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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Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 5

Rapido Guide – Tour of Oman 2018 – Stage 1

Course:

Beginning with a 162.5km stage from Nizwa to Sultan Qaboos University, day one of this year’s Tour of Oman should be a chance for the sprinters to start with a bang. Though the roads rise somewhat after leaving the day’s start town, the second half of the stage is an extended descent which leads the peloton down to the finish, giving it the appearance of a day which the sprint teams shall be able to control easily enough. With the final turn coming at the flamme rouge, we should see a hotly contested sprint finish on wide roads, offering up a drag race amongst the best riders here.

Tour of Oman 2018 - Stage 1

Contenders:

Nacer Bouhanni is said to be undergoing a transformative experience these days, the hopes of many seeking to salvage the mercurial talent from the peloton’s most acquired taste in recent years, with signs positive so far. The provocative Frenchman mustered some encouraging signs during the Dubai Tour, though was unlucky enough to crash on the final bend of the last stage when looking well-positioned. His impressive turn of pace and ability to surf the wheels should serve him well amongst a pack lacking many dominant sprint trains, so should have eyes on the podium at the very least on Stage 1.

Mark Cavendish picked up a stage win during his recent time at the Dubai Tour and looks to be entering this race with a strong chance of collecting more early season victories. Though his support train has altered dramatically compared to last week, he will be able to rely on the talented young Scott Davies to position him safely during the final kilometre. A clear run at the line will be needed amongst a likely to be messy sprint, though years of experience do mean Cavendish knows how to handle himself by now.

Magnus Cort was unexpectedly strong last week and ended up on the podium behind eventual winner Elia Vivani, but he is another sprinter who shall see many of his key lieutenants leave him, as the team’s focus switches to climbing the general classification instead of sprints. However, Cort is not one who necessarily demands a committed leadout train and has previously performed well when having to look after himself, so will be confident of challenging for the win.

Adam Blythe surged late to push Elia Viviani close for the win on the final stage in Dubai, but had to settle for third as he just ran out of road before being able to overtake the Italian. With racing here likely to prove more attritional, Blythe could be able to draw closer to his faster rivals and take a surprise victory for himself.

Others to consider are Giacomo NizzoloAlexander Kristoff and Max Walscheid

Outcome:

1st Magnus Cort 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Adam Blythe

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

After almost a month of gruelling racing, we finally arrive at the end of 2017’s La Vuelta a España, Chris Froome having achieved his ambition of consecutive grand tour victories in familiar faultless fashion. With a processional ride into Madrid to celebrate his success, much of the race’s remaining stress will be upon the shoulders of sprinters and their teammates. Leaving the start in Arroyomolinos, it is a total of 117.6km to the finish within the Spanish capital, of which should prove another showcase of the fastest men left standing at the race this year. The finale itself posses very few technical challenges, with the final dash to the line a simple affair that will be a drag race set to have the sprinters duke it out for the last stage honours on offer.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 21

Contenders:

Magnus Cort shall finally be allowed off the leash to chance his luck amongst a bunch kick on the last stage of this year’s Vuelta a España. Though we have not seen a great deal of the Orica-Scott rider during the last three weeks, he is certainly one of the fastest riders present and will relish the opportunity to remind people of this fact. The leadout afforded to him shall not be particularly ideal, though at the end of a grand tour stage race, it becomes more of a head to head task to discover who has the energy remaining to turn in one last successful sprint.

Matteo Trentin has ridden the race particularly intelligently and could walk away with one of the leader’s jerseys as a result of his canny tactics. He is not the fastest man here and should be one of the most fatigued as a result of his recent breakaway efforts, though the motivation to win the points jersey at the final time of asking could make all the difference for him. The leadout at his disposal might remedy any issues however, as their combined power will make it tough for rivals to seize control in the concluding kilometres.

Edward Theuns should find himself with a brilliant chance of taking the win on Stage 21, as the talented Belgian appears to have survived the rigours of the previous three weeks in good shape, providing confidence that he is still able to produce his best in a sprint finish. Though his role has often meant supporting his teammates, limiting his hopes of winning, his surprising freshness has been evident when working for Alberto Contador. If Trek-Segafredo manages to produce a successful leadout, then they shall have great odds of taking back to back stage wins in the final weekend of racing.

Adam Blythe should feel a sense of pressure having been lessened as a result of teammate Stefan Denifl’s victory last week for Aqua Blue Sport, allowing him to enjoy this last opportunity to secure a win for himself. This stage suits him convincingly so and the leadout train expected to support him will be one of the best still capable of performing strongly at such a late point in the race. The British sprinter’s greatest problem will be fatigue; though this is the case for everyone now and his highly motivated teammates could compensate for this issue well enough for him.

Those also expected to muster a final strong showing in the anticipated sprint are Sacha ModoloTom Van AsbroeckSøren Kragh and Michael Schwarzmann.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

A day without horrendous mountains to crack the peloton, Stage 13 is an 198.4km ride from Coín to Tomares, though it does start by immediately sending the riders uphill once again. A rare chance for the sprinters to return to the spotlight during this attritional Vuelta a España, the only significant challenge for the fast men to overcome is the early Category 3 ascent of Alto de Ardales (7.2 km, avg. 4.3%.) Once over the summit of this sole recognised climb on Stage 13, the bunch will ride for around 80km on rolling terrain, before then beginning to drop downwards to the flat roads which shape the second half of the day and last almost right the way to the line. The fly in the ointment for the sprinters will be the final 3km of the day, a series of ramps and slopes which will disrupt the rhythm of the leadout trains late on. Though the gradients might not be immense compared to recent days, at such a late point in a sprint, they shall prove significant at around 6% and finally drop to 2% for the final hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 13 Preview

Contenders:

Matteo Trentin has been enjoying some fantastic form during this year’s race and the Italian will have high expectations of performing strongly once again today. It is his climbing ability which has really impressed so many during the Vuelta so far, which combined with his speed, makes him the clear favourite to take the honours on Stage 13. Normally, it might be more plausible to back those who have a better pedigree for winning uphill finishes, yet the difficult final 3km may well see such rivals fail to make the cut for the sprint entirely.

Magnus Cort will have circled this stage out of interest sometime ago, but since the general classification woes of Orica – Scott took hold, there is now an even greater likelihood that he shall receive the support required to compete strongly today. No doubt one of the fastest sprinters present here, the gradients during the finale will play into his hands and he shall be confident of guiding himself into position if lacking teammates. The greatest question however regards how tough he has found the recent big mountain stages, as any glimpse of fatigue will be magnified greatly in the stressful deciding kilometres on Stage 13.

Juan José Lobato is one of the best riders in the professional ranks for winning uphill sprints and could prove to be the man to beat here today. If this was a single one day race, then Lobato would find his odds of winning diminished somewhat, but after nearly two weeks of racing that is not the case. He will hope for a driven tail end to proceedings and aim to jettison as many of the purer sprinters as possible before the final push to the line. Lobato’s current form is very encouraging and it is likely that a flurry of draining attacks late on will only strengthen his hand yet further still.

Edward Theuns started the race in blistering condition, though it is unlikely he will be able to muster quite the same performance at this point in a grand tour. Regardless, on this type of terrain, the Trek – Segafredo rider remains a strong candidate for stage honours. He dug deep yesterday, which is unlikely to have helped his chances of winning today, but his talent for uphill finishes is so great that this factor could almost be disregarded.

Julian Alaphilippe will be a perfect alternative for Quick – Step if anything should suggest Matteo Trentin will be unable to stick the pace late on in the day. The Frenchman has animated the race on several occasions and has not refrained from reminding the peloton of his form whenever possible during La Vuelta. A really high tempo towards the end of the stage would make the deciding ramps much tougher, subsequently improving the odds of Alaphilippe becoming the Quick – Step rider to watch for in the concluding sprint. A man with a gift for the Ardennes classics, this is well within his capabilities to win.

Outcome:

1st Juan José Lobato 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Another day which does not take long to rise upwards again, Stage 6’s 204.4km journey from Vila-Real to Sagunt encompasses five categorised climbs, though all except one are Category 3 ascents. Having left the day’ start town, the peloton will soon tackle the Category 3 pairing of Alto de Alcudia de Veo (11 km, avg. 3.4%) and Puerto de Eslida (5.3 km, avg. 5.1%). With this opening brace concluded, the road immediately drops away again and starts building to the summit of the Category 3 Alto de Chirivilla, taking 7.9 km to climb and averaging a gradient of 4.1% from bottom to top. Yet again, having reached the summit of a climb, the bunch is sent back down into the valley in order to climb the final Category 3 ascent of the day and the penultimate climb of Stage 6. The Puerto del Oronet is another similar climb which averages 4% during its 6.4km entirety, leading over the top and into another descent which finishes at the foot of the Puerto del Garbi, the day’s only Category 2 challenge, a tougher prospect at 9.3 km and averaging a gradient of 5.1%. From the top it is a descent almost right the way to the finish line, though the frontrunners will have another series of roundabouts to contend with and will only be afforded a clean finishing run of 100m.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile is expected to challenge for the mountains jersey once again this year and should therefore be interested in performing well on a day which features five categorised climbs. Having been totally anonymous this far, without any reason such as illness, it seems Dimension Data have been keeping him safe ahead of Stage 6. With a downhill run into the line and relatively flat conclusion, Fraile has the power to either distance rivals ahead of the finish or out sprint many likely escapees.

Luis Leon Sanchez fits the bill of a rider destined to perform well today, and if given the freedom to do so, will be a man which few can match on his favoured terrain. With the strength to join the breakaway early on, endure the ascents and then sprint for the stage win, Sanchez has all the skills required to make this back to back stage wins for Astana.

Julian Alaphilippe has risen in expectations has a result of yesterday’s performance and no longer appears to be as out of form as many had previously reported. He was not able to go with the main contenders when it mattered most on Stage 5, yet he was clearly motivated when marshalling the breakaway throughout the day and looks to have acquired confidence as a result of his form improving. There is no reason to suggest he cannot perform well on back to back days in the break, especially as a rider who seems able to turn his ability to anything, though fatigue could prove an issue here.

Alexis Gougeard will look upon a day which shares many of the attributes of the stage he won at the race a couple of years ago, no doubt raising questions as to why he invested such a great deal in yesterday’s less suiting affair. Regardless, he must be enjoying a level of encouraging form currently and the expectation is he will feature once again on Stage 6. He will need to ride clever though, as many of his anticipated breakaway companions are likely to prove faster in a sprint and the final kilometres could prove hard to solo away from rivals.

There is a small chance that a larger sprint finish may occur, in which case the likes of Sacha ModoloMatteo TrentinMagnus Cort and José Joaquín Rojas should feature.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Alexis Gougeard 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez 

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

The final day of 2016’s La Vuelta a España is finally here and the red jersey of race leader looks destined to cross the line in Madrid upon the shoulders of Nairo Quintana. Though all the drama in the general classification has been put to bed for another year, there is still plenty of excitement on offer as the race completes its three week adventure with a chance for the sprinters to make their presence felt here. Lasting a brief 104.8km from Las Rozas to Madrid, much of the day will be a leisurely parade for the riders and cameras to enjoy, with a few glasses of champagne making their way around the bunch too. There is not a great deal to analyse of today’s stage, the opening 57.7km building towards the first of eight 5.8km laps which form the finale of Stage 21. The circuits are flat and are primarily based on the same design which has often provided this last day of racing in Madrid, offering an advantage to those riders who have previously ridden La Vuelta’s closing stage. A combination of several u-turns and a couple of 90-degree bends makes this a technical course, but after several laps, it should be plain sailing for teams looking to set their sprinters up for glory in the capital.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

Nikias Arndt should already have a win under his belt at this year’s race, but for several reasons, the Giant-Alpecin rider has failed to do so. He is still the fastest man left in contention for a sprint and has form for managing fatigue well as stage races reach their conclusion. The team are capable of delivering him perfectly into position for victory and proved this fact well when only just missing out on Stage 18 to Magnus Cort. In a simple drag race to the line, Nikias Arndt will be the man to beat and should be confident of being manoeuvred neatly into position by his teammates today.

Gianni Meersman was victim of a very poor leadout by Etixx-QuickStep in the final moments of Stage 18 and failed to even contest the outcome seriously. They shall be extremely motivated to remedy this fact and know how well they can execute a sprint given Meersman’s two victories already at the race. Today’s circuits do not suit his attributes that well, especially given the nature of a short stage and his lesser sprint speed, but the power of his team may be enough to swing fortune in his favour to secure a hat trick of wins.

Magnus Cort has performed incredibly well at his debut grand tour and caught the eye with his convincing victor on Stage 18. Today is the only real opportunity for the pure sprinters to take glory, and given how few of those are in attendance, Cort is a real danger to the hopes of everyone with an eye on today. Most interestingly of all however, the fact this is the finale stage should mean Cort is offered a greater level of support in the final kilometres, a factor which will only further push him into contention.

Jempy Drucker put in much quicker sprints than expected at this year’s La Vuelta and will be in the hunt once again today. With the support of BMC, Drucker will be provided enough protection to prevent him expending any unnecessary energy before the last lap. He copes well with the attritional nature of stage races, levelling the playing field to a degree and subsequently giving him a real chance of making the day’s podium at a minimum.

Rudiger Selig has plenty of raw power to mix it up on Stage 21, let alone the strength of his leadout team which features both Scott Thwaites and Michael Schwarzmann; arguably on par with both Etixx-QuickStep and Giant-Alpecin. Bora-Argon 18 should give Selig the nod to carry their hopes on the final day and should perform convincingly on this power based sprint to the line.

Others expected to feature in the day’s final top ten placings are Daniele BennatiJonas Van GenechtenKristian Sbaragli and Kiel Reijnen.

Outcome:

1st Nikias Arndt 2nd Magnus Cort 3rd Rudiger Selig

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

The unexpected alliance on Stage 15 between Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana delivered more drama in a day than some recent grand tours have experienced in their entire three weeks. There is little chance of replicating such drama once again, but today’s 156.4km stage from Alcañiz to Peñiscola should provide an exciting finale as the sprinters attempt to seize upon a rare opportunity to take a win at this year’s Vuelta a España. Ascending gradually from the start, the road builds continually as it approaches the Category 3 Alto Castillo de Morella, a 3.4km ascent which averages a gradient of 5.2%. After this comes a long descent down to within less than 20km of the finish line, the riders required to navigate a series of roundabouts as they approach Peñiscola, followed by the final 1.3km long stretch along the coast which forms the day’s finishing straight.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Fabio Felline was active once again yesterday and appears to be coping well with the high amount fatigue which the La Vuelta dishes out to all of the riders. He is now the best hope of a stage win for his team Trek-Segafredo and could rise to the top of the pile thanks to his freshness, despite not being one of the fastest men in contention for today’s win.

Gianni Meersman has been somewhat of a surprise at 2016’s race, already taking a couple of wins and still looking capable of adding to his haul in the final week or so of racing. Etixx-QuickStep are able to support him with a great deal of talent and shall be the strongest team in with a shout of victory by the time they reach Peñiscola. Meersman is the clear favourite for the win and it looks like many of his rivals here shall struggle to match the level of both him and his team.

Nikias Arndt usually emerges as one of the best sprinters towards the tail-end of stage races and is a great threat if his leadout is executed neatly at last. Having tried to conserve some of his energy as of late, Arndt is targeting this for more than simply featuring in the mix and GiantAlpecin are still confident he can win.

Kristian Sbaragli continues to grow in strength as the race’s attritional effect builds day by day, bringing the Dimension-Data rider further into contention on Stage 16. The latter half of today might not be the ideal terrain for Sbaragli to truly compete for victory, but freshness is crucial by this point of the race and he still possesses a good chance.

Magnus CortJonas Van Genechten and Tosh Van Der Sande are all names likely to fill the top ten placings in a bunch kick, though winning may just be beyond their grasp.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Nikias Arndt 3rd Gianni Meersman