Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

The first stage back after a rest day always generates a degree of trepidation for the riders, as some return feeling fresher after a day free of the rigours of racing, while others sense their form begin to go off the boil. Signalling the return to the saddle for the peloton is an 165km trip from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-Sur-Isère, offering little in the way of easing the riders back into the swing of things with its immediate uphill start. The opening rise forms the Category 3 Côte de Boussoulet, a 4.5km long ascent which averages a hard to ignore 6.3% gradient throughout its slopes. From its summit the road continues to roll for around another 40km, eventually tackling the relatively short Col du Rouvey and its subsequent fast descent. After dropping into the valley, the road does not feature a great deal of topographical challenges, though crosswinds could play a pivotal role in deciding the composition of any leading group late in the day. Whoever does reach the final kilometre first will face a very technically demanding run into the finishing line itself, with tight turns and roundabouts packed in to make things even more stressful. It may even prove tempting for some sprinters to chance their luck in the day’s breakaway in order to avoid such a hectic conclusion to Stage 16.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Alexander Kristoff is a master at measuring his efforts when the crosswinds begin scything apart the peloton, even going as far as to say he enjoys their destructive nature and the familiarity it brings having spent much time cycling along the Norwegian coastline. His main goal will be to survive the opening climb within touching distance of his main rivals for Stage 16, after which if successful, there will be a great chance for him to collect a Tour de France victory in 2017. With the winds potentially turning this into an arduous return to racing, combined with a technical finale, Kristoff should be able to emerge as a major contender for stage honours here.

Michael Matthews and his team will appreciate how crucial today could prove in the battle for the green jersey, having already secured a brilliant stage win in the absence of Marcel Kittel before the rest day. Stage 16 is another chance to turn the screw on the dominant German sprinter, likely aiming to make racing hard from the very start and hoping to drop Kittel as soon as possible. Though not renowned for his prowess in crosswinds, his teammates do offer plenty of experience in surviving the challenges it throws their way, so Matthews is likely to be in safe hands. A harder day will blunt the top end speed of his faster rivals, while the late turns and road furniture could derail a few leadout trains too, but he will need to be in the leading group before he can worry about victory. Matthews will be contesting this on an almost flat finish, so everything will need to fall perfectly into place if he is to stand a chance of winning and cutting the lead of Marcel Kittel upon the maillot vert.

Greg Van Avermaet could prove to have eyes upon joining the day’s breakaway if able to muster the sort of form we have previously seen from the classics specialist at Le Tour de France. He knows that life will be hard if a bunch kick ends up deciding the day, especially given the lack of incline, but the Belgian has a great chance of being the fastest rider present if he smuggles himself aboard a successful move. Unlikely to fear life in the crosswinds, Avermaet will know how to look after himself as best as possible and even identify the riders who are most likely to contribute towards forming a breakaway which will survive a day out front.

John Degenkolb looks to be on the up once again and Stage 16 does provide an opportunity which suits him more ideally than those which have already been sent his way. A powerful rider, Degenkolb is capable of producing the efforts required to make the cut if echelons form during the day; his immense strength a huge asset over his lighter weight sprinting rivals. Much like his countryman Marcel Kittel, his greatest challenge will be hauling himself up the opening climb of the day and ensuring he has enough left in reserve to battle it out in the final kilometres. He lacks team support to help him navigate the technical run into the finish, but a hard race could thin the ranks enough to give Degenkolb a better chance at victory.

Edvald Boasson Hagen shall certainly want to see his current form put to good use and is another rider who could potentially join the breakaway if he does not fancy his chances in a larger sprint at the end of the day. He can certainly climb well enough on his day to make the key moves, has the strength to manage life in the crosswinds and is often one of the freshest at the end of a tough race. Team Dimension Data have been working hard to produce a good result since the departure of Mark Cavendish, so should view Stage 16 as an opportunity to finally see their determination secure themselves a taste of victory once again.

Nacer Bouhanni has proven incredibly tough to gauge during this year’s Tour de France, though if he is returning to top form, then this will be the day to demonstrate so. With its anticipated nature and technical finale, Bouhanni has the tenacity required to ensure he finds himself stuck to the right wheel throughout Stage 16. Another fast finisher who lacks a convincing team support on days such as these, the Frenchman will no doubt see his chances of winning improve if the number of riders able to contest the outcome is greatly reduced by a hard race.

Other names to consider for both sprint and breakaway are Ben SwiftSonny ColbrelliStephen CummingsMarcel KittelDylan GroenewegenAndré Greipel and Davide Cimolai.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Greg Van Avermaet

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Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

A return to days in the saddle which stretch beyond the double century marker, Stage 11 makes its way from Eymet to the seemingly ever present Tour de France town of Pau. Totalling 203.5km from start to finish, there is very little in the way of elevation gain to worry about, with the vast majority of the day’s racing being contested upon flat roads. However, there is one recognised climb in the shape of the Category 4 Côte d’Aire-sur-l’Adour, which will be tackled after 145km of riding. The outcome should be another opportunity to witness a bunch kick, but with Marcel Kittel’s dominance only increasing, he may find allies wishing to chase down the day’s break alongside him dwindling; the escapees could cause a stir perhaps.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel has repeatedly turned in such ruthless performances at this year’s Tour de France, that it now seems futile to analyse his performance beyond the fact that nobody else seems near his level right now. Having surfed the wheels in the final kilometres with only a single leadout man to help him during yesterday, Kittel calmly found a route to the head of affairs and then proceeded to bury the competition with ease once again. If he finds rival teams willing to help control the day’s breakaway and eventually reel them in, then it looks like another victory is on the cards for the current green jersey holder.

Nacer Bouhanni and his Cofidis team did perform well on Stage 10, though it soon became apparent that the Frenchman is still unable to begin eating into Marcel Kittel’s lead once the sprinting kicks off at full speed. Though today’s finale contains a few roundabouts, it should prove less technically demanding than the previous day’s run to the finish, likely to make Bouhanni’s chances of winning smaller once again.

André Greipel saw the brilliant work of his Lotto-Soudal leadout train amount to nothing more than an unexpectedly poor 11th place finish on Stage 10. Having ridden hard in the final kilometres to shield their captain from the wind and convincingly marshall the front of the peloton, Greipel was unable to produce an effort capable of challenging Marcel Kittel as previously seen. As stated before, the longer the race goes on the better Lotto-Soudal’s chances will be of nabbing a stage win off Kittel, especially once the attritional nature sets in.

Dan McLay finally timed his sprint earlier than previously seen at this race, though admitted himself that starting so much earlier than his rivals was only ever going to result in him dying before the line. Regardless, the performance will have provided a degree of confidence to the British sprinter and he will now have greater insight to time his attack perfectly on the next attempt.

Alexander Kristoff has seen his leadout team work well so far, but they will have to work wonders if they are to catapult the Norwegian beyond the blistering acceleration of Marcel Kittel. This longer distance will favour Kristoff, though it is not gruelling enough to really bring his grittiest talents into play en route to Pau. If they can lean upon Quick – Step to commit an even greater effort to the chase, then their extra energy might be able to put Alexander Kristoff in a favourable position heading into this relatively short 600m finishing straight.

Other sprinters likely to contest the day’s outcome are Edvald Boasson HagenRudiger SeligDylan Groenewegen and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd André Greipel 3rd Dan McLay

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

The sprinters shall once agin return to centre stage after the rest day, taking up the spotlight on the road from Périgueux to Bergerac, hoping to battle it out at top speed for the honours some 178km later in the day. With little to concern the fast men and their leadout trains in regards to gradients, only a couple of Category 4 ascents punctuate the day’s racing en route to Bergerac; the Côte de Domme and Côte du Buisson-de-Cadouin. With little to fret over during these ascents, the focus shall remain upon the final kilometres intended to set the day up for a brilliant exhibition of speed and skill. The finale could play into the hands of a strong leadout as a result of late road furniture, though the run to the line should see a high speed contest crown the day’s winner, there are two late 90 degree bends to negotiate before the finishing straight.


Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel has appeared imperious during Le Tour de France up until now, often managing to secure stage honours despite a less than ideal leadout by his teammates. He has recently suffered the loss of a key man in the shape of Matteo Trentin, though the depth of talent is so great at Quick-Step, it does suggest that Kittel shall still be able to perform at his best regardless. He has survived the gruelling mountain stages well in the last couple of days and will be eager to return to winning ways on Stage 10 in pursuit of the green jersey.

André Greipel might not be the dominant force he once was, but there is a general sense that he shall leave 2017’s Tour de France with at least once victory to his name. Often only coming to the fore once the attritional nature of the race has begun to take its toll, the German great should start to see his chances of a victory improve as a result of the recent barrage of ascents. His leadout train has been one of the best so far, and now with the absence of Arnaud Démare and reduced firepower of Marcel Kittel, his hopes of taking a win will  have improve dramatically.

Dylan Groenewegen is seeking to take his place at the top table of sprinting during this year’s race, yet has not quite found himself pushing the established names close for a win. Despite the Dutchman’s immense physical prowess, he has still been left short by his teammates, often leaving him with too much work to do during the final kilometre of a stage. Regardless, the talent which he has is strong enough to succeed, so he will be hoping that the attritional nature of the race begins to bring stronger riders closer to his level during the second week.

Alexander Kristoff should be in the mix for the sprints during the race this year, though this opportunity might appear too early for the Norwegian to truly land a killer blow. Often relishing in the gruelling nature of a grand tour, Kristoff has previously performed well in the latter stages of major races, though has not truly showed enough to suggest this shall be the case in 2017. He is a canny rider despite this absence of form and it would be reckless to rule him out of contention when considering his talent for measuring his efforts perfectly on the way to victory.

Nacer Bouhanni should have a stage victory at his home grand tour by now, yet things have not managed to play out as intended for the passionate French cyclist. He is often unable to realistically match the big name sprinters, but now the fatigue is beginning to take its toll and others see teammates vanish from the race, Bouhanni should thrive in these more chaotic battles for the win. His acceleration is blistering to say the least, so on a technical and short stretch into the finish at Bergerac, the fiery Cofidis captain will fancy his chances.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has turned in a great shift for Team Dimension Data so far in the wake of Mark Cavendish’s forced retirement from the race during the opening week of racing. Though a rider who prefers tougher and more gruelling affairs, the skills of his leadout train has demonstrated their ability to launch the Norwegian hero into contention during this year’s race.

Outcome:

1st Nacer Bouhanni 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Gripel

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 7 Preview

Course:

Marcel Kittel managed to chalk up another Tour de France win yesterday, demonstrating that despite an imperfect leadout, the German’s unmatchable speed proved to be enough to deliver him a second victory at this year’s race. Stage 7 could prove to be a hat trick of stages in the first week for Kittel, the Quick-Step captain a strong favourite for the 213.5km trip from yesterday’s finale in Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges, taking in only a single categorised climb along the way. However, the terrain is relatively rolling and still has the potential to prove a draining affair if the weather compounds the attrition with temperatures soaring beyond 30 degrees celsius.


Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 7 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel appears to be performing on an entirely different level right now, dominating the bunch sprints with incredible confidence and ruthless finishing speed so far. Whether it is an alternative approach from Quick-Step due to recent team injuries, or simply a case of misfiring, Kittel has done well to secure his two victories after unusually poor leadouts. The fact that it seems inevitable that he and the team shall see their efforts click perfectly into place during this race, it could prove to be a battle for second place with the German ace on such imperious form.

Arnaud Démare took some interesting racing lines during the finale yesterday, just falling short of being able to truly push Kittel for the win in Troyes. Resplendent in the green jersey currently, with Peter Sagan now gone, France has a real hope of seeing a native rider atop the Paris podium in a leader’s jersey. It is becoming lazy to say, but Démare’s form really appears to be a once in a lifetime period for the FDJ rider, potentially setting him up for a historic Tour de France. Today’s finish is not perfect, though he seems capable of challenging for the win upon any terrain right now and could see his almost kamikaze attitude catch the faster riders by surprise.

Nacer Bouhanni is still without a debut win at his home grand tour, an incredible fact when considering just how talented the French sprinter is. Though missing the crucial guidance of Geoffrey Soupe, Bouhanni is not that far off challenging the likes of Marcel Kittel for stages and is due a good slice of fortune soon. Boxed in on Stage 6 during the decisive moments, if he can find a better wheel to follow into Nuits-Saint-Georges there will be no reason to exclude him from stage winning contention.

André Greipel will have felt like he could have done better on the previous day, despite just how far ahead Marcel Kittel was of his rivals once crossing the line. Lotto-Soudal have been performing consistently as a team, contributing well to the chase and leaving enough in reserve to position their sprinter when it proves crucial. He will need his maximum turn of pace and a perfect leadout to realistically challenge the indomitable Kittel, but it is possible.

Dylan Groenewegen still is yet to see the pieces fall into place for the young Dutchman, yet this power based finish will provide him with great hope of avoiding being snared up by those around him once again. A clear run at the line will make him a real threat given his immense top speed, Lotto-Jumbo are not far from a perfect leadout right now and are likely to be highlighting Stage 7 as a potential breakthrough day.

Dan McLaySonny Colbrelli and Alexander Kristoff all have the potential to podium if the odds prove favourable.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd André Greipel 3rd Arnaud Démare

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

The race returns to its love of double century distances before the first week is over, as the course of Stage 6 stretches a total of 216km from Vesoul to Troyes. With only a couple of small categorised climbs to be tackled along the way, all action is likely to be compacted into the final decisive kilometres in Troyes, with another bunch sprint looking certain at the end of the day.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel is the fastest man present at the race, but will need his team to perform a neat leadout in order to make his prowess count for something in Troyes. A few of his supporting riders have picked up knocks in this opening week already, of which may hamper their ability to perform as well as expected on behalf of the German powerhouse. Regardless, the consensus is that Kittel is unmatchable when everything is running smoothly and should prove the man to beat today.

Arnaud Démare now finds himself a leading contender for the green jersey and shall only have improved further as a consequence of this confidence boost. His team has looked well organised and powerful during the opening sprinting contests, perhaps even the most convincing of the sprinters’ trains thus far. The finale is not an ideal opportunity for the Frenchman, as this power based drag race does not provide him with a chance of using his talents against a slight incline.

André Greipel will view this as one of his best chances at this year’s Tour de France to take another grand tour stage victory, meaning Lotto-Soudal shall be a strong presence at the front of the bunch for most of the day. His powerful style of sprinting meets all the requirements for Stage 6 and a perfect leadout from his teammates would leave very few capable of matching him.

Dylan Groenewegen could prove the breakthrough name in the sprints this year and today’s offering is something which could launch him towards his first grand tour stage victory. A degree of misfortune has left him short of challenging for the win so far, but that must not be confused for a lack of form, as the Dutchman is certainly strong enough to contest the stage honours in Troyes. His supporting riders have already proven capable of matching the more typical leadout trains and are poised to set him up for victory at this year’s race.

Nacer Bouhanni certainly felt somewhat aggrieved by the final moments of Stage 4 when seeking to claim glory close to home, though will no doubt be fired up for today as a result of this. Despite his incredible acceleration, Bouhanni has never won a stage at his home grand tour and seems to prefer a more chaotic battle for the line. Regardless, this power based run to the finish will improve his chances and he is the rider most likely to burst forth from a rival’s wheel to take the win.

Others to watch for are Sonny ColbrelliDan McLayAlexander Kristoff and Michael Matthews.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd André Greipel 3rd Dylan Groenewegen

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Another day exceeding the 200km mark, Stage 4’s passage from Mondorf-Les-Bains to Vittel is similarly rolling to yesterday’s terrain, though should provide a more suiting finish for the thoroughbred sprinters. Starting in Luxembourg and crossing into France around the halfway point, there is little of note during much of the 207.5km route, though there is an ascent of the Category 4 Col des Trois Fontaines on offer later in the day. The finish itself is a slight drag up to the line, perhaps looking favourably upon those who have the strength, but not quite the top speed to better the likes of Marcel Kittel on a normally level playing field.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel performed well on the opening road stage, securing a convincing victory despite a rather below average leadout from his Quick – Step teammates. However, none of the sprinters’ leadout trains got it right on Stage 2 and today will be the first opportunity to remedy this factor for all the big names. Having clearly arrived at Le Tour de France in fantastic condition, it is easy to consider that Marcel Kittel could walk away with around five stage victories if everything goes to plan. Nobody looked particularly close to challenging him the other day, but the subtle increase in gradient to the line might be enough for some rivals to close the gap.

Arnaud Démare recorded an impressive second place behind Marcel Kittel on Stage 2 and will only be more of a threat to the German on a finale which rises slightly to the line. Enjoying the form of his life currently, the Frenchman has not only sustained great condition heading into his home grand tour, but is also backed by a competent leadout train to guide him into position. Assuming FDJ can execute an almost perfect final kilometre for their captain, then there is a strong possibility of seeing the first French win of 2017’s Le Tour de France.

André Greipel is confident of picking up at least one stage win at the race and has looked strong enough to achieve that ambition based on what we have seen thus far. His team were one of the few to produce a more organised leadout on Stage 2, but the ‘Gorilla’ was left a little short of being able to better his compatriot Marcel Kittel when it mattered most. Another rider who often performs well on moderate inclines, this is a convincing opportunity for Greipel to collect a stage win before the first week is even over.

Peter Sagan managed to unclip his foot in the decisive moments of yesterday’s finale and still succeeded in fending off a surging Michael Matthews by a considerable margin. Consistency has delivered him a green jersey at every Tour de France he has attended, making it certain he will be present in the kick for the line, but wether it suits him enough to win is a different question entirely.  The World Champion rises to the top when contests get attritional, so today’s short and simple run into the finish line is unlikely to truly favour him, though nothing is simple after more than 200km of racing.

Dylan Groenewegen is another who could seize the day, using the final increase to launch himself to victory and take his first career grand tour stage win. The biggest deciding factor for the Dutchman is wether his teammates can navigating him a successful pathway to the front of the action, allowing him to focus everything on producing his best effort possible.

Those capable of challenging for the win and top 10 placings include Nacer BouhanniMark CavendishJohn Degenkolb, Ben Swift and Sonny Colbrelli.

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Greipel

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

Native fans were left applauding the exploits of a Welshman in Düsseldorf on the opening day, as Geraint Thomas secured the first maillot jaune of his career and of 2017’s race. Though Thomas has always possessed a knack for prologues since joining the road alongside his track exploits, these talents had been in hibernation for sometime. Seeing them reappear and topple the giant that is Tony Martin on course meant for the world champion was extraordinary. The second stage of Le Tour de France is a 203.5km jaunt from Düsseldorf to the iconic cycling town of Liège, crossing the border into Belgium along the way. Other than a few rolling roads late in the day, the expectation is that we shall witness the first bunch sprint of this year’s race, though vicious crosswinds could cause issues amongst a nervous peloton.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel will be the best hope for German fans to recoup their losses after yesterday’s disappointment, the sprinting ace poised to dominant this long and wide finishing straight in Liège. Quick-Step look to have improved greatly in regards to leading Kittel out in sprints this season and shall be confident of executing a perfect finale in order to take a win on home-soil for the Belgian outfit. With so few technical qualms to worry about, Marcel Kittel will be able to focus on laying down the watts and burying the opposition.

André Greipel could make this a clash between two German powerhouses on Stage 2, given that the finale itself looks tailor-made for his high power drag race style of sprinting. Though he is no longer able to realistically challenge for the sprinters jersey at a grand tour or gather himself a haul of wins, Greipel rarely leaves a race empty handed and will be fully aware of how great a gift this stage could prove.

Mark Cavendish seldom enters Le Tour de France as a wild card contender, but given his recent and ongoing illness, there is a great question mark hanging over his form at the moment. He is unlikely to have wished to force a fitter rider out of the team to simply be present at the race, suggesting that Cavendish does believe he can compete in the sprints here. His greatest ally on Stage 2 could prove to be the wind, as a headwind into the finishing line would allow him to utilise his aerodynamic style to pounce upon the larger figures of André Greipel and Marcel Kittel a whisker from the line

Dylan Groenewegen is now a familiar face amongst the big name sprinters and will be one to watch on this fast finishing run into Liège. Team LottoNL-Jumbo are well prepared to support their talented sprinter at the year’s biggest race, arriving here with a leadout train capable of challenging the likes of Quick-Step if performing at their best. The young Dutchman is extremely powerful, with a high top speed, making him a firm favourite to secure stage honours.

Other riders who should finish in the top ten are Peter SaganNacer BouhanniDan McLay and Arnaud Démare.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd André Greipel