La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

After the first rest day, the peloton begin another tough week of racing with a stage which looks to finish with a crescendo once again. The 164.8km day begins in Caravaca Ano Jubila 2017 and concludes at Elpozo Alimentacion, with the final climb being firmly in the spotlight. More than half of the day’s racing is predominantly featureless, taking over 120km to reach the first of two climbs on Stage 10, both of which are tackled in quick succession. Starting with the Category 3 Alto del Morron de Totana, a 5.7 km climb which averages 5.7% gradient and rise to the point of merging with day’s final climb. The Category Collado Bermejo has a steeper average gradient of 6.5% and is also longer at 7.7 km in total. This brace of climbs in such a short period can be seen as a single longer ascent, no doubt forming the key part of how today’s race will be won.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile appears to be on the rise once again and should prove to be a real danger on terrain which plays to his strengths well. Having been anonymous up until now, this shall be a perfect opportunity to catch his rivals napping and aim to surprise them with his return to form. The rest day shall have been a great aid to Fraile, allowing him to start Stage 10 refreshed and poised to follow the key moves when it matters.

Julian Alaphilippe is a diverse rider who is capable of featuring in a broadly contrasting array of stages and shall view today’s challenge with part of that spectrum. He has appeared strong for sometime at the race and deservedly took a stage victory at last, but will not simply wish to stop pushing for another win when already. His prominence might make it hard for him to get away from the other favourites, but given his current form, it could simply prove too difficult for others to stop him.

Luis Leon Sanchez enjoys these days and will be at the forefront of any breakaway which hopes to get a jump on some of the bigger favourites on Stage 10. With gradients which do not get too steep, Sanchez is likely to feature today and has been active enough thus far to demonstrate why he is a serious candidate. He will need to be alert to the moves, as it will be much harder for him to win from a larger group on the day, aiming to solo away from a small break once they begin climbing.

Bob Jungels certainly has the raw power to monster his way up the two climbs on Stage 10, a rider who ticks all the boxes, yet will still be considered a surprise if managing to win. His climbing capabilities have really grown in the last couple of seasons and it is easy for them to become overshadowed by his time trialing prowess and commitment to working for his teammates earlier in mountain stages. Jungels cannot be gifted much of a time advantage on the slopes, as he has often proven to be incredibly hard to reel back in and is certainly skilled enough to descend aggressively to maintain a winning margin.

Giovanni Visconti might be allowed the freedom to join the fray on Stage 10, though he does have greater duties expected of him during this coming week of racing and his team could choose to conserve his energy for protecting Vincenzo Nibali. If given the go ahead to attack today, then Visconti will look upon the tail end of the stage with glee, appearing almost designed by the man himself. There are question marks hanging over his form, especially given the added uncertainty when exiting a rest day, but he will be a threat if yesterday’s recovery has helped him.

Others to watch for are Darwin AtapumaLachlan MortonSerge PauwelsThomas De Gendt and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Luis Leon Sanchez 3rd Giovanni Visconti

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

A 174km task is at hand on Stage 9 of this year’s edition of La Vuelta, sending the riders from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol and setting the stage for a dramatic finale against a wall like climb. For much of the day, riding will be easy, as nothing truly noteworthy features until over 130km has been raced; that being the Category 2 Alto de Puig Llorenca. The 3.2km long rise averages a gradient of 9.2%, giving some riders an indication as to whether they shall have the legs required to perform in the final kilometres when visiting it again later on. The road then gradually descends, setting itself up for the anticipate melee as the bunch reach the Alto de Puig Llorenca for the second time, though they shall ride a longer 4km passage right the way to the top on this occasion. The irregular steep climb will make it hard for the favourites to settle into a rhythm, especially as ramps swing greatly from 8% to 25%, demanding riders to constantly shift their position and gearing.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Alberto Contador does not wish to exit professional cycling without some glory at his final home grand tour, marking him out as a likely antagonist in the closing moments of Stage 9. His form is certainly improving as the race develops, while today’s far steeper terrain plays to his strengths and could certainly diminish the gap in strength to Chris Froome which was seen yesterday. Contador is an intelligent rider who is likely to have already calculated the best point to attack from, yet he often rides based on the moment and nobody can exploit an opportunity to strike better than ‘El Pistolero’.

Chris Froome does already appear to be the strongest climber at the race and will be searching for a stage win to cement his credentials as likely overall winner. The gradients are not to his suiting, though he is likely to adopt an aggressive approach in order to act as defence, making it as hard as possible for his rivals when the road pitches down somewhat. As a punchier rider than most in the frame for today’s honours, Froome could choose to follow the attacks and simply pounce with a trademark acceleration during the final kilometre.

Rafal Majka has previously performed strongly on this concluding climb and will take confidence from yesterday’s efforts to feel capable of challenging once again today. His ambitions have altered in regards to those he initially held heading into the race, though a focus on winning stages instead of the general classification makes the Polish rider far more dangerous now.

Esteban Chaves needs to start finding his best form at the race, otherwise, it is beginning to look like he is suffering under the greater strength of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador right now. His explosive capabilities could inflict great damage upon his rivals, but Chaves will need to time such a move to perfection in order to avoid blowing up or simply towing others to the finish line.

Others to consider from a large group or breakaway move on Stage 9 are Joe DombrowskiMichael WoodsDarwin AtapumaSerge Pauwels and George Bennett.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Rafal Majka

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course:

A similar story and cast of protagonists is expected on Stage 18, as those with eyes upon the maillot jaune realise that time is running out to seize it before they find themselves charging through Paris for another year. Starting in Briançon and finishing atop the iconic climb of Col d’Izoard, the day totals 179.5km and should see the final melee from the most talented climbers at this year’s Tour de France. After a tame start to proceedings, the riders tackle the Côte des Demoiselles Coiffèes to ease the legs into the day, lasting 3.9km and wielding an average gradient of 5.2%. From here the road begins to subtly build upwards and directs the peloton to the base of the Category 1 Col de Vars (9.3km, avg 7.5%), which becomes much harder as the incline reaches double digits near the summit.

What is likely to prove an explosive descent then follow, plunging back down into the valley, a downhill chase which may prove too technical for some riders to follow the attacks upon. Everything then appears poised to be decided by the climb up Col d’Izoard, a task of 14.1km in length, with a somewhat misleading average gradient of 7.3%. Life is not too difficult as the riders ascend the opening 7km of the Col d’Izoard, though it is the second half which lays the foundations of a brutal war of attrition, fuelled by want of the yellow jersey. The latter half begins with a kick of 10% and then fails to do more than modestly drop below that for the rest of the way to the summit. A small dip in terrain occurs at Casse Déserte, though it is tortuous relief, as what follows leads to the constant grind of 10% in the final kilometre to the summit. The effort taken to win Stage 18 will prove monumental, but the effort to win Le Tour could prove greater still.

 

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome may well end up winning this year’s race without ever having looked particularly threatening, a victory which looks likely to become his most defensively ridden grand tour thus far. He knows that an individual time trial still awaits in Marseille, making this more of a ‘do or die’ situation for his rivals than himself. All of the questions regarding his condition entering the race were answered with claims of aiming to strike his form perfectly for these final mountain stages; making today the perfect time to showcase this if true. Normally by now in the Tour de France we have seen Chris Froome decimate his opposition with neatly orchestrated attacks of immense power and timing, yet the evidence is scarce to suggest he is in that sort of shape at present. Regardless, if the game plan truly is to put everything on the line today, then a full strength Chris Froome is bound to prove impossible to follow for his rivals.

Romain Bardet once again emerged as the most attacking rider from within the clutch of favourites who have a realistic chance of winning the race overall. As mentioned previously, the Frenchman relishes these tough Alpine stages and will consider much of this to be playing out within touching distance of his home region. Given the panache and swashbuckling tendencies he has, there is little doubt that Bardet will invest everything into winning Stage 18 and potentially Le Tour de France in the process. His team are strong on this type of terrain and have already proven capable of making life difficult for Team Sky when attempting to set Bardet up to gain time on his rivals. Though the Frenchman might not have enough to gain a race winning time gap upon Chris Froome, he is certainly talented enough to be first over the final 10% rise to the finish line.

Rigoberto Uran is the dark horse lurking in the shadows during this final week of racing, calculating best when to strike and potentially steal the yellow jersey from beneath the noses of both Chris Froome and Romain Bardet. Yesterday saw him collect a clutch of bonus seconds and move up to second place on the overall classification, though it is the savage final kilometres of today’s contest which will determine how serious his chances of taking yellow really are. Thus far his most aggressive riding has often come on days where a descent has led into the finishing line, more often staying safe in the group of frontrunners and allowing the prominent favourites to tear strips off one another. This might indicate that Uran is anxious of entering into a full head to head battle in the mountains, or may have simply focused upon staying as fresh as possible for this decisive day. He is the one most likely to benefit from any cat and mouse games being played by Froome and Bardet late in the day, as the closer he can attack to the line, the better his chances are of utilising his explosive power to great effect.

Mikel Landa would be a real contender for the yellow jersey if allowed to enter himself into the contest by Team Sky, yet has to commit his efforts into protecting the lead of captain Chris Froome instead. His form is no longer in question, as it is apparent how strong he is compared to the other major contenders right now, potentially being able to ride himself onto the podium if all goes well during Stage 18. Chris Froome is fully aware of Landa’s form and ambitions, perhaps agreeing to work as a double act to distance their rivals and earn the Basque climber a richly deserved stage victory in thanks of his loyalty.

Dan Martin is the only rider who could prove strong enough to stay in contention and thus dominant any potential sprint from an elite group of riders. There is no doubt that Martin will feel aggrieved by his misfortune at this race, having lost time as a result of Richie Porte’s costly crash and his own team’s miscalculations during Stage 16’s brutal crosswinds. A podium place would have been within his grasp had things gone to plan, so now he must hope that a stage win is still achievable and will have a greater degree of freedom to push onwards in the final kilometres as the general classification battle rages on behind him.

Other names worth considering are Alberto ContadorSerge PauwelsEsteban ChavesDarwin AtapumaDaniel Navarro and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

Bastille Day often delivers displays of swashbuckling attacking from native riders at Le Tour de France, so an incredibly short 101km Stage 13 from Saint-Girons to Foix should only serve to act as a pressure cooker to accelerate the selection process. A trio of Category 1 ascents define the day, beginning with the Col de Latrape after only 25.5km of racing; lasting 5.6km with an average gradient of 7.3%. A brief passage down the other side of the climb leads to the opening sections of Col d’Agnes, a longer task at 10km from bottom to top, sustaining 8.2% for its duration. The subsequent descent could prove a useful springboard for attacks, swooping down to Massat and beginning the final climb of Stage 13 in the shape of the Mur de Péguère. Considered to be divided into two parts, the 9.3km challenge sees the first two thirds contested at gradients around the 7% mark, but the real leg breaking sections come in the concluding kilometres en route to the summit. Predominantly in double-digit figures for the final moments, sections even begin to rise closer to 20% during this hectic conclusion to the last climb of the day. With a long descent all the way into the finish at Foix, the battle for the day’s victory could prove to be more tactical than physical, with the last 30km expected to be played out by a group waiting for one another to pounce.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 13 Preview

Contenders:

Dan Martin was impressive once again at this year’s race during yesterday’s finale, doing extremely well to stay with the major general classification riders, only coming up short of the win in the few hundred metres before the line. If he can sustain this level of condition for another day in the mountains, then the long descent down to Foix has the potential to bring the race back together and allow the big names to decide the outcome; from which Martin would be hard to match in a sprint.

Rigoberto Uran offers a similar story to that of Irishman Dan Martin, though has certainly proven to be a greater surprise amongst the group of yellow jersey hopefuls, after failing to show much of the form which previously secured him podium placings at the Giro d’Italia. A proficient descender, Uran will look to bridge over to any frontrunners on the final downhill section and hope to secure another stage victory by beating the opposition in a sprint once more.

Romain Bardet took his third career stage victory at Le Tour de France yesterday and proved to be another correct prediction by Spokenforks during 2017’s race. Though unlikely for him to win back to back days, this course should offer him the chance to apply some pressure to the likes of Fabio Aru and Chris Froome, doing so with his brilliant downhill riding in the final 30km of the day. Struggling to match those with a more convincing burst of speed for a finish like today’s in Croix, Bardet would need to arrive solo in order to chalk up his fourth win at his home grand tour it seems.

Chris Froome is expected to be out for revenge on Stage 13, yet it more likely to utilise his teammates to act as a foil and defend his current position on the general classification by neutralising the stage early on. Regardless, he has recently proven to be one of the most competent descenders in the leading group and could call upon this skill to distance his rivals en route to gaining some time back. He is also capable of producing a reasonably fast sprint when required, so will be one to watch if the yellow jersey group are first into Foix.

Warren Barguil should perform strongly on Stage 13 in order to defend his hold upon the polka dot jersey and could go one step further by securing a famous French win on Bastille Day at the end of it all. He has been strong thus far and has only been distanced by the likes of Chris Froome when having already spent his efforts pursuing King of the Mountains points earlier in the day. A two time stage winner at La Vuelta a España, he previously took victory by pushing hard on a long downhill road into the finish line, similar to what we may expect to see today.

Other names to watch for are Mikel LandaPierre Latour, Jarlinson PantanoTiesj Benoot and Serge Pauwels.

Outcome:

1st Warren Barguil 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Dan Martin

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Leaving the eternally synonymous Tour de France town of Pau, the course of Stage 12 is a testing affair which does not conclude until after 214.5km of racing en route to the finale atop Peyradgudes. A long day in the saddle, the onslaught of climbs which feature today have the potential to force cracks to appear amongst those with eyes upon the general classification at this year’s race. After a couple of moderate ascents, the Category 1 Col de Menté appears on the radar to initiate the real battle for the day, lasting a total of 6.9km and averaging a gradient of 8.1% to really test the legs of the frontrunners. The bunch will then plunge into the valley, before then turning onto the opening the slopes of the Category HC Port de Balès (11.7km, avg 7.7%)The climb is often seen to switch between gradients, making it tough to find a rhythm for for the riders, though much of the focus will be upon the following technical descent. The finale is signalled by the Category 1 Col de Peyresourde, an awkward climb which lasts 9.7km and averages a gradient of 7.8%, though much of the day’s anxiety will be upon the final few kilometres. The Category 2 rise to Peyragudes touches a gradient of double figures and could see some riders lose time if they crack late in the day.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

 Contenders:

Chris Froome has often chosen to hammer home his advantage during grand tours at the earliest opportunity possible, making it likely that he shall be one of the key protagonists once again. His form is improving without doubt, and previous performance upon this concluding climb hint at Froome’s ability to bury the opposition with ease. If the day’s result does end up being decided by a group of elite riders, then it seems most likely that the defending yellow jersey winner will be the strongest man remaining.

Romain Bardet is likely to utilise the day’s descents in order to apply pressure to his major rivals, though will also be aware that the final rise to the finish is within his capabilities also. The Frenchman took a tumble yesterday, though appears to be in a good condition regardless, hoping to making one of the few summit finishes of this year’s Tour de France count for something with so much still at stake.

Dan Martin was extremely unlucky to be brought down as a result of Richie Porte’s crash a couple of days ago and will be strongly motivated to make his current form count for something, hopefully with a strong performance today. The Irishman has the acceleration required to beat the majority of big name climbers in the final metres and will be a rider who nobody wishes to carry all the way to the summit finish.

Fabio Aru knows how strong his form is right now, but needs the ideal situation in order to make a serious impact upon this year’s Tour de FranceIf others within the main group decide to hesitate during the final kilometres, then the reigning Italian road race champion will have a brilliant opportunity to secure a richly deserved stage win at last. His aggressive nature and love for steep gradients lends itself well to the rigours of today, perhaps emerging as the main threat to Chris Froome in the final kilometres.

Thibaut Pinot had intended to be on the hunt for stage wins and potentially the polka dot jersey, however, things have not gone to plan at all for the Frenchman. It seems a huge ask for him to suddenly muster the form required to challenge for a day such as this, but the nature of a home grand tour can stir the emotions enough to produce a sensational effort. With ambitions to ride himself into stage winning shape, Pinot may be getting stronger from this point of the race onwards and will be favourite to join the breakaway

Others to consider include Serge PauwelsWarren BarguilPierre RollandTiesj Benoot and Rigoberto Uran.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Stage 8 sends the peloton on an 187.5km through the first barrage of Alpine climbs during this year’s Tour de France, starting in Dole and finishing atop Station des Rousses. The battle to make the day’s breakaway is expected to be a fierce one, as the bunch are likely to be happy allowing a large move to vanish up the road and decide the day’s outcome. The first recognised ascent of the day is the Category 3 Col de la Joux, lasting 6.1km with an average gradient of 4.7% and providing a chance to loosen the legs ahead of what lies ahead. A relatively long descent follows, leading to the base of the Category 2 Côte de Viry, 7.6km and with an average of 5.2%.  Th terrain remains lumpy for a time after this, before dropping down once again and beginning the ascent to the final run into Station des Rousses. The Category 1 Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes is the springboard towards the day’s finish, an 11.7km rise which sustains a draining incline between 6% – 8%, though softens after the summit into rolling terrain all the way to the finish.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Diego Ulissi has always had a gift for making the cut for stages where his great turn of pace is capable of burying the majority of the peloton in a reduced sprint to the line. The Italian has stayed safe enough this far and will be fresh to battle it out amongst a highly competitive selection process to make the day’s breakaway. Typically speaking, Stage 8 is well within his capabilities to succeed upon, though it may come too early in the three week grand tour in order for him to really take it by the scruff of the neck. Regardless, if he does make the move early on, then it will be unlikely anyone faster than him will also be present amongst the escapees.

Stephen Cummings took a double win at the British Road Championships recently, arriving at Le Tour de France in unexpectedly strong form after recovering from a series of broken bones suffered earlier this year. The terrain lends itself perfectly to Cummings’ attributes and especially his gift for sustaining a high tempo throughout these rolling days which slowly jettison members of the breakaway late on. The final climb is bound to entice him to attack over the summit, before then settling into a time trial approach, soloing his way to the line in order to secure the stage win.

Nicolas Edet is partial to joining the break on stages which finish uphill, so will no doubt be interested to see how the opening kilometres unfold, potentially seizing upon the chance to smuggle himself within a move. A strong climber, Edet knows that a convincing performance here has the potential to deliver him more than a stage victory, as the yellow jersey itself is only just a little over four minutes beyond his reach.

Rigoberto Uran will be fully aware of how close he is to securing the maillot jaune right now, as a bold move to join the day’s breakaway would only need him to finish more than a minute ahead of Chris Froome in order to step into the leader’s jersey. It seems that Team Sky are willing to relinquish their grip and see another team shoulder the burden of protecting its prestigious status. Uran might struggle to find the freedom to escape from the start, so if the day proves harder than expected, he might be given permission to try and catch his rivals napping on the final ascent.

Daniel Martin should be the man to beat if the day is determined by an elite group of big name riders, though the general classification focused teams are unlikely to want the task of chasing the breakaway down with such a testing day awaiting them on Sunday. Regardless, the Irishman is clearly enjoying some brilliant form currently and would be bitterly disappointed to see it go to waste if crossing the line in Paris without a stage win to his name.

Serge Pauwels may fancy a day in the break on Stage 8, as Team Dimension-Data turn their attention away from the sprint stages to the mountains for the first time at this year’s tour. The Belgian rider has a strong record for performing well in breaks at major races, though often comes unstuck due to his lack of speed in a head to head charge for the line; something which may deter him from chancing his arm on the road to Station de Rousses. A strong climber, he will look to simply ride his rivals off his wheel during the final ascent of Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Pierre Latour will need to come to terms with being the greatest hope of a French tour winner in the foreseeable future, so a stage victory and the likelihood of taking the maillot jaune would only serve to apply even greater pressure. The terrain does play to his strengths reasonably well, though may not be tough enough to truly lure him out to join the moves on Stage 8. He sits less than 70 seconds back on Chris Froome at the moment, which could prove a great temptation to try a swashbuckling move late in the day if everything comes back together on Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Gianluca Brambilla should be in the minds of many for stage honours, despite not showing a great deal of form to catch the eye during the season thus form. He possesses a potent blend of climbing skill and sprinting talent, lending himself perfectly to the rigours of Stage 8 today. Should he manage to be part of a race winning move, few will wish to work him in order to arrive at Station des Rousses with the Italian firmly placed upon their wheel.

Others to watch out for include Fabio FellineAlessandro De MarchiWarren Barguil and Alexis Vuillermoz.

Outcome:

1st Pierre Latour 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Gianluca Brambilla

Tour of Yorkshire Logo

Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

As expected, yesterday’s stage never quite became tough enough to send the sprinters and their teams out the back door and thus avoid the bunch gallop many had correctly expected. The main result of this is that the general classification shall be determined by the final day at this year’s Tour of Yorkshire, a rolling day in the saddle which serves up plenty of harsh gradients to ensure the overall race winner is a worthy champion. The decisive day is a 194.5km route from Bradford to Sheffield, encompassing eight classified climbs, creating what is likely to be an attritional day for the peloton. Akin to an Ardennes style race profile, an elite group of riders shall be formed over the final four climbs, the first beginning just 20km away from the finish line.

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has previously won the mountains classification jersey at La Vuelta, equipping him with the necessary survival skills to negotiate the final salvo of climbs which lead into Sheffield. He looked good during Liége – Bastogne – Liége and will not be afraid of animating the race during the final moments.

Serge Pauwels was our pre-race favourite for the overall win at this year’s Tour of Yorkshire, but we do now find ourselves leaning somewhat more favourably in the direction of his teammate Fraile. Regardless, the Belgian rider is a class act when it comes to climbing, and though he has been the quieter of the two Dimension Data riders, this may be an indication that Pauwels is saving everything for this final day.

Brent Bookwalter is a dangerous combination of climbing prowess and sprint speed, leading a BMC squad which has plenty of strength to support him in any attempt to win the overall classification on the final day. His ability uphill is certainly a threat to his rivals here, but whether or not he is suited to this Ardennes style finale is the big question.

Stephane Rossetto appeared in great form during Liége – Bastogne – Liége, a key protagonist during La Doyenne, he should find the latter half of the stage to his liking in Yorkshire. His best hope for victory is to attack from slightly further out than is expected, gaining an advantage on his rivals ahead of Sheffield, thus avoiding any worries about sprinting for the win.

Maurits Lammertink is not a particularly familiar name for many with an interest in professional cycling, yet the Katusha rider has enjoyed a good campaign in the Ardennes and could use Stage 3 as a springboard to overall victory.

Tao Geoghegan-Hart should be the best bet for Team Sky to secure the first stage win and overall win by a British rider at the Tour of Yorkshire since its inception in 2015. The lithe climber has twice finished third at the youth edition of Liége – Bastogne – Liége, demonstrating a talent for handling himself on a course which packs steep climbs late in the day. If the race has truly broken apart with only 30km remaining, then it is likely that he shall seek to step up and take advantage.

Other riders to watch for include Thomas VoecklerAnthony TurgisTom StewartPieter WeeningMauro Finetto and Stef Clement.

Outcome:

1st Maurits Lammertink 2nd Tao Geoghegan-Hart  3rd Stephane Rossetto