UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Road World Championships Bergen 2017 – Men’s Road Race Preview

Course:

The end of the 2017 road season is hurtling to its conclusion, with Sunday’s Men’s Road Race marking the finale of a brilliant World Championships in the Norwegian city of Bergen. Having watched the preceding races from the elite women and youngsters, today’s title challenge is anticipated to be a difficult to control affair, one which sees nations panic at the prospect of missing any decisive moves. As ever, the course to crown the next World Champion is intended to be a wearing task, chipping away at the riders upon each rotation of the circuit having completed the initial 39.5km of racing. Once the 19.1km circuits begin, the attritional nature of the course will become apparent, the day’s total mileage of 267.5km intended to see only the finest rise to the top.

The eleven laps of the circuit begin with a small rise shortly after first entering, plateauing briefly, before then dropping down once again 5km in. From this point starts much of the climbing on these laps, the road tilting upwards and eventually placing the riders at the day’s sole recognised ascent. Salmon Hill is a 1.5km hill, averaging a very consistent 6.4% on average and should be a challenge which many choose to tackle in the big ring. The drop from the summit is a simple enough descent, allowing riders to push on at great speed, though might not offer quite enough to escape a well organised peloton. The final 4km of the circuit are not particularly technical once heading back into Bergen, though two turns in the final 300m might be enough for a solo move to just cling on after the flamme rouge. With no convincing gradient present, the likelihood of a sprint deciding the day’s winner is high from a reduced bunch, though solo success as been prominent during the supporting races here in Norway.

UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan arrives in Norway with the very plausible chance of becoming the first man to win three consecutive World Championship Road Race titles. The course plays to his strengths convincingly enough and provides him with the belief he shall be the fastest men present in a sprint for the win after 267.5km of arduous racing. Two key issues are prominent however for Sagan, and the first is the fact he is Peter Sagan, a rider few others will be interested in working with as part of any moves. Having already won this twice in his career, he certainly does not need to prove himself today and could ride defensively in hope of being towed right the way to the finale. Though Salmon Hill is a key feature on the course, it is there to tire the bunch and is unlikely to prove the launchpad for another swashbuckling Sagan solo move. The second greatest issue for him is his recent illness, Peter Sagan has been sick for almost a week now and has not ridden for three days as a result. He may not be incapacitated by it, but it is certainly enough to take the edge off his form, on a day where only 100% is likely to win the rainbow stripes.

Alexander Kristoff as had an interesting season of results and performances, perhaps reaching this World Championship on home soil as a forgotten favourite, a man who has previously dominated gruelling one day races like this in recent seasons. There is no denying that the course has been built with his talents in mind, aiming to blunt his rivals throughout the day and place him in a position to deliver a home victory in Bergen. The year has not been rich in rewards for Kristoff, though victories at the European Road Race Championship and Ride London have demonstrated his innate talent for riding the perfect one day race. He is also one of the few names who is likely to benefit from miserable weather; native spectators happily cheering on a downpour with hope of improving Kristoff’s odds of winning. Surprisingly fast during a flat sprint, and with Peter Sagan potentially suffering from sickness, Kristoff may emerge as the man to beat.

Fernando Gaviria looks to be the fastest man present at the race this year and can certainly cope with the rigours of this course in convincing fashion to still challenge when it matters most. The Colombian team is a somewhat awkward fit for Gaviria however, supported by many pure climbers who are unlikely to be used to protecting a sprinter all afternoon, let alone trying to lead him out late in the day. He has often proven able to survive the cut on difficult courses like today, though admittedly sees his top end speed suffer as result, potentially leaving him short in the final metres. He is a man which many will want to see dropped, meaning his team and himself will have to be alert to all dangers in hope of keeping him in contention.

Michael Matthews chased home a victorious Peter Sagan in Richmond a couple of years ago and will feel he has only improved further since that point. The Australian team have confirmed that Matthews is the sole leader for the day, intending to keep all their riders in reserve to work for him and making it unlikely we will see any riding from them in speculative breakaway moves. Matthews is known for his indomitable sprinting skill when it comes to short uphill finales, making the Bergen course ill-fitting on paper, though things are never that simple after such a long day of racing. With a powerful and committed squad at his disposal, he should arrive as one of the freshest riders in contention if a bunch kick proves the crowning moment of 2017’s World Championship Road Race. His current form has been convincing in recent weeks and there is no doubt he will be fired up to take the rainbow stripes in the green and gold of Australia.

Elia Viviani arrives as one of the most in form riders at the race, enjoying a raft of victories in recent months and shall be another sprinter many will want to distance. Potentially the fastest man at the race for a flat sprint finish, the Italian knows he has a brilliant chance of winning, as long as he can stay in contention during the hectic concluding laps. As always seems to be the case at the World Championships for Italy, their greatest issue is the assurance of teamwork, as at least three riders shall feel they have a chance of taking the stripes in Bergen. If Viviani cannot get his compatriots united behind him, then life will only be made harder as a consequence, as any unnecessary chasing shall only serve to increase the likelihood of him cracking before the finish line is in sight. However, if he does make the cut and has managed to avoid working too hard earlier in the day, it will be surprising if anyone faster than Elia Viviani is present

Philippe Gilbert could be the joker in the pack, poised to secure an unexpected second rainbow jersey in Bergen, benefiting from a Belgium squad which boasts an incredible degree of cycling talent. As a nation lacking a convincing pure sprinter, they shall be committed to making the repetitions of Salmon Hill as hard as possible, doing their utmost to avoid a large bunch kick finishing the day off. Tiesj Benoot, Oliver Naesen and Tim Wellens are just three examples of Belgian riders which other nations shall not be able to allow any freedom to within the final 50km of racing. This should allow Gilbert to sit behind the favourites and hope to stay as fresh as possible, allowing his teammates to fracture the race repeatedly throughout the city centre circuits. Gilbert’s killer instinct will inform him of which is the key move to follow late in the day, from which his odds of winning look most likely and shall believe he has what it takes to sign off from Norway with a rainbow stripes delivering sprint.

Greg Van Avermaet shall be the equally dangerous game plan for Belgium, a man who has repeatedly shown to be a clinical finisher, specifically when small groups find themselves deciding the outcome of major races. His confidence is greater than ever these days, as recent battles against Peter Sagan have often favoured the Belgian more than the reigning World Champion. Much like teammate Philippe Gilbert, Avermaet will hope that he only needs to make two crucial efforts during the day; one to make the cut and another to win the day. If Belgium can make this course far harder than it appears on first sight, then he will be one of those who shall come to the fore and benefit from a more arduous contest.

Michal Kwiatkowski should be another rider capable of securing his second stint in the rainbow bands on today’s course, though shall not be given the freedom which previously handed him the jersey in 2014. There are no question regarding his ability to survive a day in the saddle as tough as this is likely to prove, especially after taking the win at Milan – San Remo earlier this Spring. His best hope shall be to join a strong breakaway group, as a solo attack shall be difficult on such a simple climb, from where he can choose to sprint for the win or fracture the move further in the final kilometres with a fierce attack.

Matteo Trentin looked to be enjoying great form in the recent Vuelta a España and any confirmation of him having carried his condition through to the World Championships will make him a danger to everyone’s ambitions today. Capable of winning from either a small move or larger bunch sprint, the Italian will fancy his chances on a course which is unlikely to see him dropped from the group of favourites. However, it is unclear what his team orders have been heading into this race and whether he shall agree with any request to ride entirely for his faster compatriot Elia Viviani. If not hamstrung by team orders, then Trentin will aim to vanish up the road and emerge as the fastest man present from a small group of riders.

Others to consider:

Michael Albasini is a namer few will have on their list of contenders, but the veteran Swiss rider deserves a mention off the back of recent performances at Coppa Agostoni – Giro delle Brianze and Coppa Bernocchi; winning the former and finishing fourth in the latter. Both around 200km in distance, he evidently has the condition to bother the favourites today and his sprinting has been the best since earlier this season at his home tour. It will take plenty to occur in order to place Albasini in a race winning position, though recent showings suggest he does have what is required to finish it off.

Edvald Boasson Hagen is another pick for the Norwegian’s to rally behind, especially after a great Tour de France and recent Tour of Britain, both seeing him ride aggressively throughout. It is unclear what the leadership situation is within the home nation’s team, though it would be wasteful to expect Boasson Hagen to protect Alexander Kristoff all day. If a well equipped move of contenders gets free late in the day, expect Boasson Hagen to be quick to join, aiming to bury his fellow escapees with a potent sprint to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe has seen the selectors pick a French team with the intention of supporting him as best as possible, hoping he can repeat some of his familiar early season form which has delivered him great results in the Ardennes Classics. No doubt preferring a tougher course, he might actually benefit from the plan of the Belgian team today, perhaps going as far as to unite with them to break the race apart. He looked to be rediscovering his best in the Vuelta a España a few weeks ago and is worth watching if appearing cool in the pack with less than 50km of racing left.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Philippe Gilbert

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Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

We once again arrive at the processional stage into Paris, Chris Froome having joined the exclusive club of four time Tour de France winners, despite never truly appearing to be the strongest rider in contention for the yellow jersey. Stage 21 will be a chance to relax for the Team Sky captain and his fellow riders, the common sight of champagne flutes being passed around the group, as others share family messages to the cameramen who have stalked them since the departure in Düsseldorf. The stage itself is 103km from Montgeron to the iconic finale upon the Champs Élysées, featuring a total of eight laps around the capital, each proving more hectic than the last. Though many riders like to escape the bunch over the Parisian cobblestones, seldom do their efforts steal the win, this being a day for the sprinters to dominate. Having lost Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and Arnaud Démare during the race, it may well prove a harder to control race than previously anticipated.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

André Greipel has already been backed by his fellow sprinters to secure another victory upon the Champs Élysées, a consistent performer when it comes to this tricky stage, the German now appears to be the fastest man left at the race. Despite having lost a key component of his leadout train in the shape of Marcel Sieberg, the team still have enough in reserve to offer him a protected ride into the final decisive turn of this curtain call upon 2017’s Tour de France. Assuming he is placed into the ideal position from which to sprint from, then it is unlikely that anyone else will be able to match the speed of the ‘Gorilla’.

Nacer Bouhanni will do well to redeem his Tour de France by taking a surprise win on the final day, having had to endure a pretty torrid time throughout. Seemingly spending more time throwing punches then concentrating on the task at hand, the fiery Frenchman has spurned several opportunities at the race which looked ideal territory for him to win from. Morale is not great at Cofidis, so they could do with a win to say the least, yet it will take a lot of effort to muster something resembling a serious charge for Parisian glory today.

Alexander Kristoff is another rider who has recorded a consistent level of results on this familiar conclusion to Le Tour de France, though has been unfortunate to miss out when it comes to crossing the line first. Last week he may well have emerged as the new favourite to win, but a serious fall which catapulted him hard onto the tarmac has dented his chances. Having recorded one of the slowest times in yesterday’s time trial, it is difficult to gauge if he is really suffering badly or simply saving his efforts for a stage he still believes he can win. The technical demands, positional requirements and draining cobblestones are all typical features of a Kristoff victory, and if he has truly recovered, then expect him to be pushing for the win as ever.

Edvald Boasson Hagen finally took a well deserved stage win a couple of days ago, but will not be content with just that, as this has the potential to be another feather in the cap of the Norwegian at the end of 2017’s Tour de France. Now looking to be one of the freshest fast men still at the race, Team Dimension Data are likely to be a dominant force at the head of the peloton during the deciding laps around Paris, ensuring nobody dangerous gains too great a gap on the bunch. In terms of leadout, the Norwegian can expect to have the best on offer, though it is hard to say how hard he had to dig for his recent victory and whether they may have blunted his chances as a result.

Others expected to feature amongst the top ten on Stage 21 are Dylan GroenewegenBen SwiftMichael Matthews and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Having dealt with the Alps for another year, the race begins to settle down to terrain resembling something flatter during the final days of 2017’s Tour de France. Starting in Embrun, the day gets off to a lumpy start with the Category 3 pairing of Col Lebraut (4.7 km, avg 5.8%) and Côte de Bréziers (2.3 km, avg 5.6%), though eventually settles into a manageable rhythm of gently rising and falling roads. Having continued pushing onwards through the intermediate sprint at Banon, a downhill section leads into the foot of the Category 3 Col du Pointu, lasting for 5.8km and possessing an average gradient of 4.1%. From here it is essentially a flat run into the finish at Salon-de-Provence to complete their 222.5km day in the saddle. However, those hoping to take the win in a sprint finish will need to negotiate a technically demanding finale, one with a couple of roundabouts and numerous tight bends.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 19 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews shall still be motivated to score points in the green jersey competition, even if only to hammer home the fact he has won it through great skill and not simply the abandonment of Marcel Kittel. The length of today’s stage suits him well, as does the terrain, but it is the flat and technical finale which looks set to cause trouble for the Australian sprinter. Though his last victory came about after having to sail through a couple of tight bends before the finish line, this appears to be a more demanding finale and one which is unlikely to see a rider like Edvald Boasson Hagen make the same mistake twice. Regardless, his form is fantastic at this point of the race and it feels like there is not a challenge Team Sunweb cannot rise to achieve right now.

André Greipel would be surprised if he left this year’s Tour de France without a stage victory, especially given the number of favourable days and the departures of Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare and Marcel Kittel. Today however does not look ideal for the powerful German sprinter, a rider notorious for becoming lost amongst the maelstrom of a tricky finish such as this. A fan of long power based sprints, Greipel will not be afforded such a luxury on Stage 19, though must not be ruled out given his pedigree at this level. His leadout train is diminished, making life harder still, but this could be an ideal test run of how to adapt ahead of a more desirable victory on the Champs Élysées.

Alexander Kristoff survived a nasty spill during Stage 17, crashing as a result of striking a rut in the road while descending one handed in order eat, sending him sailing through the air and crashing to the ground. Having gained several abrasions and “a slightly dislocated shoulder”, there were suggestions he would not be able to finish yesterday’s ascent of the Col d’Izoard, but the tough Norwegian proved this was simply not the case. A fully fit Kristoff would normally be favourite for this type of finish, so his recent injuries shall certainly prove even more frustrating for him on a day which plays to his strengths. The final kilometres could erupt into a head to head battle for the line as tired leadout trains begin to fall apart, giving him the chance to pounce and gain a reward for his steely determination to survive.

Edvald Boasson Hagen probably still thinks about how he should have taken the final bends of Stage 16, as a neater line would surely have sent him sailing past Michael Matthews in the final moments. Still on the hunt for a win at this year’s Tour de France, his Team Dimension Data squad have worked hard to produce competitive performances in the absence of Mark Cavendish, often finding themselves within touching distance of a breakthrough. He potentially sees himself possessing the best leadout train now present at the race, which is more than capable of launching the obviously strong Boasson Hagen onwards to a belated win. If there was going to be one stage for everything to finally click into place, for both team and rider, then Stage 19 is surely the occasion for it to happen.

Nacer Bouhanni has proven to be a great disappointment at Le Tour de France this year and does not realistically look like obtaining his first stage win at his native grand tour anytime soon. He does favour these twisting conclusions to the day however and still has a reasonably strong outfit of riders in place to guide him through the final kilometres as best as possible. His greatest weapon is his acceleration, rather than his top speed or power, making this short finishing straight ideal for his skills to step into the spotlight upon. Likely to be hiding on the wheel of bigger names in the last moments of the stage, Bouhanni’s best tactic will be to burst forth from behind the frontrunner with a perfectly executed burst of pace.

John Degenkolb held issues with the way in which Michael Matthews sprinted on Stage 16, though few professionals or pundits suggested that the German was correct to believe himself hindered by the Australian’s late manoeuvre. This hectic charge to the finishing line does not play to his strengths at all unfortunately, yet there is no denying that on paper he is now one of the fastest riders remaining. His second place finish behind Matthews showed that he can cope with a few late turns and does not deserve to be ruled out entirely because of previous form on similar finishes. The final week of a grand tour is always difficult to anticipate, but it would be a surprise to not see Degenkolb amongst the first five riders home.

Others to consider are Dylan GroenewegenSonny ColbrelliGreg Van Avermaet and Ben Swift.

 

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Michael Matthews

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

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

A victory of great panache by Warren Barguil secured a back to back correct prediction for Spokenforks yesterday, tightening his grip upon the polka dot jersey and managing to take France’s first Bastille Day win at Le Tour since 2005. Today’s 181.5km course from Blagnac to Rodez will be a tougher affair to predict than yesterday, rolling terrain lending itself well to the ambitions of the breakaway, though an uphill finish to the day will have caught the eyes of several punchier sprinters and their teams. The first of two Category 3 ascents, Côte du viaduc du Viaur (2.3km, avg. 7%) is followed relatively quickly by the Côte de Centrès (2.3km, avg. 7%), neither of which are likely to cause much of an issue for breakaway or bunch alike. Though uncategorised by the race manual, a following rise is then apparent en route to Bonnecombe, which could potentially prove a useful launchpad as the break begins to fracture late on. The road starts to drop back down to Rodez, while the tension ratchets up ahead of the decisive climb of Côte de Saint-Pierre, which lasts just 570m and averages a tough 9.6%. Expectations are that an elite sprint finish will crown the day’s winner, though this is the Tour de France and life rarely goes to plan.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet has not shown his face a great deal at this year’s race, no doubt hoping to keep himself out of trouble and in good condition ahead of today’s finish, having previously won in Rodez at the Tour de France a couple of years ago. There will be a greater amount of pressure upon the Belgium to perform now BMC’s general classification hopes have left with Richie Porte in the back of an ambulance, but also a greater degree of team support as a result. With stage wins now the team’s main agenda, everyone will be fully aware of how ideal today’s finale is for Van Avermaet and they will do their utmost to control the race especially for him.

Michael Matthews should be motivated on a day which could help him massively in the green jersey competition, as the finish will be his greatest chance of taking a victory with Marcel Kittel firmly out of the picture. His team are on a high as of yesterday’s Bastille Day victory with Warren Barguil and will be hoping to continue their success with another strong showing on Stage 14. His climbing prowess has repeatedly allowed him to showcase how much stronger he is going uphill than many of his rivals, placing him in good stead for the tests expected here. A hard day and a hard ridden finish will favour Matthews, one of the most durable riders outside of the general classification big names, possessing a brilliant uphill sprinting talent to see it off emphatically.

Philippe Gilbert fits the bill well of a potential winner for Stage 14, having the endurance required to follow the rolling attacks and sprint convincingly over the Côte de Saint-Pierre in order to distance his opposition. His greatest strength will be the support, specifically positionally speaking, of his teammates as they guide him through the concluding half of this stage. The competition will be fierce for the win today, though Gilbert has the grit to suffer the punches and emerge sharpest when it matters most.

Diego Ulissi has carved out a talent for this style of finale, so should be looking upon this with eager eyes and serious conviction to be amongst the frontrunners on the Côte de Saint-Pierre. The Italian is not at his best right now, yet should be able to contest this outcome at least, given it being towards the lower end of his toughest career victories. UAE Team Emirates have focused plenty of effort in placing Louis Meintjes well in pursuit of the white jersey, though shall be eager to take a potential stage win by switching their support to the celebrated Italian for the day.

Sonny Colbrelli will no doubt have circled this as a day to aim for since the route was first released, but would surely have liked to be sat before it in stronger condition than currently seen to be riding in. Despite this fact, Colbrelli has done well at major races when somewhat below par by simply riding smarter than his rivals, maintaining freshness for the last push to the line. With limited team support, he may end up becoming swamped by the stronger teams around him late on, so might actually prefer a tougher selection process for the finale.

John Degenkolb does have form for producing brilliantly strong efforts upon late rises to the line, yet is likely to be further down the pecking order in Rodez as a result of lacking form and weaker team support. The German has not been able to produce the level of performance previously seen by him at Le Tour de France, but can expect to edge closer to victory now the race is getting tougher for the more lightweight sprinters. Powerful enough to grind a huge gear over such a short climb, this is well within his capabilities on paper, though has not shown enough up until now to suggest he will take the win.

Daniel Martin has survived his collision with Richie Porte relatively well, though yesterday’s post-race walk to the team bus did showcase just how much pain and bruising the Irishman has suffered as a result of his misfortune. Surprisingly strong yesterday, his teammates have rallied round him to accelerate his recovery as best as possible when riding a grand tour and he definitely looks dangerous enough to challenge for stage honours if the race lends itself to the maillot jaune group. This short and sharp conclusion to the day is ideal for Martin to attack upon, but it is not necessarily likely he will be in a position to do precisely that. If however the battle for the yellow jersey swallows up the day’s smaller moves, then Martin is the most likely to win from such an outcome.

Tony GallopinJan BakelantsEdvald Boasson HagenBen Swift and Alberto Bettiol could all cause an upset from either a breakaway or simply bursting forth from a bunch sprint when least expected.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Philippe Gilbert

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 3 Preview

Course:

Though this is earmarked as another day for a bunch sprint to decide the outcome, Stage 3’s 212.5km journey from Verviers to Longwy offers a far greater number of rolling roads than yesterday and finishes with an uphill battle to the line at Côte des Religieuses. Rather than simply seeing the fastest riders in the race lay claim to stage honours, we can expect the puncheurs and those fond of classics style finales to also show their faces during the final moments. There shall be a heated battled for position as the peloton turns onto the final climb of Côte des Religieuses, opening with an incline of 8.2%, meaning there is a chance of getting stuck behind fatigued riders sliding out the back. At 1.6km in length, it manages to reach a maximum gradient of 11%, though the last 500m are considerably easier at 3% – 4%.

Le Tour de France 2017 Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews has established himself as a consistent performer upon these difficult uphill stage finishes in recent years and even won a similar challenge earlier this season at Tour de Suisse. He climbs far better than a typical sprinter and has the ability to still produce a blistering acceleration after having hauled himself up a late climb such as today’s. Support from teammate Nikias Arndt could prove decisive, as the opportunity to conserve any ounce of energy for the deciding sprint will be a great advantage for the Australian.

Peter Sagan could open his account early at this year’s race with a stage win in Longwy and will be considered the man to beat by fans and riders alike. Though he has always been quick in a kick to the line, it is these attritional conclusions which he has improved upon immensely and now finds himself a true specialist at winning upon. Sagan is brilliant at positioning himself without the guidance of others, though may finally have support in the closing moments of a stage in the shape of Jay McCarthy. Regardless, the reigning world champion will not worry if isolated and shall be confident of finding the gap required to surge forth in order to take the win.

Greg Van Avermaet is the thorn in the side of Peter Sagan on days like these, as the Belgian has risen to become one of the few riders who can consistently put the Slovakian to the sword in a head to head contest. His form might not be sparkling right now, and he does have eyes on stages later in the race as well, but his talent for uphill sprints makes him a real contender despite this. If the weather makes it a more attritional day, then Avermaet’s chances will improve further still; as the closer Stage 3 gets to becoming a Belgian classic, the more likely it is that he will take the stage.

John Degenkolb surprisingly missed out on a top ten placing on yesterday’s stage, but could be saving his efforts specifically to challenge for the win atop Côte des Religieuses. He recently finished behind Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan at the Tour de Suisse on a similar finale, suggesting that his form could be better than expected at Le Tour de France. Degenkolb can produce huge amounts of power to get over these inclines, though could come unstuck if the sprint is ignited from further out than expected, leaving him with nothing else to call upon once the inclines soften towards the line.

Phillipe Gilbert is capable of producing a potent display of aggressive riding on Stage 3’s final climb, arriving at Le Tour off the back of one of his most successful Spring campaigns for sometime. The former world champion will be able to utilise his dominance upon Amstel Gold’s Cauberg to help gauge his efforts today and can lean upon an extremely talented group of teammates to set him up for grand tour glory.

Sonny Colbrelli seems one of the most difficult riders to gauge form of, often producing eye catching results out of thin air at major races, then seemingly unable to reproduce it on days tailored to his abilities. The Italian rider should be interested in this finish, though much like John Degenkolb, could discover that it leaves him short of the pace required in the last 500m to secure victory.

Other names who have the potential to steal the show are Diego Ulissi, Michael AlbasiniZdeněk ŠtybarEdvald Boasson Hagen and Arthur Vichot.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Greg Van Avermaet