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

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

After the first rest day, the peloton begin another tough week of racing with a stage which looks to finish with a crescendo once again. The 164.8km day begins in Caravaca Ano Jubila 2017 and concludes at Elpozo Alimentacion, with the final climb being firmly in the spotlight. More than half of the day’s racing is predominantly featureless, taking over 120km to reach the first of two climbs on Stage 10, both of which are tackled in quick succession. Starting with the Category 3 Alto del Morron de Totana, a 5.7 km climb which averages 5.7% gradient and rise to the point of merging with day’s final climb. The Category Collado Bermejo has a steeper average gradient of 6.5% and is also longer at 7.7 km in total. This brace of climbs in such a short period can be seen as a single longer ascent, no doubt forming the key part of how today’s race will be won.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile appears to be on the rise once again and should prove to be a real danger on terrain which plays to his strengths well. Having been anonymous up until now, this shall be a perfect opportunity to catch his rivals napping and aim to surprise them with his return to form. The rest day shall have been a great aid to Fraile, allowing him to start Stage 10 refreshed and poised to follow the key moves when it matters.

Julian Alaphilippe is a diverse rider who is capable of featuring in a broadly contrasting array of stages and shall view today’s challenge with part of that spectrum. He has appeared strong for sometime at the race and deservedly took a stage victory at last, but will not simply wish to stop pushing for another win when already. His prominence might make it hard for him to get away from the other favourites, but given his current form, it could simply prove too difficult for others to stop him.

Luis Leon Sanchez enjoys these days and will be at the forefront of any breakaway which hopes to get a jump on some of the bigger favourites on Stage 10. With gradients which do not get too steep, Sanchez is likely to feature today and has been active enough thus far to demonstrate why he is a serious candidate. He will need to be alert to the moves, as it will be much harder for him to win from a larger group on the day, aiming to solo away from a small break once they begin climbing.

Bob Jungels certainly has the raw power to monster his way up the two climbs on Stage 10, a rider who ticks all the boxes, yet will still be considered a surprise if managing to win. His climbing capabilities have really grown in the last couple of seasons and it is easy for them to become overshadowed by his time trialing prowess and commitment to working for his teammates earlier in mountain stages. Jungels cannot be gifted much of a time advantage on the slopes, as he has often proven to be incredibly hard to reel back in and is certainly skilled enough to descend aggressively to maintain a winning margin.

Giovanni Visconti might be allowed the freedom to join the fray on Stage 10, though he does have greater duties expected of him during this coming week of racing and his team could choose to conserve his energy for protecting Vincenzo Nibali. If given the go ahead to attack today, then Visconti will look upon the tail end of the stage with glee, appearing almost designed by the man himself. There are question marks hanging over his form, especially given the added uncertainty when exiting a rest day, but he will be a threat if yesterday’s recovery has helped him.

Others to watch for are Darwin AtapumaLachlan MortonSerge PauwelsThomas De Gendt and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Luis Leon Sanchez 3rd Giovanni Visconti

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

This year’s race does not hesitate to send the peloton into the high mountains early on in the grand tour, challenging them with a 158.5km stage from Prades Conflent Canigó to Andorra La Vella, featuring a total of three categorised climbs. Ascending immediately from the start, the bunch will begin climbing the Category 1 Col de la Perche, a 19.5km long rise which averages a gradient of 4.8%. Having reached the summit of this early climb, the route begins to gradually drop downwards, eventually placing itself at the foot of the day’s second Category 1 climb; the Coll de la Rabassa. Likely to impact strongly upon the day’s eventual outcome, the 13.3km climb averages 6.8%, though the ramps of double digits which hit 15% could put some in trouble. From the top a fast descent is expected, the frontrunners hammering it to be first to the start of the final climb on Stage 3, the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella. Lasting for only 4.3km, the 8.6% gradient could be ridden at such an intensity that we see some serious fractures occur in the bunch, where only a proficient descent into the finish could close any dangerous gaps.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile could choose to launch his bid for the mountains classification today, riding aggressively on a fitting course to collect points and push onwards to eventually taking the stage itself. He has previously taken victories from similar stages by attacking from a breakaway which has set the pace all day, as well as riding aggressively late on to break up the main bunch. Regardless of his overall ambitions at La Vuelta this year, Stage 3 is an ideal opportunity to gauge how realistic those hopes are.

Julian Alaphilippe is another rider who has all the attributes to perform well during a stage like this, possessing the skills to win from almost any situation, assuming he is at the front of the race. Yesterday suggested that the Frenchman has arrived in convincing form for this contest, no doubt making him an even greater marked man than would normally be a given on such a stage. Dangerous from either a small group or solo move late in the day, anyone who hopes to win Stage 3 will need to keep Alaphilippe on a tight leash, as he could prove unstoppable if given the room to attack.

Adam Yates has been reunited with his twin brother for this grand tour, which shall surely mean we see plenty of moves from the two British riders to animate the race throughout the three weeks. Today’s offering might be enticing enough to lure Adam into action, perhaps placing himself within the day’s main move and seeking to push on solo or with an elite group of riders in the closing kilometres. The final climb of the day looks to be an obvious springboard for him to make an attack, whether from the peloton or an earlier break, aiming to descend rapidly and finish off any remaining rivals in a sprint to the line.

Rui Costa enjoyed a strong start to the season and perhaps deserves to have picked up a greater number of wins, given such sparkling form for most of the year. The former World Champion could chance his luck in a breakaway, hoping to be part of a small group which decides the stage honours for the day, as he shall be confident of being one of the fastest present in a sprint. A larger group is bound to diminish his hopes of winning, thus the Portuguese rider will need to be proactive in order to give himself a shot at the win.

Giovanni Visconti will be a dangerous prospect if handed the chance to attack on Stage 3, especially on terrain which is well within his capabilities of performing strongly upon. Team orders could limit his freedom to pursue stage winning opportunities, though by tactically choosing to place him up the road early in the day, Visconti could benefit from a dynamic which limits his need to invest energy; allowing him to give it everything over the final two climbs to attack solo.

Other riders worth watching out for on Stage 3 are Luis León Sánchez, Darwin Atapuma, Jarlinson Pantano, Rohan Dennis and Michael Woods.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Adam Yates

Giro d'Italia 2017 Logo

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

After the general classification soap opera of yesterday’s stage, today’s 219km route from Tirano to Canazei should offer a quieter day for the major names, favouring the breakaway riders and their stage winning exploits. Beginning with an almost immediate uphill section, Stage 17 opens proceedings upon the slopes of the Category 2 climb of Aprica, lasting 12.3km and offering a relatively steady 6.3% gradient to be tackled; the steepest sections of which are 11%. The peloton will then drop downhill once again, before beginning the second of the day’s two Category 2 climbs, the Passo Del Tonale. Officially recognised as being 11km in duration, the average gradient here is 5.7% and reaches 10% around the midway point of the climb. A sustained descent then follows, leading onwards through the town of Cles and finishing at the bottom of the Category 3 Giovo climb. This short challenge could inspire some decisive moves by the leading riders, 5.9km of undulating climbing, averaging 6.8% and tilting upwards to 12% at times. Once tackled, it is a constant rise to the day’s finish at Canazei, a simple finale which is unlikely to cause any great stress.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Pierre Rolland chanced his hand alongside a couple of Cannondale – Drapac teammates in the day’s early breakaway yesterday, but ultimately finished well behind the leading group which contained another teammate in the shape of Davide Formolo. Stage 17 is another opportunity for the Frenchman to try and convert his encouraging form into a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia though. Thus far, those days which many have earmarked Rolland to contest have either ended with rises too steep or simply benefitted those who can sprint faster. Today’s finale looks ideal in comparison, though he will need to be on his toes to make sure he is at the front of the race as the break potentially forms on the Aprica climb.

Omar Fraile may have seen his chances of securing the mountains classification take a heavy hit recently, but the Dimension Data rider definitely has an opportunity to double his victories at the Giro d’Italia with a strong performance today. With the day’s mountains unlikely to prove too gruelling for him to stay in contention, the greater issue will instead be ensuring he is present in any move which takes off during the ascent of Aprica after less than 3km of racing. If Fraile does make the cut, then there is a good chance he will either be able to go solo late on in the day or potentially arrive in Canazei as the fastest man within the lead group.

Rui Costa is another rider who has often proven to be animated on days like these, the Portuguese rider eager to collect a win at the race, having now seen his general classification hopes crumble. Given his strong sprinting capabilities, Costa is likely to want any such breakaway to work cohesively and deliver him into the finish relatively fresh. Of course, this is very unlikely, as few riders will fancy their chances against the former world champion and willingly tow him a free ride. If present in the final moments of the race, it will be a tough task to distance him before the finish line beckons.

Luis Leon Sanchez was present in the group of general classification contenders for longer than expected yesterday, once again reminding us of the form which he possesses at this year’s race. With the steep opening and constant rise to the finish after the riders pass Giovo, Sanchez certainly fits the bill of a rider strong enough to make the early selection and then dominate the final kilometres into Canazei. If yesterday’s efforts have not drained him too greatly, then it will be no surprise to see the Spaniard fighting for the day’s win.

Laurens De Plus has been riding well at the race on these mid-mountain stages, marking him out as another rider who could prove strong enough to accelerate away from his rivals en route to the finale. However, this is his first grand tour and it is unclear as to how well he is currently coping with the attritional nature of a three week race.

Giovanni Visconti would have been the pick for many pundits on Stage 17, but with the unexpected ascension of Vincenzo Nibali to maglia rosa contender yesterday, he may now find his movements hampered by responsibilities to his team leader. However, with his blend of climbing prowess and strong sprinting after tough days, his team may utilise him by placing Visconti within the breakaway in order to reduce their commitments to chasing.

Other riders who may feature strongly are Maxime MonfortDario CataldoRubén Plaza and Enrico Battaglin.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez

Giro d'Italia 2017 Logo

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

A day which could be a headache in waiting for the general classification riders, the main consensus however, is that a breakaway is mostly likely to decide the outcome on Stage 15 of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Starting in Valdengo, the route totals 199km as it makes its way to the finish in Bergamo, taking in a couple of sharp categorised climbs within a short space of time to animate the race. A somewhat rolling opening to the day, an essentially flat start will make it a hotly contested affair to join a move with the potential to survive into Bergamo. The first of the two main challenges of the day comes once the riders hit the Category 2 Miragole San Salvatore, an 8.7 km climb which averages 7% and possesses maximum ramps of 11%. Though the ascent is steep, especially towards the summit, it is regular enough to try and tap out an even pace all the way to the top. A brief downhill section then leads straight into the base of the Selvino, a Category 3 climb which is easier than its predecessor, lasting for 6.9km with an average gradient of 5.4% (max 9%) and could allow a degree of regrouping amongst the frontrunners. The race subsequently drops downhill quite rapidly, before then opening out onto relatively flat terrain once again, with everything likely to be decided by the unrecognised Bergamo Alta rise with under 5km left. The historic climb twists its way through the streets, offering a cobbled section early on and reaches 12%, before a short downhill section finishes within touching distance of the flamme rouge.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Luis Leon Sanchez was a common provocateur during the first half of this race, appearing to be in strong enough form to make days such as these a realistic goal for a stage win. He has since become considerably quieter, yet is likely to simply be keeping his powder dry ahead of days he feels are worth investing his efforts into winning. The Spaniard will be confident of finding a place for himself amongst the key breakaway, focusing on pacing himself upon the Miragole San Salvatore, aiming to stay within reach of his rivals and put them to the sword with his sprinting capabilities.

Omar Fraile produced a monstrous effort to secure his first grand tour stage win earlier in the week and will view Stage 15 as having great potential of allowing him to double up at the Giro d’Italia. There is no question as to his form right now, putting in strong efforts as part of the breaks, while sailing up the climbs with real venom when necessary. The finale in Bergamo is ideal for Fraile to attack in order to drop remaining rivals, already demonstrating how hard it is to close him down once he commits to a move.

Diego Rosa is the rider most likely to be backed by Team Sky today, joining in with the moves on Stage 15 as they continue to try and salvage their Giro d’Italia. The Italian is a big fan of this part of his homeland and could prove interested in trying to showcase this by taking the win in Bergamo. Overall, the day does suit him rather well, but there shall be reservations as to how well he will be able to contest the less well fitting finish.

Laurens De Plus seems to be enjoying a strong run of form right now at the race and could be another rider capable of making it into Bergamo as part of a race winning move. The Belgian rider has shown enough already to make it hard to question his climbing abilities right now and would be best advised to utilise these in order to overcome his disadvantage in any potential sprint for the line.

Other riders who are worth watching for are Rui Costa, Giovanni ViscontiDylan TeunsWinner AnaconaMichael Woods and Davide Villella.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Diego Rosa 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview

Strade Bianche – Preview 2017

Course:

Though a relatively new addition to the early season calendar, Italy’s Strade Bianche has already cemented itself as part of the classics landscape which builds towards the likes of Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen later in the Spring. The iconic white roads and rolling terrain are contrasting to the challenges of Belgium, Northern France and the Ardennes, attracting a unique blend of competitors seeking to add their name to the list of victors at a race growing in prestige. The course totals 175km from Siena and back, returning once again to familiar roads in the latter stages, utilising gravel tracks and persistent changes in gradient to really make this an attritional affair. Expectation is that a reduced group will contest the final kilometres in the wake of a strong selection process, often making tactical nous as crucial as brute strength as the final climb is tackled.

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan once again appears to be riding in indomitable form at the start of the classics season and will be viewed by many as the man to beat as the race returns to Siena for the finale. His victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and second place to Greg Van Avermaet at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad have demonstrated his monstrous ability to simply surge across to anything resembling a race winning move. Sagan has previously finished second place on two occasions at Strade Bianche and will no doubt be looking to call upon his current form to convert his runner-up spots into a belated victory.

Greg Van Avermaet could return again to dampen Sagan’s hopes of victory at a minor classic, the Belgian rider having recovered well from an injury at the end of last year with great success. His history at this race is particularly encouraging, having been unlucky to miss the win here on a few occasions already. A strong support team will certainly improve his chances, hoping to shelter him from any unnecessary efforts, saving himself for what is likely to be a testing finish into town.

Zdenek Stybar really enjoys this race and has made no secret of his ambitions to produce another leading performance here. His experience in cyclo-cross has certainly played a part in his previous successes at Strade Bianche, calling upon his great bike handling abilities to navigate the gravel roads safely. He performs well on these repeated uphill accelerations, possesses great endurance and his usually capable of summoning up a blistering sprint after such a gruelling affair.

Fabio Felline should be considered a danger to the bigger name riders with eyes upon Strade Bianchethe Italian arrives at this race off the back of an encouraging performance at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which saw him finish fourth. His endurance capabilities have grown year after year, often demonstrating real grit and determination to stay in contact with elite groups, hoping to pounce upon victory with his impressive turn of speed. If there is one rider likely to benefit from the favourites eyeballing one another too long, it could be Felline who steals the show.

Diego Rosa and Michal Kwiatkowski are bound to be the riders which Team Sky look upon as their greatest hopes in a race they are not expected to be targeting with great intent. The former caught the eye with his performance during 2015’s edition while riding for Astana and evidently performs competitively on these gravel roads when offered the chance. Former world champion Kwiatkowski won this race in 2014 and might be tempted to repeat his exploits of three years ago after a good performance at Volta ao Algarve already this season.

Other contenders who could well cause a stir are Jasper StuyvenBen HermansNathan HaasDaniel OssGianluca BrambillaGianni Moscon, Moreno MoserGiovanni Visconti and Tiesj Benoot.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Zdenek Stybar

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Yesterday proved to be a more tame affair than anticipated for the general classification contenders, instead they were pleased to allow the day’s breakaway to acquire a lengthy lead and decide the stage’s outcome from within their ranks. Having kept their powder dry yesterday, today’s first of two stages in the Alps should see life at the front of the general classification animated once again in 2016’s Giro d’Italia. Stage 19 comprises a 162km trip from Pinerolo to Risoul, spending the majority of time creeping upwards for around 80km, ultimately concluding with the 12.8km ascent to Risoul.

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 PreviewGiro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

 

Contenders:

Steven Kruijswijk appears to have cemented himself as the strongest climber in this race after all attempts so far from his rivals have failed to crack him. Though he may not be directly pursuing this stage as a target for victory, the impetus of other general classification focused teams is likely to reel in the breakaway late on and may inadvertently set the Dutchman up for victory. The climb to Risoul is relatively consistent throughout its ascent and should subsequently play to the strengths of the Dutchman; marking him out as the most likely GC rider to win here.

Esteban Chaves is still relatively unconfirmed in regards to surviving the concluding week of a grand tour, but is certainly one of the best climbers here on paper at least. It looks like it will take a perfectly timed and potent attack to finally drop Kruijswijk, so his chances of a stage win are more realistic if he sits back within the lead general classification group and aim to beat the rest in an uphill dash.

Ilnur Zakarin looks to be gaining strength as the race enters its final decisive moments and could well be in search of an opportunity to gain time on his rivals and step up to the podium. The Russian’s chances of succeeding here increase the longer we have to wait for action from the overall contenders, Zakarin likely to come unstuck if the tempo increases too early on the final climb. Should the action remain limited until the final few kilometres however, Zakarin will be one of the favourites to take time and possibly a stage win.

Darwin Atapuma will be aware that a good performance on Stage 19 will place him firmly in the mix to win the mountains classification jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His performance upon the queen stage deserved the win, but he was robbed by Esteban Chaves and his fellow escapees in the final kilometres. With a showing such as that already in the bag, there is no doubt that Atapuma could go the whole way today and win.

Sky are still searching hard for another victory and are likely to turn to the likes of Nicloas Roche and David Lopez. Both have demonstrated encouraging signs in the last few days, be it sticking with the GC frontrunners or turning in solid breakaway efforts, thus marking them out as clear contenders. It may also be worth keeping an eye upon Philip Deignan, the Irishman has been anonymous up to now and subsequently makes him a very difficult rider to assess, but his ability to climb should be enough to keep him in the mind of Sky.

Giovanni Visconti saved his efforts yesterday and is thus likely to have an eye upon a good performance here in an attempt to make gains in the mountains classification; much like Atapuma. If he is totally focused upon accumulating points, then it is likely he will be out of contention for the stage win as a result of doing his utmost to be first over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Should events develop in a manner which see him part of a lead group deciding the win, then Visconti’s sprinting ability could be enough to better most rivals.

For further breakaway contenders; Tanel KangertIan Boswell, Joe DombrowskiBlel Kadri, Giulio CicconeRubén Plaza and Amets Txurruka could all play a part.

Outcome:

1st Steven Kruijswijk 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

Breakaway: 1st Darwin Atapuma 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Philip Deignan