Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

After two days of sailing through the desert, Stage 3 finally provides a significant uphill challenge to the peloton as the race looks to rearrange the general classification with a testing climb to the finish line. The 150km journey from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet is another predominantly flat affair, teeing up the climbers for the ascent to the line which is certain to decide this year’s overall winner of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Having stayed safe throughout the day’s flat section, those with an eye on victory shall begin the 10.8km climb which averages 6.6% and possesses a maximum of 11% just before it eases ahead of the finish. With this in mind, any rider with a potent kick who survives the initial selection process upon the lower slopes will become a clear favourite to win the day.

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-3

Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali has ridden relatively lightly since this year’s Tour de France and was one of the main protagonists on this same stage last year; his crash at the Olympic Road Race keeping him off the bike until now. The Italian could sign off from his time at Astana with a final victory ahead of his move across to the brand new Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team for 2017. There is certainly no doubt that Nibali will survive the ascent and he has a brilliant chance of winning if he manages to ditch the strong puncheurs before making a move in the final kilometres.

Alberto Contador is another big name rider leaving his team at the end of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour, leaving the histrionic Oleg Tinkov’s eponymous squad to join a rejuvenated Trek-Segafredo for 2017. Contador had not raced since his fourth place finish at the Vuelta a España, so is somewhat of a mystery in regards to anticipating his form right now. This shorter ascent may not play to his strengths which have seen him dominate grand tours for so long, but there is no reason to think he cannot at least follow the main contenders.

Diego Ulissi could catch the climbers napping here if he manages to stay in contention during the ascent and then strike out with one of his famous uphill sprints. Given that the road does ease ahead of the summit, Ulissi has a strong chance of putting the purer climbers to bed with on well timed attack within view of the finish line as nobody can match him upon his favoured terrain.

Andrey Amador has a rare chance to lead Movistar in the absence of both Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, no doubt looking to make this opportunity count by winning today’s summit finish. He has enjoyed a successful year while riding in support of his team leaders and is sure to view this as a golden chance to add to his sole career win; a statistic difficult to believe.

Nicolas Roche looks to be Sky’s best chance of featuring well today, the Irishman arriving in Abu Dhabi to sign off from his time at the British outfit ahead of his move to BMC next year. He is a strong climber and is actually quite a potent finisher when required to go head to head with a rival for the win.

Other names who could all cause a stir are Davide RebellinTanel KangertThomas De GendtAlexandr KolobnevChristopher Latham and Michal Kwiatkowski.

Outcome:

1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Alberto Contador 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

A rather brief day in the saddle forms Stage 2 of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour, based in and around the emirate’s capital city and offering almost nothing in regards to elevation. Once again the roads are wide tarmac boulevards which provide a breakaway no hope of surviving life outside of the main bunch right the way to the finish. The usual array of city based furniture populates the day’s course, with the finale itself simplified yet further still as the finishing straight widens once again to give the sprinters an ideal platform to strut their stuff.
Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-2

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish is not willing to wallow in the result of Doha last weekend and was not far from winning the first stage of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour as he seeks to return to the top step of the podium. His leadout worked well, though inadvertently provided Giacomo Nizzolo the perfect support to launch himself to victory and confirm the Italian’s form right now. Cavendish tends not to make mistakes more than once and it is easy to see him remedying yesterday’ result at the first time of asking.

Giacomo Nizzolo seems to have benefited from a relatively light race schedule since May’s Giro d’Italia and is now riding an encouraging wave of form off the back of last weekend’s World Championships in Doha. Despite lacking a brilliant leadout, he weaved his way through the maelstrom and ultimately took advantage of the Dimension-Data train to deliver himself into the perfect position to take the win. His performance was dominant by the time second place John Degenkolb crossed the line and it now looks like Nizzolo will be a tough man to beat in Abu Dhabi.

John Degenkolb has managed to bring with him a strong sprint focused team, despite squads being limited to only six riders at this race. The German rider is hoping to salvage some wins from a year marred by an early season traffic collision which caused serious damage and kept him off the bike for sometime. Degenkolb’s progress has been very encouraging in the late season and there looks to be momentum pushing him onwards to his best form; there shall be no surprise if he wins here.

André Greipel was absent from yesterday’s sprint for reasons still unknown, thus making it tough to know exactly where he stands heading into the second stage. His team Lotto-Soudal were working on the front of the peloton during the day, so it would seem that some sort of mechanical is responsible for his inability to contest the finale. Without knowing any details it is rsiky to back him, but if he is 100% to contest stage honours, then he should win this finish which favours power based sprinters.

Magnus Cort Nielsen confirmed expectations yesterday and only just missed out on a top three placing after surfing the wheels efficiently enough to place him in contention. If Orica-BikeExchange can provide better support for the young sprinter during the final kilometre, then Nielsen has a great chance of winning on Stage 2.

Andrea Guardini and Elia Viviani were both disappointing on the opening stage, each finishing outside the top ten on a finish which would normally see their names inside the top five placings. After such a poor start to their race, these Italian sprinters shall each be wanting to be amongst the frontrunners once again as soon as possible.

Outcome:

1st John Degenkolb 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Giacomo Nizzolo

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview

Course:

The breakaway caused a huge shock yesterday after an acute lack of coherent chasing during the final kilometres ultimately conceded the day’s outcome by the sprinters, primarily due to a single well timed attack from Roger Kluge after the final corner. Today’s stage will be a manic affair once again, a long flat opening set to provoke rolling attacks from riders desperate to make it into the day’s breakaway, but it is the finale which causes the most interest. The 240km route from Muggió to Pinerolo features little in the way of challenges for the most part, but the climb of Pramartino will demand an immense effort to surge over its near 20% gradients and could instigate attacks from amongst the general classification rivals.

Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Giovanni Visconti is likely to take centre stage for Movistar on Stage 18, as though the finale does suit Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish outfit will look to limit their team’s efforts in regards to chasing ahead of further stresses in the mountains. Visconti is in good form thus far at this year’s Giro d’Italia and possesses the required skills to perform convincingly here; climbing, descending and sprinting better that many favourites to make the break today.

Tanel Kangert can definitely feature late on here if he manages to join the right move early on, potentially picking up a rare win at this year’s Giro for Astana. The Estonian rider is certainly strong enough to power over the Pramartino climb, though it shall take an immense effort during the early part of the day to join the decisive move.

Gianluca Brambilla has already enjoyed a successful Giro d’Italia when taking a stage victory and thus wore the maglia rosa for a short time. The Italian is likely to have seen his powers diminish somewhat, though at this point of the race few remain in the condition they entered in, but this stage is very well suited to his attributes. Like many here, the ability to perform well on the Pramartino climb is only half of the equation, as the lighter climbers like Brambilla still face the tough task of joining the day’s move amid a hectic start.

Nicolas Roche is likely to pick up the mantle of saving Sky’s Giro today, the Irishman being plenty strong enough to survive the fast paced opening section, while also having enough to survive the final climb in a position which should keep him in contention. Roche can also deliver a good sprint when required, but this is a well known fact, so he might find it difficult to acquire riders willing to join him out front all day.

A raft of riders are likely to invest the utmost in featuring in Stage 18’s battle for stage honours; Tim WellensJelle VanendertGeorg Preidler, Francesco BongiornoDiego Ullisi and Moreno Moser all potentially making the day’s moves.

Beyond the victor, the most interesting aspect of today is how the general classification riders will tackle the ascent up the steep Pramartino climb. Blessed with the title of ‘The Shark of Messina’, Nibali should know plenty about tasting blood, but on this occasion it is his rivals who sense that he himself is wounded. The result of this might be a concerted effort by both Esteban Chaves and Ilnur Zakarin to bury the Italian champion with a single well timed attack upon the steepest ramps of Pramartino. Alongside this, Alejandro Valverde may view this as an opportunity worth investing his efforts into, attempting to see Steven Kruijswijk crack for the first time. Regardless of who instigates it, the general belief is that Nibali will suffer the greatest if all hell breaks loose here; Astana will need to be well prepared.

Outcome:

1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Tanel Kangert

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 17 Preview

Course:

As anticipated, yesterday’s tinderbox of a stage was ignited early on as the general classification leaders took the initiative by the scruff of the neck and saw the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Esteban Chaves lose time to the day’s winning triumvirate of Alejandro Valverde, Steven Kruijswijk and Ilnur Zakarin. Today’s challenge is likely to be a contrasting affair altogether, pulling focus back to the (remaining) sprinters as they are afforded the seldom opportunity of a sprint finish; assuming the breakaway do not have something else to say. The 196km trip from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda has an extended rolling section to begin with, and if the day’s breakaway is comprised of the right riders, it could prove difficult for Trek-Segafredo and Lampre-Merida to bring it back for a sprint.

Giro d'Italia Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Giacomo Nizzolo is in the midst of some of his best grand tour form ever at 2016’s Giro d’Italia, though is still yet to secure his maiden win at this level. The Italian has been within touching distance of André Greipel and Marcel Kittel earlier in the race, both of whom have now departed the race (along with Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani), leaving Nizzolo as the clear favourite for stage honours here in Cassano d’Adda. However, along with his sprinting rivals, Nizzolo has now lost two crucial components in is effective leadout train; Fabian Cancellara and Boy Van Poppel. The result of this should be that Lampre-Merida emerge as the strongest team during the final kilometres, marking Sacha Modolo out as the main man standing between him and grand tour glory.

Sacha Modolo possesses a far superior record at this level than his compatriot Nizzolo, yet has not performed at a comparable level to him at this year’s Giro thus far. However, he now finds himself in a stronger position than his rival thanks to a leadout train which has not suffered the same abandonments as Trek-Segafredo. There is a strong likelihood that Modolo will be allowed to lead everyone else through the final corners as a result of his team’s strength, with a greater battle occurring behind as others fight for his wheel. It would be cruel for Nizzolo to leave the Giro once again without a victory, but Modolo certainly ticks all the boxes as the pantomime villain poised to spoil the fairytale.

Luka Mezgec will now step up to lead Orica-GreenEDGE in the sprints after the young Caleb Ewan left the race last week and will be a danger to the bigger favourites. Mezgec’s wins often come off the back of a tough day in the saddle, so today does not quite fulfil that requirement, but the attritional nature of a grand tour will compensate for this somewhat. Should the Australian outfit miss the day’s breakaway, it seems obvious they will contribute some riders to bring the escapees back, but their focus upon the safety of Esteban Chaves will limit this to a degree.
EDIT – Mezgec has since retired from the race due to a fractured scaphoid.

Alexander Porsev has seen his consistent sprinting at the Giro d’Italia up to now attract him little press, yet few have featured so regularly in the spinrts as the Russian thus far. With a greater reduction in the strength of his rival team’s leadout trains by this point of the race, Porsev may find life a little easier with less wheels to negotiate his way to the front, especially given his small sprint support here.

The breakaway has the potential to cause real trouble here, as the number of teams truly committed to bringing things back together is essentially limited to Trek-Segafredo and Lampre-Merida. Nicola BoemRamunas NavardauskasPim Ligthart and Svein Tuft are just some riders who may have exited yesterday’s tough stage in a strong enough condition to challenge here.

Outcome:

1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Sacha Modolo 3rd Alexander Porsev

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 13 PREVIEW

Course:

Stage 13 signals the 2016 Giro d’Italia’s first foray into the serious mountains of this season’s opening grand tour battle. Two pairs of Category 1 and Category 2 ascents feature during this 170km ride from Palmanova to Cividale Del Friuli, combining to shape a stage which looks destined to be won by a strong breakaway group.

giro-ditalia-stage-13

Contenders:

Nicolas Roche looks to be the most likely Sky rider to save their race in the wake of Mikel Landa’s abandonment due to illness several stages ago. The Irishman will see little point in finishing this three week anonymously within the general classification and will no doubt have now signed up to Sky’s campaign to now hunt out stage victories.

Tim Wellens is currently the first name on anyone’s list for breakaway contenders given his current form and is likely to try and join the break once again. The climbs could well be somewhat beyond his abilities, but it seems like he can cope with anything right now and he would be tough to beat in a reduced sprint come the end of the day.

Giovanni Visconti often performs on courses such as these, possessing the strength to join in the early part of the day and then survive the climbs in good enough shape to finish it off in a sprint. He sits in a grey zone general classification wise, not an immediate threat to the major overall favourites, but near enough to take the jersey if the chase miscalculates on the concluding descent.

Alessandro De Marchi is another rider who has already demonstrated form for this year’s breakaway attempts and is certain to once again force his way amongst Stage 13’s successful move. There are certainly question marks as to weather he could secure victory by the end of the day, but experience counts for a lot on days such as these and it would be no great surprise to see him out perform those who appear stronger on paper.

Ruben Plaza and Amets Txurruka are two rider for Orica-GreenEDGE who could potentially join the break in an attempt to make life a little easier for teammate Esteban Chaves and reduce their need to chase. Carlos Bentancur could perform on these ascents, but will need to be strong enough to make the selection process early on here in the first place.

Given the position of the day’s final climb and its subsequent descent right into the finish at Cividale Del Friuli, there looks to be guaranteed sparring from the general classification contenders. When it comes to descending, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde are the obvious candidates to up the tempo and really push their rivals to the limit on the tricky descent. Another rider who has shown a talent for similar antics at this year’s Giro is Esteban Chaves, who has consistently followed his rivals thus far when closing down such attempts to gain time.

Outcome:

1st Nicolas Roche 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Ruben Plaza

 

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 8 PREVIEW

Course:

Stage 8’s 186km route from Foligno to Arezzo looks to be perfect terrain for the specialist breakaway riders at this year’s Giro d’Italia to steal another win from the sprinters. Rolling throughout the day, the fireworks are expected to be lit once the riders strike upon the Category 2 Alpe Di Poti, averaging 6.5% before reaching ramps of 14% around the midway point. Depending on how great a lead the day’s break establish before the final climb, there is still a chance that an elite group of riders could duke it out for the win on roads which swing between 5% – 11% late on. If that was not already enough of a cocktail to inspire a stage worth watching, the race organisers have also included stretches of gravel roads along the way.

Giro d'Italia Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Tim Wellens put in a fantastic showing to secure Stage 6 after bridging across to the breakaway and then attacking solo to beat his fellow escapees. His condition is clearly very strong right now and certainly has the ability to make it four wins in four days here for Lotto-Soudal and extend his lead in the mountains classification, though he may struggle to find the freedom to do so.

Alessandro De Marchi is a specialist in winning upon stages such as today, rolling along powerfully for large parts of the day, before then dropping the hammer and attacking with everything he has to win. BMC will be looking to take advantage of opportunistic days such as these throughout the Giro and are likely to work hard to get into the key move.

Przemyslaw Niemiec will be an interesting man to watch on Stage 8, though he has no inspiring showings as of late to suggest backing him for the win, this route packs in all of his favoured attributes to lay the foundations for victory. Lampre-Merida have an alternative card to play with Diego Ulissi late on if required, so having Niemiec in the break would save them the effort of having to chase down the breakaway too.

Gianluca Brambilla has the skills to spend the day in the breakaway and then solo or sprint his way to victory on a stage such as today’s. Alongside this, the increasingly active general classification dynamic could still mean any escapees are swept up on the final climb and stage honours subsequently decided by an elite group forming on the downhill section into town. Should this occur, then Brambilla will certainly be one of the biggest dangers to others if present.

Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take the win on Stage 8 if an elite group of general classification riders ends up deciding the day’s winner. The Spanish rider is fantastic in an uphill sprint, while his descending abilities mean he is well versed in instigating or following attacks downhill. With an individual time trial and rest day following on from today’s stage, it could be a launchpad for an attempt to gain a buffer to his rivals before the race against the clock begins.

Adam Hansen appeared incredibly strong while leading André Greipel out for an unexpected win yesterday when ratcheting the tempo up on the front of the peloton in the final kilometres. Hansen enjoys being part of a breakaway and shall fancy turning anyone else over before the line judging by his current form.

Vincenzo Nibali lost time on Stage 6 and could view the finale here as the perfect opportunity to grab seconds back before the individual time trial. The Italian is never afraid of pushing the tempo downhill to the limit, a move which could perhaps drag the likes of Alejandro Valverde with him too.

Outcome:

Breakaway – 1st Alessandro De Marchi 2nd Adam Hansen 3rd Przemyslaw Niemiec

Elite Sprint – 1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Gianluca Brambilla 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 7 PREVIEW

Course:

The sprinters will be confident of returning to the spotlight on Stage 7’s long 211km jaunt from Sulmona to Foligno, a route which takes in the Category 2 Le Svolte Di Popoli early doors, followed by the Category 4 Valico Della Somma. It is a downhill run to the finish and a tricky technical approach to the line which is currently forecast to be wet by the time the riders reach Foligno.

giro-ditalia-stage-7-preview

Contenders:

Giacomo Nizzolo has twice endured seeing his efforts come to nothing in sprints so far at this year’s Giro d’Italia, once having been boxed in late on and most recently having had his sprint hampered by Rein Taaramäe hitting the deck in the final kilometres of Stage 5. His results thus far have somewhat disguised the excellent condition he arrived here in, while the possibility of a wet and technical finale would play into Nizzolo’s hands nicely.

Marcel Kittel must be considered given his imperious form right now, though this stage is far from perfect for the German powerhouse to chalk up yet another grand tour victory. If he manages to make it over the final climb in touch with the main bunch still in sight, then Etixx-Quick Step will invest everything into dragging him back into contention with the hope of navigating him a safe passage through the final corner.

Arnaud Démare has appeared very strong and is perhaps unfortunate to have not already won a stage at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His FDJ team were a great surprise during the first sprint of the week, but then came unstuck after a major crash wiped them out late into Stage 3, so are eager to reignite their captain’s hopes of the red jersey with a win here. The technical nature will not be too off putting for the Frenchman and if his team lead him through the last bend ahead of his rivals, it will be extremely tough to come round Démare before the line.

Sacha Modolo seemed certain to win Stage 5 before Lampre-Merida saw all their work amount to nothing as Taaramäe slid out and disrupted their lead out train entirely. Today offers a technically demanding conclusion which not only plays to his strengths, but also to those of his lead out train, thus making Lampre appear an impressive force on paper for Stage 7.

Outcome:

1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Sacha Modolo 3rd Arnaud Démare