Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

There is perhaps less pressure placed upon this individual time trial than many anticipated heading into the final week, but that does not mean to say stress levels will not be soaring as the general classification favourites do their utmost to stay upright and avoid any late mishaps before the Champs Élysées. The short 22.5km course based in Marseille draws its focus to the sole climb of the day, a steep rise to Notre-Dame de la Garde which lasts 1.7km and possesses a gradient of 9.5%. The following downhill section is technically demanding and could prove hazardous if conditions are reminiscent of those seen in Düsseldorf at the start of this grand tour three weeks ago. Though the yellow jersey is unlikely to change at this late stage of the race, the general classification still as some major battles, most crucially between Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 20

Contenders:

Chris Froome will not wish to walk away from this Tour de France having won the overall and not managed to secure a stage win in the process. He has not been his normally aggressive self during this race and has relied more than ever on the strength of his teammates to ensure rivals are kept on a tight leash. He maintains that his form is now peaking during this final week, aiming to dominant this affair and hammer home a strong advantage at last.

Primoz Roglic has enjoyed a brilliant time at the Tour de France, taking great confidence into this time trial, one which he will no doubt believe is within his grasp of winning. He may well lose time on the steep ascent of Notre-Dame de la Garde and the subsequent technical descent, but has the power to outperform major rivals on the more simplistic parts of the course. At the end of such an arduous race, there is a chance of Roglic having lost a degree of explosiveness, though much of the same can be suggested of many contenders today.

Stephen Cummings entered the race in unexpectedly blistering form, though has not been fortunate enough on this occasion to take a stage victory. Had he not invested such a great deal earlier in the race, then Cummings may well have been a greater favourite for stage honours in Marseille, the feeling being that he is unlikely to have sustained the level of strength with which he first started Le Tour de France.

Vasil Kiryienka is a former world champion at the individual time trial, though has not produced that degree of performance for a long time now, often finding himself at the call of his Team Sky teammates at major races such as these instead. Of the traditional time trialists in contention here, the Belarusian rider is the one most likely to have survived in a convincing enough shape to still produce close to his best. The course does not truly suit his talents, but at the tail end of a grand tour, fatigue is often a greater factor than simply what appears favourable on paper.

Tony Martin could perhaps be the greatest time trial rider of all time, yet the German hero has seen his performances ebb and flow more than ever recently, struggling to sustain the level of dominance we once saw from him several years ago. He was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the win and yellow jersey in Düsseldorf at the start of Le Tour, no doubt pursuing this second opportunity against the clock to compensate. He will have to produce his best in order to win here, as he has invested plenty in helping his Katusha teammates and is now likely to have paid the price as a result; class is permanent however.

Others to consider are Jonathan CastroviejoStegan KüngMaciej Bodnar and Michal Kwiatkowski.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Primoz Roglic 3rd Vasil Kiryenka

Advertisements
Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

After forecasting another correct outcome at this year’s Tour de France to make it eight wins from sixteen stages thus far for Spokenforks, life gets trickier to predict as the peloton head into a pair of gruelling mountain stages. The first is a 183km passage from La Mure to Serre Chevalierfeaturing three of the most historic ascents from Tour de France history and ending with a fierce descent into the finish line. Beginning almost immediately uphill for the second day in a row, the riders start by pedalling towards the summit of the Category 2 Col d’Ormon, something of a warm up during its 5.1km duration which could soon see some struggle on its average gradient of 6.7%. A short drop back downhill will send the pack racing through the day’s intermediate sprint point, leaving them at the foot of the HC Col de la Croix de Fer, an imposing 24km long climb which continually breaks rhythm. This will make it hard for some to pace it correctly, especially if AG2R La Mondiale choose to attack Chris Froome once again, aiming to reduce his supporting riders ahead of the next two ascents.

Having survived the draining Col de la Croix de Fer and navigated safely back into the valley, the frontrunners will then be required to begin the Category 1 Col du Télégraphe. Shorter at 11.9km from top to bottom than its predecessor, though with a steeper average gradient of 7.1%, its a relatively even climb which offers extremely brief respite ahead of the concluding climb of Stage 17. The Col du Galibier is a HC challenge, opening with slopes manageable enough to lure riders anxiously waiting to attack into making a mistake, as it only gets tougher as the bunch near the summit; 17.7km long in total and an average of 6.9%. A long downhill leads all the way into Serre Chevalier, technical enough to turn the screw on rivals to begin with, though it is likely that gaps will begin to close once the descent becomes easier nearer town. A subtle drag leads up to the finish line, so it may prove ideal territory for a puncheur or even a general classification favourite to take the win.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Mikel Landa would normally be a name well worth considering for victory today, but with duties to his Team Sky leader keeping him on a tight leash, it is unlikely that the Basque rider will be allowed to attack and distance his captain in the process. He is clearly in fantastic form at the moment and evidently believes he is capable of winning the overall competition, expressing his disinterest at the potential of returning to another grand tour tethered to Chris Froome. The ascent of the Col du Galibier looks perfect for him to spring an attack from, sailing away downhill and potentially rolling any fellow escapees in a dash for the line. Should Chris Froome prove to have another bad day in the mountains; will Team Sky choose to send Mikel Landa back to help him and risk losing two riders on the general classification, or potentially give the talented lieutenant a chance to win this year’s Tour de France.

Romain Bardet will be on what many consider to be home soil for today and tomorrow, assessing how best he and his AG2R La Mondiale teammates can deal damage to Chris Froome before the individual time trial in Marseille. The Frenchman possesses the only team with the firepower capable of isolating the current maillot jaune and will be acutely aware that risking everything on tomorrow’s summit finish atop the Col d’Izoard could prove a miscalculation. The double header of Col du Télégraphe into Col du Galibier is where Bardet is most likely to make his move, attacking over the final summit and forcing a potentially lone Chris Froome to chase him down the concluding ascent. A stronger rise to the line would have made victory more likely, but if he times his offensive manoeuvres perfectly, then Bardet may well be on course for stage honours and a yellow jersey.

Dan Martin unexpectedly lost time in the crosswinds yesterday, despite finding himself well placed alongside giants Alexander Kristoff and André Greipel, compounded by the fact his Quick – Step teammates failed to live up to expectations as masters of such conditions. With their focus seemingly upon an unrealistic win for Marcel Kittel, the Irishman is now forced on the attack and will be appreciative of the stage which has been offered to him. With its long downhill run into the finish and the probability of him being the fastest present in an elite group of riders, this is a brilliant chance for Martin to collect a richly deserved stage win at this year’s race. However, the greatest concern is whether he can survive the onslaught of major climbs, especially if Romain Bardet signals his men to light the race up once again. Regardless, Martin seemed confident of returning to full fitness after his crash as the race enters its final week and will view this as an all or nothing day in the saddle.

Rigoberto Uran faces the greatest test of his surprise tilt at the yellow jersey during these next two days, as we await to discover how great a threat the Colombian may prove as the race approaches the crucial time trial in Marseille. Since his consecutive runner-up placings at the Giro d’Italia a few years ago, Uran has never appeared to be as strong as he once was in grand tours, thus this small renaissance of a much liked member of the peloton has the makings of banana skin for Chris Froome. Regardless, for now he must focus upon the task of Stage 17, one which suits his attributes well enough to hint at another potential stage win. Much like Dan Martin, his best hope is to stick within part of a small group of elite riders and hope to beat them all with the sort of acceleration which snatched victory by the millimetre on Stage 9.

Warren Barguil looks assured of standing atop the podium in Paris with the polka dot jersey upon his shoulders, yet he could still be lured out in pursuit another stage win today. With so many points on offer, Barguil could choose to hammer home his advantage by joining the early move of the day and aim to stay at the front of affairs right the way into Serre Chevalier. His form as been blistering during the race thus far, contributing to the goals of Michael Matthews equally as he has worked in pursuit of his own campaign in the mountains. The Frenchman may also instead wish to invest one final effort into a potential victory atop the Col d’Izoard tomorrow, though there is little to suggest he cannot win today if he chooses to attack.

Others who may hope to succeed from the early breakaway or attack over the summit of the final climb are Simon YatesAlberto ContadorTony GallopinPrimoz Roglic and Thomas De Gendt.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Warren Barguil 3rd Mikel Landa

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

The breakaway could finally have a chance of being allowed a shot at victory by the peloton on Stage 15, something which has become a rarity during the opening two weeks of this year’s Le Tour de France. Starting at Laissac-Sévérac L’Église, the course takes in a very lumpy 189.5km route to Le Puy-en-Velay, featuring four officially categorised ascents and plenty of shorter digs to tire the hopefuls. Beginning with a small section of flat racing, the peloton will soon find themselves heading briefly downhill in order to approach the foot of the day’s opening climb, the Category 1 Montée de Naves d’Aurbrac. The climb itself is 8.9km in length and averages a gradient of 6.4%, concluding by almost immediately starting the next challenge of Stage 15; Côte de Vieurals. A Category 3 task, it is only 3.3km long and averages 5.9%, but could prove crucial in the formation of the day’s break as a result of its proximity to the first of the day’s climbs.

There is then an extremely long duration of rolling roads, with the rise towards L’Hospitalet du Sauvage able to impact upon the escapees, before the road then plummets rapidly downhill shortly after passing Saugues. From the valley the riders will ride upwards to tackle the Category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, a climb which could leave some struggling to find a rhythm at times, lasting 8.3km with a gradient which averages out at 7.4%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will chase one another down again, quickly overcoming the Category 4 Côte de Saint-Vidal as they accelerate towards the penultimate finish before the second rest day of Le Tour.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz should be the ideal card for AG2R La Mondiale to play on Stage 15, allowing them to sit back in the bunch with their leader Romain Bardet and leave those interested in the stage outcome to take up the chase. Performances up to this point have been encouraging from the French rider and should be enough to gain the backing of his team to make a move on the tough start to the day. Gifted in all three aspects required to compete well on this course (climbing, descending & sprinting), Vuillermoz could emerge as a key protagonist on a day expected to be decided by the breakaway.

Greg Van Avermaet has previously caused a surprise when successfully taking on grand tour stages of this nature and emerging victorious at the end of what many assumed to be too tough a task for the classics focused rider. BMC are now aiming themselves at stage wins as a result of Riche Porte’s abandonment and could choose to back the Belgian hero from their strong array of breakaway riders. Certainly the fastest in a sprint of those likely to make the day’s break, if Avermaet is on top form and able to control the accelerations throughout the major challenges, then he will be a tough prospect in any deciding sprint. His greatest issues however is joining the crucial attack early on despite a categorised climb not long after the start, meaning his team could turn to the likes of Damiano Caruso or Alessandro De Marchi instead.

Tony Gallopin briefly tried to get away from the peloton late in yesterday’s stage, but soon realised his efforts were better saved for today, especially given its more fitting course. He is returning to full strength after sustaining a foot injury early in the race and now looks to be poised to make a move in order to secure another memorable win at his home grand tour. A fully fit Gallopin is capable of making the cut on the first couple of climbs and fast enough to see off many of his likely rivals in a sprint at the end of the day.

Stephen Cummings could decide that Stage 15 is another opportunity to join the breakaway and hope that the peloton are more forgiving in comparison to his earlier efforts last week. Having taken both national titles the weekend before Le Tour de France kicked off, many were surprised by his strength and condition, given that he had been out of competition due to broken bones for some time. An extremely astute rider tactically, Cummings will not wish to waste energy in the rolling attacks which occur when riders seek to escape from the peloton. Instead, he will wait until he sees the right move beginning to form and then commit his efforts in order to increase its chances of sticking. If he can do this, then the final 40km – 50km offer him opportunities to go it alone and push for the win using his time trial talents once again.

Nicolas Roche will be hoping to bring some celebrations to BMC after a torrid first half of the race, now potentially the strongest man available to them, given his lack of lieutenant duties which are likely to have kept him relatively fresh compared to others with eyes on Stage 15. Very strong on his day, the Irish rider will be hoping to set a strong pace which ditches the faster riders hoping for a larger sprint, as he knows that a tough race is bound result in him being the fastest men left at the front of affairs.

Lilian Calmejane already showcased his talents a few stages ago and will be eager to revisit his exploits once again on Stage 15. No doubt marked more closely now than before his victory, the French rider will be expected to animate the selection process upon the opening climb of the day and pin his hopes upon slipping away from his rivals in the final quarter of the day to take another brilliant win.

Alberto Contador is the rider most likely to attack from the group of original general classification favourites, though admits himself that his focus is now upon stage wins rather than a good overall position by the time the race reaches Paris. The finale is the most unappealing aspect of the course today, as he will be concerned that faster riders will be able to follow him into the finish town, so will want to work hard in the second half of the race to force another split amongst the break.

Others to consider are Alessandro De MarchiDamiano CarusoTiesj BenootEsteban ChavesGianluca Brambilla and Primoz Roglic.

Outcome:

1st Alexis Vuillermoz 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Alberto Contador

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Those wishing to sustain a serious campaign upon the general classification will need to ignite their ambitions with serious determination on Stage 9’s gruelling course. Starting in Nantua, the day begins immediately uphill and completes two categorised climbs within the first 11km of racing. A total of 181.5km will be traversed en route to Chambéry and a brutal trio of HC climbs will provide the first true insight as to who is struggling to find their best in the mountains this year.

First of the three major ascents to be ridden is the HC Col de la Biche, a 10.5km long climb which sustains a draining 9% average gradient, though features steeper sections along the way. The subsequent descent offers no true recovery opportunity, leading immediately to the base of the HC Grand Colombier, a historic feature of Le Tour de France for many years, the riders will be familiar with its average gradient of 9.9% and total 8.5km distance. A rapid descent then places the bunch back down into the valley, taking in the day’s intermediate sprint and the Category 4 Côte de Jongieux, before the showdown on the day’s concluding climb.

Mont du Chat is a particularly brutal HC challenge, lasting for 8.7km and tasking the peloton with ascending a mind numbing average gradient of 10.3%; ramps of 15% are also present on the way to the summit. There is no chance of hiding poor form on Stage 9 after such attritional climbing, as even the descent from the final climb of the day is an equalling gruelling affair, with tight hairpin bends being negotiated through dense tree lines. The frontrunners at the end of it all will have approximately 14km to stay at the head of affairs in order to contest the win in Chambéry at the end of the day.


Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Romain Bardet knows that he will have to make these outrageously tough days in the mountains count for something early on at this year’s Tour de France, as having to close any substantial lead which Chris Froome may establish heading into the first rest day will be the start of a huge challenge. There is a feeling amongst the riders that Froome is perhaps not as strong as expected in this opening week, hoping instead to peak for the final run of Pyrenean stages instead. This should be an opportunity too great to resist if true and Romain Bardet is the best equipped rider to take advantage of it. He enjoys these steep climbs, but most crucially, is not afraid of descending at eye watering speeds in pursuit of victory. If he attacks over the top of the Mont du Chat, then he could end up soloing all the way to victory in Chambéry.

Dan Martin will expect to be one of the fastest riders present in an elite group which forms as a result of the day’s final climb. Without the eternal thorn in the Irishman’s side at the race now (Alejandro Valverde), he can focus on saving himself for the final run into the finish line, where a strong sprinting performance from him is unlikely to be matched by those who have also made the cut. However, that in itself is the greatest issue for Martin, as an explosive race may jettison him before the final ascent due to the ferocity of the general classification battle.

Fabio Aru cannot be ignored on a stage like today’s, the reigning Italian road race champion having a real penchant for these horrendously steep climbs and could choose to combine them with his aggressive style of racing in order to put immense pressure on the likes of Chris Froome and Richie Porte. He seems the one most likely to not stick to the generally agreed race plan amongst the major names, potentially going on the offensive earlier than many anticipate to see who is most interested in following.

Thibaut Pinot should prove an enthusiastic presence on Stage 9, as the Frenchman will need a strong showing if he is to have a realistic chance of obtaining the polka dot jersey or a stage win at this year’s race. Having arrived off the back of a tough Giro d’Italia, his form has perhaps dipped, though Pinot has never raced particularly strongly in the opening uphill stages of Le Tour de France in recent years. If he does not prove to be overly fatigued, then this should arrive at the ideal time for him to stretch his legs and push on for a jersey and stage double.

Rigoberto Uran has the turn of pace required to win from a small group after the strains and stresses of Stage 9, but needs to be on his toes in order to ensure he manages to join the race winning move. Surprisingly quiet during yesterday’s infinite exchanges and skirmishes to shape the breakaway, Uran has perhaps chosen to keep his powder dry especially for today instead. He is no longer the climber which once delivered him podium placings at the Giro d’Italia, though is capable of producing his best when a chance like this appears on his radar. The tactic for Uran shall be to join the right move, conserve as much energy as possible and look to regroup over the Mont du Chat and finish his rivals off in a sprint to the line.

Chris Froome needs to put down a marker soon, as rumblings persist that he is not quite on his best form right now. There shall be no need for him to be the aggressor today, allowing him to challenge his rivals to light the race up if the wish to take the maillot jaune from upon his shoulders. However, we have seen previously that he likes to prove a point at the earliest opportunity possible, meaning it would come as no surprise to see him attack on the final climb in order to contend for the stage win.

Richie Porte and BMC are almost anxious at the prospect of not being able to land a blow on Chris Froome already, despite there being very few opportunities to achieve precisely that in the opening week. Perhaps not as strong as expected entering the race, Porte has the credentials to challenge for the win and cause a stir amongst the general classification, but needs to ride clever to achieve this. A great time trial rider, he should know how to pace his efforts through the day’s major climbs, before once again calling upon these talents to solo his way to victory in the final 14km of flat terrain.

Others worth considering are Pierre RollandPrimoz RoglicJarlinson Pantano  and Louis Meintjes.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

This year’s edition of the biggest race in cycling shall depart from the German city of Düsseldorf, with a short individual time trial to decide who gets to wear the first maillot jaune of 2017. Offering only a couple of moderate rises during its 14km entirety and minimal turns to negotiate safely, this is a course designed to produce a drag race amongst the riders blessed with an ability against the clock. The greatest challenge to the contest shall be the threat of rain, potentially favouring those who manage to race the course on entirely dry roads. Regardless, it is certain to be a great celebration of Le Tour in Germany and one bound to be afforded a thrilling contest given the potent array of time trial specialists present.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 1 Preview

Contenders:

Tony Martin has long seen this day marked in his diary, the organisers doing their utmost to produce a course which will favour the native rider and ensure one of the nation’s most popular riders starts Stage 2 in yellow. His prowess in this discipline has proven astonishing at times in his career, long since securing his place amongst the greatest ever time trialists, though this opening stage distance is not quite synonymous with such performances of his. Martin favours days which allow him to utilise his diesel engine style of riding, churning over a huge gear and sustaining the grind throughout the race. With only 14km to contest on the first stage, the reigning world champion will need to be much more explosive and produce the sort of display we associate with him in time trials more than twice as long as today’s.

Primoz Roglic appears to be improving consistently against the clock and will enter Stage 1 as a real threat to the German organisers’ dreams of Tony Martin ending the day in the maillot jaune. His style of riding has subsequently changed as a result of realising his abilities in this discipline and will feel confident of challenging for the win on this short course. Though he may not have the sustained power of main rival Martin, Roglic is likely to be able to get up to pace more rapidly than the German and make this an extremely tight battle.

Jonathan Castroviejo is another rider who has seen his prowess in these contests increase in recent seasons and should be aiming for a podium finish on Stage 1 at the very least. He would have preferred something with a few more technical demands and rises in terrain, but should still turn in a strong showing despite these factors. The Movistar rider may not have been at his best during the start of the season, though now seems to be finding his best again when it matters most.

Stefan Küng arrives here after taking the Swiss TT title just last week and will be seeking to carry his blistering form onto the starting ramp in Düsseldorf. The route is hard to anticipate in terms of favourability for the talented Swiss rider, but the consensus is that it offers the minimum required for him to mount a serious charge for the yellow jersey.

Jos van Emden has truly established himself as one of the most talented prologue and short-distance time trial riders currently in the peloton, no doubt looking upon the stage profile with great delight. It will be difficult for him to reproduce his excellent form from this season’s Giro d’Italia once again, but if he can at least come close to replicating it, then he has a convincing chance of winning this first day of 2017’s Le Tour de France.

Others worth considering for top 10 placings are Stephen CummingsMichael MatthewsMichal Kwiatkowski and Maciej Bodnar.

Outcome:

1st Tony Martin 2nd Jos Van Emden 3rd Primoz Roglic

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 15 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s monstrous Queen Stage of 2016’s Giro d’Italia confirmed that Esteban Chaves, Steven Kruijswijk and Vincenzo Nibali look to be the strongest climbers from the general classification contenders as we approach the third week. Stage 15 throws another potential banana skin beneath the wheels of the favourites today with a 10.8km uphill time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi. The almost constant ascent from start to finish is poised to truly begin opening the gaps up on the general classification, potentially extinguishing the ambitions of some riders upon its slopes.

giro-ditalia-stage-15-preview

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves made yesterday’s victory look much easier than it actually was, gauging his efforts neatly within the chasing group to close down Darwin Atapuma and eventually sprinting to victory with a late surge to the line. Given his performance, it is easy to see him as the favourite for Stage 15’s time trial, especially as the contest is more about climbing talent than it is technical time trialling prowess. Assuming that Chaves recovers well overnight, the Colombian has a fantastic chance of making it back to back wins at a grand tour with an impressive climbing performance against the clock.

Vincenzo Nibali may have struggled to follow the day’s decisive move, but given the huge demands and efforts required, it is possible to suggest he has identified today as a way of recouping time having limited his losses yesterday. The biggest issue however is that he did not look like a man in control of his suffering on Stage 14 and instead genuinely looked unable to summon the required strength to follow the likes of Chaves and Kruijswijk when it mattered most. Nibali attacked earlier than expected too, potentially hinting at anxieties regarding his condition by using offence as the best defence. Regardless, this course suits him well and he cannot be discounted purely due to a single off day in a three week grand tour.

Steven Kruijswijk is currently turning in the level of performance which has long be anticipated from the talented Dutch climber and is certain to be one of the fastest home on Stage 15. The trouble for Kruijswijk is that this short time trial is likely to make it difficult for him to truly lay down the power and challenge his rivals. Being a larger and more powerful climber should allow him to gain time on the opening section and later false flat sections though, which could potentially equal enough to give him the win.

Rafal Majka has a good history for performing on days like these and has been one of the stronger climbers at this year’s Giro d’Italia beneath the top tier of Chaves, Kruijswijk and Nibali. The Polish rider is well skilled in measuring his efforts, ranging from time trials to breakaways, so is worth keeping an eye upon here.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s showing thus far has been rather mixed, showcasing a threatening sharpness in the first week, before then diminishing somewhat after several crashes during the earlier rain-soaked time trial. Unlike Nibali, Zakarin did appear to be pacing himself in the wake of the attacks today, so potentially stands to be one of the fresher GC contenders on Stage 15. The Russian is a time trial specialist who has grown to become a convincing climber, so today’s task should play to his strengths perfectly. His time here is likely to provide us with a strong indication of his chances of finishing the third week with a chance of a podium place too.

Alejandro Valverde was one of the first to be dropped after Nibali, Chaves and Kruijswijk all exchanged attacks and sent him sliding out the back door. The Spanish rider has done little to convince people of his form at this Giro thus far, but given his time trialling capabilities, he should turn in a respectable time; even if it does not threaten for the win.

Sebastian Henao, Domenico Pozzovivo, Primoz Roglic, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Pirazzi are all names likely to fill the day’s top ten placings.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Steven Kruijswijk