La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

The day’s 149.7km course from Caso. Parque Natural de Redes to Gijón should inspire an aggressive approach to racing from the bunch, as with so few opportunities remaining for riders and teams to save their race, interest will be great on Stage 19. Though a flat finale is on offer for the sprinters, it is bound to prove a considerable task in order to be at the front of the race once the finish line approaches, as the course will make controlling any breakaway hard work.

Without giving the riders much of a chance to find their climbing legs, the day’s first climb appears after around only 20km, coming in the shape of the Category 1 Alto de la Colladona. This opening ascent averages 6.8% for 7km, though comes very close to touching double digit gradients at times and will form the day’s gruppetto for many in the bunch. Once over the top, a considerable downhill stretch begins and runs right the way to the opening slopes of the Category 3 Alto de Sto. Emiliano (6.8 km, avg 4.5%). This is soon followed by another Category 3 ascent, the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos, which looks a tougher task on paper with an average gradient of 8.2% for 4.3km. A rolling run of terrain then lasts for 25km, dropping down rapidly after another small rise and placing the riders at the base of the day’s final climb. The Category 3 Alto de San Martin de Huerces is relatively short at 4.5km, though its average gradient of 7.2% is potent enough to decide the day’s outcome before the finish line is even worth worrying about. A sharp charge from the top leads into Gijón, potentially allowing a solo move to stay clear during the descent, though a well organised group could close the gap and duke it out amongst a reduced sprint.

 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 19 Preview

Cotenders:

Pello Bilbao shall be hoping his raw strength can help establish himself amongst the day’s expected breakaway, the Astana rider is well suited to the short climbs throughout Stage 19 and has done well to carry much of his earlier form into this final week. His greatest issue shall be whether he will be afforded the freedom to attack, as his responsibilities to his team have increased with the immense performance of Miguel Lopez upon the general classification. If he is allowed to invest his efforts into today’s stage, then there is a good chance Bilbao will be one of the strongest present in a winning move.

Alberto Contador will not be content with leaving his final native grand tour without a final stage win and the day’s profile has all the makings of a classic Alberto Contador long range attack. The choking nature of Team Sky will be a major obstacle to overcome in his attempts to seal a farewell win, though a tight race which reaches the final climb could lend itself perfectly for him to catch the fellow general classification big guns napping, stealing an advantage late on and holding it right to the line.

Rui Costa should be a capable of making any moves which form on the day’s first climb, reminding many of his capabilities on these days which are packed full of short climbs the former world champion has previously performed so well upon. Though he has not garnered a great deal of attention during the race so far, he has actually tried repeatedly to make the crucial stage breakaways and been extremely unlucky to miss out. He will be a difficult companion to ditch before a potential sprint finish, especially as so few will even have the turn of pace to compete with him after such hotly contested day.

Nicolas Roche might choose Stage 19 to try and recover some glory from 2017’s Vuelta a España, as his general classification hopes have slipped through his fingers and now a stage win appears his only remaining chance of salvaging a prize of sorts. He possesses all the requisite skills to perform well today, the ascents suiting him sufficiently enough and a sharp downhill to the line where he has a great chance of being one of the fastest of a breakaway present.

Alessandro De Marchi will surely prove to leave the race as the most combative rider, having featured so regularly in the breakaways during this year’s La Vuelta a España, it has become a question as who will join the Italian in the moves. Perhaps the final chance he shall have at taking a win, it is likely he will somehow muster the energy required to feature yet again, perhaps finally taking a much deserved stage win. His immense skill at identifying the perfect time to attack has been unrivalled at the race this year and it seems only a case of odds until he is finally rewarded.

Daniel Moreno suits this course particularly well and the Spaniard has certainly been on the rise in recent stages which feature this accumulatively draining series of ascents. Certainly entering the tail end of his career, Moreno is still one of the best when it comes to late challenges like today’s Alto de San Martin de Huerces and will know exactly how to time his move to perfection.

Others to consider are Luis Leon SanchezLuis Angel MatéChris FroomeSimon Yates and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Pello Bilbao

Advertisements
La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course

A relatively short day at 169km in duration, though one which again packs much of the anticipated action in the latter stages of the day’s racing. Starting in Suances, the route to Santo Toribio de Liébana does not begin any significant climbing until around 100km of riding has been completed by the riders. The first of the day’s recognised climbs is the Category 3 Collada de Carmona (4.8 km, avg 7.2%), signalling the start of a sawtooth triple header which also features the Category 3 Colaada de Ozalba (6 km, avg 6.6%) and then concludes this rapid blast of ascents with the Category 2 Collada de la Hoz (7 km, avg 6%), the peak of which then sends the riders down another ascent before the final charge to the finish line. The last climb of the day is the 3.2km (avg 6.4%) rise to the finish line on Stage 18, likely to function as a crucial springboard for those hitting out for victory from a bunch of frontrunners.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Woods could finally hit out for a stage victory on a stage finish which plays convincingly to his strengths. He has managed to stick relatively closely to the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador throughout the race thus far and will now be afforded the chance to utilise his sparkling form to bring some happiness to the ailing Cannondale – Drapac team.

Julian Alaphilippe has shone brightly during the race this year and will be confident of being in the frame for stage honours yet again today. He has animated the days on a regular basis, which may have cost him somewhat ahead of Stage 18, though his condition has been so encouraging that he seems like he can achieve anything he sets his mind to right now.

Miguel Angel Lopez really stepped into the limelight during La Vuelta a España this year, proving incredibly strong and a consistent thorn in the side of those hoping for unexpected breakaway success. Despite his swashbuckling performances, Lopez still appears in competitive condition, having managed to avoid fatiguing too much as a consequence. If part of a group reaching the final rise first, he will be an obvious favourite to go all the way.

Rafal Majka finally mustered glimpses of his best last week and now looks a threatening presence for the win if a breakaway makes it all the way to the concluding kilometres. The amount of climbing late on plays into his hands well, though there are questions as to whether the terrain is truly tough enough to extract the best performance possible from the Polish rider.

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins, having looked relatively animated on occasions, though there are suggestions he may have eyes upon a bigger prize later in the race. The final climb to the finish is a fitting finale for the surprisingly punchy French rider, though much like potential rival Rafal Majka, the last push for the win might not be steep enough to allow Bardet to really hammer home an advantage.

Others to consider are Daniel MorenoRui CostaAdam YatesAlberto Contador and Pello Bilbao.

Outcome:

1st Michael Woods 2nd Romain Bardet 3rd Julian Alaphilippe 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Though yesterday was billed as a day for the sprinters, other than the blisteringly on form Matteo Trentin who took the win, it failed to be the conclusion which we were anticipating. Regardless, that quasi-sprint was a brief reminder of the fast men being present at La Vuelta, as Stage 14 immediately returns to the mountains with a summit finish. Beginning in Écija and finishing atop Sierra de la Pandera, the day clocks in at 175km and is essentially climbing for the entire duration. Rising gently from the starting line, the first recognised climb is encountered after 76km of racing in the shape of the Category 3 Puerto el Mojón, an 8.8km challenge which averages a gradient of 3.7%. After the subsequent descent, the peloton will face an extended period of rolling terrain, finally reaching the next significant ascent around the 144km marker. The Category 2 Alto Valdepeñas de Jaen is similar to its predecessor at 8.5km and averaging 4.8%, though it is what follows so soon after which makes it crucial. The Category 1 Sierra de La Pandera totals 12km from bottom to top and possesses an average gradient of 7.3% on paper, though the reality is that of a climb which is irregular throughout. Tipping upwards to beyond 10% in the opening couple of kilometres, the climb momentarily softens, before swinging between 5% – 13% en route to the summit. It drops down just before the finish line, though the last push to the chequered flag will be against a reasonable incline.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 14

Contenders:

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins and should find the final third of today as having the sort of terrain which brings his skills to the fore. With little in the way of flat roads, a few rapid descents and climbs which repeatedly kick between gradients; the Frenchman is a clear frontrunner today. His previous effort several days ago was encouraging, suggesting he has not suffered too greatly from arriving here off the back of Le Tour de France and is still posing a genuine danger to the rest on these tough finales.

Darwin Atapuma was the main accomplice in Romain Bardet’s attack earlier in the race, the two combining well together late on and there is no reason to suggest why Atapuma may not find himself in that position once again. Evidently feeling good at La Vuelta, he will be confident of making a breakaway early on, though might now be more aware that he shall need to avoid going head to head with riders of Bardet’s calibre for the stage win.

Rui Costa has not been as active as perhaps expected, but the realisation that a convincing general classification placing was not possible, should now provide him with the freedom to try and follow the key moves on Stage 14. Though not a pure climber, he is very successful when it comes to placing himself in the best possible situation to win from and there is every chance that he may already have too great an advantage to catch once on the final climb. He can certainly sprint well after a tough day, so with a final kilometre which dips down and then up again to only a few degrees, he might be the best bet to win from an elite group.

Pello Bilbao will be hoping to make the cut today, his form bubbling under particularly well at the moment and he will not wish for this to be wasted amongst the peloton all day. Though duties to his team and team leader Fabio Aru could prove impossible to escape, the natural selection process of the final climb could see him as their best placed rider regardless. Bilbao exited the rest day looking sharp and stands a good chance of making it count for something if given the freedom to try.

Joe Dombrowski could be amongst those who choose to try their luck from a long range breakaway, though this perhaps is not tough enough to really get the best from him. The lithe limbed climber is still without a grand tour stage win surprisingly, though that is no true reflection upon his capabilities for these mountain stages. If he can find himself in a well drilled and strong move, then the American might finally strike it lucky.

Others to look for include Adam YatesRafal Majka, Igor AntonJulian Alaphilippe and Sergio Pardilla.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Pello Bilbao 3rd Joe Dombrowski

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Another day with starts with relatively little to speak about, the short 160.1km Stage 12 route from Motril to Antequera should be another contest with plenty of aggressive riding late on in order to entertain. After 80km of almost perfectly flat racing, the peloton will begin the first of two ascents on Stage 12, the Category 1 Puerto de Leon. A 17.4km long climb which averages a modest 4.9% gradient overall, though the reality is that of a mountain which reaches double figures in the first third, before dipping downwards and kicking up once again for the final kilometres. The summit will signal the beginning of a gradual descent towards the concluding climb of the day, the Category 2 Puerto del Torcal, a 7% average gradient climb which lasts for 7.6km. A rapid charge from the top will then signal the final 20km rush to the line, which is a simplistic finale with only a slight incline in the final few hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

Contenders:

José Joaquín Rojas has been looking particularly strong as of late and should have another chance at getting into the day’s key breakaway move. His strength should allow him to work alongside more powerful riders on the opening flat section, but once they hit the mountains, then Rojas will be able to contribute towards helping to thin the ranks of contenders down. There is no question that he is one of the fastest riders present who could win from a small sprint after a day like this, making him a standout candidate for the win on Stage 12.

Adam Yates was highlighted for yesterday’s stage, though it was his brother who was seen animating the racing instead, thus we will point to Adam once again for today’s contest instead. He lost ten minutes during yesterday’s tough finale, though might be able to summon up the energy to contest this more realistic prospect today. A still developing talent, it is difficult know how fatigued he is already, though he remains a danger if able to smuggle himself aboard the breakaway.

Julian Alaphilippe will be top of the list of favourites for many casting their eyes over today’s contenders, the Frenchman riding in imperious form and certainly deserving of another stage victory as a result. He is a canny tactician who is able to gauge his efforts very effectively, especially when riding alongside those many would expect to be either climbing stronger or finishing faster. If he can find himself in a potential winning position once again, then it might be a forgone conclusion as to where the stage victory shall be heading.

Rui Costa has become more proficient at breakaways in recent years, making him a definite name to consider on a course such as this in the second week of a grand tour. Certainly capable of making any selection which forms during the faster flatter section early on in the stage, Costa can climb with the best on his day and a likely sprint finish just plays to his strengths yet further still.

Luis Léon Sanchez has repeatedly failed to strike out for glory when expected, perhaps suffering from the constraints of greater team duties, yet this is another day which should certainly entice him into action if afforded the opportunity. Another ride who possesses the requisite blend of power on the flat and endurance for the climbs, there is little argument to be made against him if featuring in the key move on Stage 12.

Others to watch out for are Pello BilbaoOmar FraileAldemar ReyesEnric MasDaniel Moreno and Lachlan Morton.

Outcome:

1st José Joaquín Rojas 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Julian Alaphilippe

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises a spectacular finale at the end of a 187.5km journey from Lorca to Observatorio Astronómico De Calar Alto, as a quick double header of Category 1 ascents are crammed into the second half of the day. Though climbing immediately from the start, this is a short lived feature, as the road settles downwards once again for a considerable period of time. Having begun to rise again after 75km of racing, the serious climbing starts to bubble up once beyond the 100km marker, as an anxious peloton approaches the Category 1 Alto de Velefique. The 13.2km climb does not hesitate to begin testing the day’s contenders, ratcheting up to 11.5% early on and sustaining an average gradient of 8.6% from bottom to top; though a final kick of 15% is present at the summit. A sharp descent immediately follows and offers little in the way of recovery before tasking the bunch with battling their way up the Category 1 Calar Alto. A 15.5km climb which averages 5.9%, though this is somewhat misleading, as much of the steeper climbing is front-loaded during the ascent. Opening with 12% and not dropping below 9% for the opening 5km, it then softens relatively in the middle, before finally reaching 10% in the final kilometre ahead of flattening out at the line. It will require a great effort to survive, let alone win Stage 11.La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Ilnur Zakarin has proven to be one of the few riders who is improving as these tough mountain stages progress and could now be at the point he begins to establish an advantage over some rivals. He might not have the complete freedom to truly escape the indomitable Team Sky train, but if the race is relatively tight during the final ascent, then the Katusha captain has a great chance of getting the jump on everyone else. There is a possibility of bad weather during Stage 11, something unlikely to undermine his chances, though it may mean he needs to take the descent between the two categorised climbs less aggressively than normal.

Rafal Majka shall be the pick of many pundits on a day expected to be highly attritional late on, even before the possibility of thunderstorms has made any sort of impact. He showed a glimpse of his best form during last week and a rest day since then should only have helped that to crystalise yet further still. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an elite general classification group, the Polish rider has demonstrated his talents for days like these before and could emerge the favourite to romp home to victory.

Romain Bardet may have eyes set upon tougher stages than today’s challenge, but this would prove a greater exercise in establishing whereabouts his form is at the moment. A courageous descender in any weather, he could make an advantage stick after the Alto de Velefique and push hard to sustain it right the way to the summit finish on Stage 11. Given the final steep ramp to the line, it might benefit the Frenchman to be part of a well working group for as long as possible, before then utilising his talent for dominating these wall like inclines to win.

Jan Polanc has previously caught the peloton napping on grand tour stages like this and is certainly capable of repeating this achievement once again given his current form at La Vuleta. Having recently conceded time upon the general classification, there is a good chance he will no have a greater level of freedom to pursue the day’s breakaway moves and will be a tough rider to reel back in if escaping solo late in the day.

Others to consider from long distance breakaways and late attacks are Joe Dombrowski, Adam Yates, Tejay Van GarderenChris FroomeOmar FraileAlberto Contador and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Rafal Majka 3rd Jan Polanc

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

This year’s race does not hesitate to send the peloton into the high mountains early on in the grand tour, challenging them with a 158.5km stage from Prades Conflent Canigó to Andorra La Vella, featuring a total of three categorised climbs. Ascending immediately from the start, the bunch will begin climbing the Category 1 Col de la Perche, a 19.5km long rise which averages a gradient of 4.8%. Having reached the summit of this early climb, the route begins to gradually drop downwards, eventually placing itself at the foot of the day’s second Category 1 climb; the Coll de la Rabassa. Likely to impact strongly upon the day’s eventual outcome, the 13.3km climb averages 6.8%, though the ramps of double digits which hit 15% could put some in trouble. From the top a fast descent is expected, the frontrunners hammering it to be first to the start of the final climb on Stage 3, the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella. Lasting for only 4.3km, the 8.6% gradient could be ridden at such an intensity that we see some serious fractures occur in the bunch, where only a proficient descent into the finish could close any dangerous gaps.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile could choose to launch his bid for the mountains classification today, riding aggressively on a fitting course to collect points and push onwards to eventually taking the stage itself. He has previously taken victories from similar stages by attacking from a breakaway which has set the pace all day, as well as riding aggressively late on to break up the main bunch. Regardless of his overall ambitions at La Vuelta this year, Stage 3 is an ideal opportunity to gauge how realistic those hopes are.

Julian Alaphilippe is another rider who has all the attributes to perform well during a stage like this, possessing the skills to win from almost any situation, assuming he is at the front of the race. Yesterday suggested that the Frenchman has arrived in convincing form for this contest, no doubt making him an even greater marked man than would normally be a given on such a stage. Dangerous from either a small group or solo move late in the day, anyone who hopes to win Stage 3 will need to keep Alaphilippe on a tight leash, as he could prove unstoppable if given the room to attack.

Adam Yates has been reunited with his twin brother for this grand tour, which shall surely mean we see plenty of moves from the two British riders to animate the race throughout the three weeks. Today’s offering might be enticing enough to lure Adam into action, perhaps placing himself within the day’s main move and seeking to push on solo or with an elite group of riders in the closing kilometres. The final climb of the day looks to be an obvious springboard for him to make an attack, whether from the peloton or an earlier break, aiming to descend rapidly and finish off any remaining rivals in a sprint to the line.

Rui Costa enjoyed a strong start to the season and perhaps deserves to have picked up a greater number of wins, given such sparkling form for most of the year. The former World Champion could chance his luck in a breakaway, hoping to be part of a small group which decides the stage honours for the day, as he shall be confident of being one of the fastest present in a sprint. A larger group is bound to diminish his hopes of winning, thus the Portuguese rider will need to be proactive in order to give himself a shot at the win.

Giovanni Visconti will be a dangerous prospect if handed the chance to attack on Stage 3, especially on terrain which is well within his capabilities of performing strongly upon. Team orders could limit his freedom to pursue stage winning opportunities, though by tactically choosing to place him up the road early in the day, Visconti could benefit from a dynamic which limits his need to invest energy; allowing him to give it everything over the final two climbs to attack solo.

Other riders worth watching out for on Stage 3 are Luis León Sánchez, Darwin Atapuma, Jarlinson Pantano, Rohan Dennis and Michael Woods.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Adam Yates

Giro d'Italia 2017 Logo

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

The penultimate day of 2017’s centenary Giro d’Italia is one final opportunity for the mountains to cause a change in the order of the current general classification before Milano. Starting in Pordenone, the day’s first summit comes a few kilometres before the 40km marker, the 1.1km Category Muro di ca’ del Poggio is a steep affair which averages 12.7% and has a sharp maximum kick of 18%. The terrain proceeds to roll onwards for a sustained period, eventually striking upon the first of two Category 1 ascents in the shape of the imposing Monte Grappa. The rather irregular nature of the ascent past the midway point can cause problems for riders who prefer to settle into a steady rhythm, making the 24.2km ascent a potential banana skin for those with bad legs on the day. With an average gradient of 5.3% and a maximum of 11%, it may not prove enough to entice the big name maglia rosa contenders to commit much in the way of attacking though. An extended descent lasts for just over 20km and places the riders on a short section of flat roads with around 40km left to race, of which includes the final climb of 2017’s Giro d’Italia; the Category 1 Foza. These 14km of uphill racing are the last opportunity for those pursuing the maglia rosa to utilise the slopes to drive open gaps amongst the frontrunners and place themselves in an encouraging position with only Milano’s individual time trial remaining. The average gradient is 6.7% and offers a steepest increase of 11% for potential attackers to make their move; knowing that the final descending kilometres into Asiago offer little in the way of opportunities to attack before they complete Stage 20’s 190km.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot lived up to expectations during the final ascent of yesterday’s stage, proving to be the strongest and most animated of the main general classification favourites. This final week has seen the Frenchman improve his form considerably, and having now moved into touching distance of a final podium position, Pinot will surely view Foza as an ideal springboard to victory. With a downhill run into the finish, it is possible that the FDJ captain could arrive into the finish with rivals alongside him, from where the expectation would be for Pinot to win a sprint.

Mikel Landa has finally collected a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia after having seen two previous day’s slip through his fingers in the final metres. However, the Team Sky rider is unlikely to believe his hunger for victory has been satisfied after yesterday’s win, especially when enjoying such a rich vein of form. As stated previously, he offers little in the way of danger to the general classification and should once again be allowed a great deal of freedom to contest stage honours on the penultimate day. Expected to attack from long range, Landa has shown to be hard to match on the climbs in the last week, making him an obvious pick here.

Ilnur Zakarin was one of the few general classification riders to attempt several moves upon Stage 19’s final climb, walking away with a small time gain over the podium favourites, but was unable to ditch his nearest man on the GC Domenico Pozzovivo. Similar to Pinot, the Russian has ridden himself into his best form during this decisive concluding week of the Giro d’Italia and certainly looks dangerous on this terrain ahead of the following day’s individual time trial. A good performance here, combined with another in the race against the clock in Milano, could secure him fifth place on the general classification and potentially even challenge for fourth.

Domenico Pozzovivo sees himself caught up in this battle for places 4th – 6th in the concluding stages of the race, showing a consistent tenacity to follow the moves which matter to him most. He has managed to avoid investing too much energy in recent stages, focusing on staying buoyant amongst the general classification and ensuring he does not suffer from as a result of a costly swashbuckling attack. However, this really is the final chance he will have to make a difference (if he wishes to improve his placing that is) and could take advantage of his lack of importance to the podium places in order to steal stage honours in Asiago.

Vincenzo Nibali attempted a handful of attacking moves on yesterday’s concluding climb, yet did not truly show the level of cutting endeavour which we have previously become accustomed to from The Shark of Messina. He will probably produce a couple of efforts on the day’s final climb, but given the current stalemate with Nairo Quintana, it would be no surprise to see the Italian prove risk averse yet again.

Nairo Quintana seems unlikely to win the stage today, though possesses a great chance of winning the maglia rosa regardless. Life is looking particularly tough for Tom Dumoulin right now, with Quintana knowing that even a sub-par performance compared to his own standards, could still obtain a margin of around a minute back to the current pink jersey holder. If the Dutchman looks to be on the rocks late in the day, then Quintana will pounce to take full advantage, regardless of potentially towing other riders to the summit in the process.

Those who may take the day’s win, from either a breakaway or late move, include; Pierre RollandRui Costa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Ilnur Zakarin