Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 5

Course:

As is tradition at the Tour Down Under, the overall victory looks set to be decided by the familiar ascent of Wilunga Hill, sending the favourites up its slopes twice in an attempt to shake out 2018’s champion from the bunch. The climb itself lasts for 3km, and though it averages a tame 5%, the steepest sections do creep just beyond 9% during the first half of the ascent. Tackling it twice after leaving McLaren Vale will be a test given the recent weather conditions and there will be little chance to hide a lack of early season form when ascending the scorching slopes near the end of the 151.5km queen stage.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Five 5 Preview

Contenders:

Richie Porte loves this climb and is the clear favourite to win once again, especially given an encouraging glimpse of his condition so early in the year. He is in a feisty mood to contest the overall victory, perhaps appreciating that such a depth of talent will require him to ride more aggressively in order to guarantee a stage win. No rider knows this climb as well as Porte, and with that in mind, it shall be tough to look beyond him for the victory.

Jay McCarthy has been promised the full backing of his team today and should be one of the main protagonists during the climb of Wilunga Hill. He has offered little during the Tour Down Under to justify serious backing, but his performance at the National Road Race Championships still seems enough to highlight him as a real challenger. Such a strong team of riders around him is an immense advantage on a day where saving every last watt of effort is crucial, keeping him fresh for one decisive attack.

Daryl Impey is enjoying some good early season form and could prove a rider well worth watching on Wilunga Hill as his condition could take bigger names by surprise. He is certainly not a pure climber, but should have enough to cling to their wheels and hope to outgun them in a reduced sprint to the finish line.

Diego Ulissi possesses a consistent record on this stage over the years, though never seems capable of converting that into an eventual victory by the finish. Once again he is a name worth considering here, but a disappointing showing up to now does little to suggest he shall steal the show on Wilunga Hill. 

Domenico Pozzovivo is very talented at coping with these climbs, looking relatively sharp right now and unlikely to think twice about taking the opportunity to open up a gap to his rivals during the final moments. We have often seen the Italian rider following all the major attacks from the big names in grand tour racing, but rarely does he ever manage to better them, making it a gamble to back Pozzovivo as the day’s winner on Stage 5

Others to consider include Luis Leon SanchezEnric MasPierre LatourTom Jelte-Slagter and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Richie Porte 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Jay McCarthy

 

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Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 4

Course:

A relatively short 128.2km forms Stage 4 of 2018’s Tour Down Under, leaving Norwood and racing into the newly introduced finishing town of Uraidla after some serious climbing late on in the day. An interesting stage which may prove a closer fought affair than many first thought, the focus is still likely to be upon the traditionally decisive Wilunga Hill on Stage 5 to realistically crown this year’s winner overall. Expectations are that the puncheurs are likely to demonstrate a greater impact than the pure climbers late on here and a last gasp charge to the line could decide the honours.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Four 4 Preview

Contenders:

Nathan Haas has been working hard already this week, picking up bonus seconds whenever possible and doing his utmost to steer clear of trouble by utilising his Katusha Alpecin teammates perfectly as protection. Additionally, there is enough talent around him to suggest he shall not be left alone during the crucial moments at the end of the day, potentially allowing him to lean on rivals to chase down his teammates in order to counter attack for the victory. With a quick turn of pace, Haas could capitalise from a reduced bunch kick and seize control of the race ahead of the pivotal penultimate day.

Richie Porte is the best climber at the race, but today will be more about staying with the pack and avoiding any significant time losses to major rivals. As ever, his goal is to produce another barn-storming ride up Wilunga Hill, but he will not refuse the opportunity to take the win today if it should arise. Entering Stage 5 as race leader would make Porte’s chances of overall victory even greater, as with less impetus to break the race up, he could simply sit on the wheels all day.

Jay McCarthy often finishes powerfully on stages such as these, and with such a strong team to support him, there is a great chance of him scoring the win on Stage 4. As one of the few contenders today who has already shown good form in 2018, his performance at the National Road Race Championships suggested he is already riding well and would be a threatening rider to allow a free ticket right into the final kilometre.

Diego Ulissi did not perform as strongly as anticipated yesterday, though still deserves a serious mention here on favourable terrain once again for the Italian. Though the last climb is a great springboard to launch his attack upon, the downhill run into town is not favourable really, but his capabilities in a reduced sprint could still deliver him victory if riding smart on the day.

A strong field of further candidates all have the potential to win in Uraidla: Rui CostaEnric MasPeter SaganTom Jelte-SlagterDaryl Impey and Peter Kennaugh.

Outcome:

1st Nathan Haas 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Richie Porte

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 2

Course:

Today’s finale at Stirling is a familiar fixture in the design of each edition of the Tour Down Under, making its ninth appearance since 2009 and setting the scene for another uphill battle to the finish line. The stage totals 148.6km from its start in Unley and rolls throughout the day, concluding at Stirling, though the peloton will actually pass the finish line four times in total. It is generally considered that the pure sprinters shall struggle to perform by the time we see the final lap sign appear, instead favouring those riders capable of powerful uphill bursts over this drag to the line.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Two 2 Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has started the season in brilliant form once again and is bound to prove unbeatable if given the go ahead to pursue the win in Stirling; team orders being upon which his chances hinge. A generous rider and team player, the world champion may instead choose to sacrifice his efforts for his fellow riders today, seeking to play a big part in the day’s outcome. He has done precisely this on this stage finish before, and with a strong team of punchy riders beside him, there are plenty of options on offer for Bora Hansgrohe on Stage 2.

Diego Ulissi is long established as a rider who flourishes on these drags to the finish line and expectation will be that the Italian shall be a contender once again here in Stirling. His support during the concluding laps of the day looks capable of keeping him fresh and well positioned when it matters most, meaning a podium is likely to be their target at the very least on Stage 2. Ulissi has a great ability to identify the best moment to sprint for the line, and with it being so early in the season, he might just catch everyone else napping.

Nikias Arndt enjoys these finales too, though is an unknown quantity right now and usually only performs best when the day has proven long or attritional at least. Regardless, he is the best option for Team Sunweb and will likely view this as a good opportunity to test the waters of 2018 at least.

Jay McCarthy will be eager to seize the chance of leadership if Sagan is happy to support the native rider, McCarthy previously performing well at his home race on these testing finishes. With such a strong group around him featuring Sagan, Peter Kennaugh, Daniel Oss and Maciej Bodnar; their is no reason to think he will be outmuscled late on. With compatriot Caleb Ewan misjudging yesterday’s finale, McCarthy could be the rider who delivers Australia’s first win at Tour Down Under 2018.

Nathan Haas could be keeping his powder dry until later in the week, but there is enough here in terms of favourable terrain, in order to lure him out into gaining further seconds on the general classification.

Davide Cimolai often performs best when given a slight drag to contest his sprint upon and is certainly flying under the radar in comparison to other specialists here. If he can find himself on the wheel of one of the major names in the final kilometre, he has the skills to spring a surprise.

Plenty of others are capable of taking a top ten placing here: Rohan DennisSimon ClarkeRui CostaAndré Greipel, Caleb Ewan and Phil Bauhaus.

Outcome:

1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Davide Cimolai

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

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