time the race reaches Paris. The finale is the most unappealing aspect of the course today, as he will be concerned that faster riders will be able to follow him into the finish town, so will want to work hard in the second half of the race to force another split amongst the break.

Others to consider are Alessandro De MarchiDamiano CarusoTiesj BenootEsteban ChavesGianluca Brambilla and Primoz Roglic.

Outcome:

1st Alexis Vuillermoz 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Alberto Contador

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 5 Preview

Course:

It has taken less than a week for this year’s Tour de France to reach the first summit finish of the race, setting the riders on a course to battle it out atop the familiar slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles. Stage 5 is an 160.5km route from yesterday’s finish at Vittel, finally providing a day in the saddle under 200km, though finishing atop the Category 1 ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles. A simple enough start to the day’s action, the tension is expected to begin building with around a third of the stage left to race, as the peloton are able to test their climbing legs upon the Category 3 Côte d’Esmoulières (2.3 km avg 8%). The climb to the finish line is a much tougher prospect however, lasting for 5.9km at and an average gradient of 8.5%, though does feature a brief section of 20%. A real opportunity to put down a marker for the following two weeks of racing, expect the general classification riders to begin testing the waters of Le Tour de France.

Le Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot is aware that his hopes of an overall win at his home grand tour is unlikely, thus shall be on the hunt for stage victories when possible, making him an expected antagonist during the decisive moments on Stage 5. The Frenchman will need to ride particularly clever to avoid running on empty as the yellow jersey favourites start attacking one another, but if he can position himself well on the steepest sections, then he has the power to accelerate hard over the summit into the finish.

Richie Porte has entered the race in eye-catching form, fully aware of how this could prove to be his greatest opportunity to take a grand tour victory in his career and will not hesitate to begin gaining time on his rivals. Often seen to make the top climbers in the world suffer as a result of his efforts on climbs, he has spent a great deal of his time working for others at major races, but will finally have the chance to attack for his own glory.

Fabio Aru will be eager to showcase his form after having to miss out on this year’s Giro d’Italia and suits this finale well enough to mark him out as a real danger to those with eyes set on the stage victory. A fan of tough gradients, it would be no surprise to see the recently crowned Italian road race champion attack on the steepest inclines of 20%, hoping to look back and see his rivals cave in as a result.

Chris Froome might not be able to gain a great deal of time on today’s stage, but he ticks all the boxes required of a rider capable of emerging victorious at the end of the 160.5km journey to La Planche des Belles Filles. Question marks have been hanging over him in regards to his form heading into the season’s biggest race, though the limited insight we have gained from him riding thus far at Le Tour, does suggest that he is certainly on the ball once again.

Dan Martin surprised himself with a podium place on Stage 3 and will have taken even greater confidence into today’s contest as a result of his impressive showing in the opening week of racing. The Irishman has admitted to making poor tactical decisions at major races and shall be aiming to succeed in benefiting from the tactics of those wishing to focus more on who will have the yellow jersey at the end of the three weeks. Likely to be afforded a greater degree of freedom than other favourites today, Martin could push clear on the steeper slopes and find himself without rivals to worry about as he approaches the line.

Other riders who should perform well are Esteban ChavesRigoberto UranJakob FuglsangAlberto Contador and Rafal Majka.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Richie Porte 3rd Chris Froome