Giro d'Italia 2018

Giro d’Italia 2018 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Another day which is bound to prove a tug of war amongst the bunch and the breakaway, Stage 11’s 156km from Assisi to Osimo is likely to be explosive and fractious once again. Rising steadily from the start, it will take time for the day’s breakaway to form, though it would not be surprising to see this early move scuppered and reformulated mid-stage like yesterday, yet the main focus shall undoubtedly remain upon the finish itself. The final 5km starts with a rise of 16%, then sends the riders plunging immediately back down, before playing out the last 2.5km entirely uphill; featuring another ramp of 16%. It will take a gritty performance to take the stage honours in Osimo, with plenty of grimacing faces as the riders cross the line.


Giro d'Italia 2018

Contenders:

Diego Ulissi shall look upon the finale of Stage 11 gleefully, confident that he has been successful upon this type of terrain on numerous occasions before. His form may not be comparable to his historic best, but class is permanent and he is more than worthy of being picked out as a key player in the final moments of today.

Gianluca Brambilla was surprisingly anonymous yesterday, though still finished in ninth place, seemingly happy to allow his teammate Jarlinson Pantano a shot at breakaway success instead. The course suits the Italian well, providing him with opportunities to join an initial large break, before then seeking to whittle the group down in the final kilometres. Relatively quick against a strong gradient such as today’s, he could finally put to bed the illness and misfortune which has seen him fall from people’s radars in the last year.

Enrico Battaglin made a clear effort to sweep up the final points in the sprint competition on Stage 10 and knows he has the form required to win Stage 11 to step up the seriousness of his campaign upon the maglia ciclamino. Having already won at this year’s Giro d’Italia, he has far less pressure to perform and will enjoy the ability to monitor his rivals ahead of reaching out for his own glory.

Michael Woods looks to be the most likely contender amongst the general classification riders, as the final sharp run to the line is reminiscent of the Ardennes terrain which we have seen the Canadian do so well on previously. With his ambitions of a strong overall performance looking precarious, a victory today would be a great confidence booster and there is no denying he has the talent to do so if interested.

Outcome:

1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Gianluca Brambilla 3rd Enrico Battaglin

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 11 PREVIEW

Course:

Stage 11 takes the riders on an almost entirely ‘flat as a pancake’ journey from Modena to Asolo, but the sprinters have far from circled this as a serious target thanks to the inclusion of some harsh concluding ascents. The 227km day is certain to play into the hands of the breakaway for the most part, rolling through the idyllic countryside before all hell breaks loose with around 20km, at which point it looks to be anyone’s for the taking.

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Contenders:

Giacomo Nizzolo appears to be the most likely of the typically styled sprinters to survive the late antics in a strong enough condition to contest any possible reduced sprint. His climbing abilities have improved greatly as of late, making him a difficult man to disregard entirely, though life will be tougher now teammate Fabian Cancellara has gone home.

Kristian Sbaragli could be another of the quick men to make it through the final selection process and win from a reduced bunch kick. The support from his teammates at Dimension Data could really boost his chances of performing well here and is thus marked out as a contender for Stage 11.

Sonny Colbrelli has enjoyed an encouraging season thus far and appears to be in midst of some of his finest form in recent years. The biggest headache he will have on Stage 11 is deciding how best to go about winning the day; as joining the breakaway, making a late move and waiting for a sprint are all possibilities from which he can win Asolo.

Alejandro Valverde must be considered on a stage which is deceptively tough and has every chance of coming back together right before the finish. If so, Valverde has a fantastic sprinting ability and could grab some time on his rivals as a result of winning here.

Nikias Arndt is one of the fastest riders at the conclusion of a stage such as this, but will need to see the ranks thinned out quite heavily in order to really have a chance of winning.

Enrico Battaglin knows this area of Italy well and seems to be in good form having already finished fifth on Stage 7. The terrain here should be more beneficial and to his liking, providing him with every chance of surprising the bigger names.

A wide array of riders are bound to feature in an attempt to join the day’s break or instigate a last minute attack, so keep a close eye upon the likes of Tim WellensGiovanni ViscontiDiego UlisiLuka Mezgec and Simon Clarke.

Outcome:

Reduced Sprint – 1st Enrico Battaglin 2nd Sonny Colbrelli 3rd Kristian Sbaragli

Breakaway – 1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Tim Wellens 3rd Simon Clarke

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La Vuelta a España – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

It will not take long on Stage 11 for yesterday’s rest day at La Vuelta a España to feel like a distant dream, this mammoth challenge being labelled as one of the toughest stages in grand tour history; perhaps the hardest ever at La VueltaCurated in part by Joaquim Rodriguez, few riders will be pleased with his work to design this memorable mountain expedition between Spain and AndorraPotent in nature, the brief 138km journey from Andora La Vella to the Category 1 summit finish of Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp will test the resolve of many and is certain to send plenty of riders heading home, as the race to make the day’s time cut causes the gruppeto to fracture under the riders’ anxieties to finish inside the time.

As soon as the riders depart they will open their account for the day with the Category 1 Collda de Beixalis, a 6.5km ascent which maintains an average gradient of 8.7%, though large parts are double digit gradients between 10% – 14%. The subsequent descent heads immediately into the base of the next climb, something which will be a recurring theme throughout Stage 11 and ensure no respite (physically or mentally) until the day is over. Next comes another Category 1 in the shape of the 9.9km long Colle de Ordino, a somewhat more forgiving climb due to its regular gradient which does not fluctuate far beyond 6% – 8%. At this point they head back to return to Andorra la Vella and begin the third climb of Stage 11, another Category 1 challenge which on this occasion is the Col de la Rabassa. A difficult start with slopes reaching 12%, which then give way to a more regular gradient which softens towards the summit, though double-digit gradients are dotted throughout the journey from bottom to top.

Another expectedly rapid descent follows suit from the summit, leading downwards to the more familiar Category 1 Collada de la Gallina which has appeared as a stage finish in recent editions of La Vuelta a España, though it is hard to imagine anybody thrilled by being reunited with this old ‘friend’. The 11.7km ascent is a true introduction to hell during Stage 11, the average gradient of 8.6% not truly revealing the nature of this beast however. The slopes here sit on a knife’s edge between double and single digit figures, making it difficult to establish a satisfying rhythm during the majority of this climb. The final major descent sends them back once again towards the Andorran capital and day’s starting point, but this time on an alternative passage which directs them up the Category 2 Alto de la Comella instead; a short 4km climb which remains challenging at 9.5% average gradient.

An extremely brief downhill section then places the bunch at the foot of the next and final major climb of the day, Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp’s Category 1 summit finish. This final beast is more about gradient than length, clocking in at 8.7km and averaging a draining 9.2% of paper, yet reality will see this exaggerated yet further. The slopes do not lower a great deal at first, spending the majority of the time hovering anywhere between 9% – 11.6% for the opening half of the ascent. After this, the second half lessens slightly to a more measured 7% – 8% almost right the way to the summit, also forcing the riders to trace their way through an array of tight hairpin bends which do not cease until 200m from the line. A stage win at any of the grand tours is a career defining moment, but to be crowned champion on this day in particular will no doubt assure the victors place in history as a result.

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Contenders:

Chris Froome appears to be riding himself into this race and cementing himself as a serious contender off the back of a dominant performance in July, which led him to win Le Tour de France for the second time in three years. Today consists of extended ascents which suit the Sky leader better than the more explosive finales we have witnessed so far, as well as a variety of descents which many will scramble to cite as definite weakness of Froome’s. However, as this season has demonstrated, he is nowhere near as fearful of descending as many would have you believe and Froome has often been able to stick the pace of one of the most talented descenders; Alejandro Valverde. The most likely scenario on the day will be Froome concentrating on his own race and tempo, ensuring he does not go into the red trying to follow the attacks and instead aim upon staying within a minute of his rivals come the finish. If he feels as good as he did on Stage 9, then he will certainly aim to kick on and attempt to land a punch on at least one of his rivals during this curtain raiser to the more hellish side of 2015’s Vuelta.

Nairo Quintana also came here after competing at this year’s Tour de France and has maintained a relatively low profile so far at this grand tour. The Colombian rider was suffering in the immense heat of the opening half of the race, but today could prove the polar opposite, with extended downpours forecast at the time of publishing. These longer climbs with relatively even steep gradients certainly play into his natural strengths as a climber, though he does admit that his condition right now is not as good as it was during July in France. If he can overcome the Tour de France hangover and find a degree of freshness after the rest day, he stands a great chance of performing strongly on this brutal stage.

Fabio Aru is the freshest of the overall general classification contenders on paper and has displayed a combative mindset so far which has perhaps only been bettered by Chris Froome. The Italian Astana leader has a unique dynamic between himself and his rivals for the title; below them in current climbing ability, but much better prepared for the race in regards to peaking when it counts most. His talents for attacking sharply to establish a gap on his rivals, before going on to maintain it during theses long and arduous climbs are well suited here, more so than the summits we have experienced until now. Aru should be given a slightly greater amount of freedom to attempt such a move compared to his rivals and will not hesitate to gain time ahead of the individual time trial if possible.

Alejandro Valverde is a difficult man to predict on a day as testing as this, the Spaniard renowned more for his puncheur abilities than competing as a pure climber at grand tours, though it is not to be forgotten that he did win 2009’s La Veulta a España. Taking into account his brilliant talent for reducing the gains of those more adept to these big mountain stages, especially when utilising descending abilities, he should not collapse entirely here despite his work being well and truly cutout. A noteworthy consideration when judging his performance today is the fact he did crash heavily during Stage 9 and has since confirmed limited mobility in his upper body and arm.

Kenny Elissonde is perhaps one of the strongest outsiders for victory today, the Frenchman having ridden an eye-catching race so far and also possesses the history for winning gruelling days such as these having already won on the Angliru at this race a couple of years ago. He thrives on these occasions which have the road solely going up or down and sits far enough back on the general classification at the moment, to be allowed to attack without having to worry a great deal about being shut down.

Esteban Chaves has relinquished his hold of the the leaders Red Jersey once more and can again be considered to feature here with a reduction in the degree of marking as a result. The Colombian has been the star of this Vuelta a España during the first half of the race, but it is difficult to anticipate how he will perform after his losses on Stage 9, as well as a rest day in between. Had he not already invested so much in protecting his interests, he would be a standout favourite to challenge for the win on a day full of climbing, but it just seems too much to ask of him right now.

Joaquim Rodriguez has played a part in designing this stage, so already has a head start in understanding the demands expected of those wishing to perform well here. Though seemingly riding well in the first half of this contest, never losing touch with his rivals, Rodriguez has failed to capitalise upon stages which suited his strengths nicely; something he needs to do before the individual time trial. Because of this, it is possible to raise the question as to whether or not he has been riding conservatively so far in order to seriously compete here and forever write his name into the Vuelta’s history books. What may improve his slim chances of victory is the possibility of poor weather conditions; a cold and wet day able to sap his rivals’ energy and level the playing field in his favour.

Dominico Pozzovivo is pleased by his performances so far at La Vuelta a España and has seen Ag2r La Mondiale confirm their support for the Italian’s quest of at least a top ten general classification placing come MadridIf he maintains this level of competitiveness into the latter mountain stages, then it seems certain he will try his luck of taking a stage victory; today is perhaps not the ideal opportunity to attempt such a move.

Louis Meintjes is looking very strong at the moment and has a great chance of turning in a high general classification placing for MTN-Qhubeka, a factor which makes it difficult to predict how he will perform today. Was it not for his overall ambitions at this race, then today would be perfect for him to join the breakaway and attempt to push it all the way to the finish line. Regardless of which option he does decide to pursue on Stage 11, Meintjes is a man to watch throughout the day in order to assess the likelihood of him maintaing his current form all the way to Madrid.

Pierre Rolland has been anonymous up to this point, but could be lured out into action on a day suited to his pure climbing exploits. The Frenchman has recently confirmed his departure from Team Europcar and could decide to celebrate his move to Cannondale-Garmin with a fantastic showing on a truly historic stage. His strengths in a breakaway will be welcomed by many fellow escapees and he has everything required to push the peloton’s ability to reel him back to the limit.

Maxime Monfort is likely to be tasked with Lotto-Soudal’s daily attempt to get into the breakaway and pull off a shock victory at this year’s Vuelta a España. His season has been modest this year so far, but given the current tactics within his team, this could be his best opportunity to roll back the clock and resurrect some of his previous best form at grand tour races.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Chris Froome

Outsider: Kenny Elissonde

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Le Tour de France – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

The mountains weigh heavy upon the horizon yet again for the riders during Stage 11, a 188km trip from the start in Pau to to the finale situated in Cauterets. The Pyrenees once again shape the day’s riding, beginning with the Côte de Loucrup, a Category 3 climb of 2km length and an average of 7% appearing on the profile after almost 50km of racing. The day’s intermediate sprints and second climb follow rapidly, the former at Pouzac after 56.5km and the ascent of Côte de Bagneres-de-Bigorre following at 61.5km. This second climb is 1.4km long and averages out at 6.1% and runs into the next uphill slog around 15km further down the road; the Category 3 Côte de Mauvezin (2.7km, avg 6%).

Much of the day’s attention shall be focused upon the climbs which follow this opening triumvirate of ascents, beginning with the renowned Category 1 Col d’Aspin. A 6.5% gradient on average, its slopes stretch onwards for a total of 12km and increase steadily until the upper sections which swing up to an average closer to 7.5% – 9.5%. The riders shall immediately plummet down the subsequent descent and turn onto the base of one of the most famous climbs in Tour de France legend.

Col du Tourmalet has been the setting for many battles during its time in Le Tour, its HC gradients soon able to sort the pretenders from the contenders whenever included. Totalling 17.1km from start to finish, the average gradient of 7.3% will wear down the legs of the entire peloton, regardless of current or past glories. Many of the climbs in this area have a reputation of becoming more difficult as the summit approach, the Col du Tourmalet does this on a grand scale, contrasting its easier opening slopes with the concluding 10km swingingly consistent between a brutal energy sapping 8% – 10% gradient.

There is no doubt that an exciting move or the cracking of a favourite shall occur during the ascent, the Col du Tourmalet rarely passes without incident when included at Le Tour. Whatever the situation on the road by this point, an extended and rapid descent then follows for almost 30km, taking the bunch to the base of the final climb and finish of the day. Côte de Cauterets will decide the day, a Category 3 climb which is 6.4km in length and maintains a steady gradient of 5% for its entirety, eventually topping out around 3km from the line. The climb itself kicks to begin with, softens somewhat in the mid-section and then reaches a peak of 10% towards the top; possibly acting as a launchpad for a late stage winning move. The concluding 2km are predominantly flat and could see a series of riders regroup, so a contender here might need a rapid finish to beat any remaining rivals.

 

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Contenders:

Rafael Valls looked strong during his excursion off the front of the peloton yesterday and has been in form throughout the majority of the last year. With his team Lampre-Merida lacking a convincing depth of stage winning possibilities or general classification hopes at this year’s tour, Valls offers a great opportunity to strike out victorious on a day which suits a talented climber such as himself as part of a strong breakaway.

This year’s Giro d’Italia saw a great breadth of climbing prowess and two such riders who often featured upon similar terrain in Italy were Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal. Both failed to shy away from opportunities such as these to stretch their legs and with both now focused intently upon stage wins or the Polka Dot Jersey in the wake of diminished general classification hopes, they could certainly feature.

Dan Martin is worth monitoring throughout the day if he manages to stay fresh ahead of the finale which builds towards Cauterets, a rider who is clearly in potent form currently. The Irishman was very unfortunate to come away empty handed from the Mur de Bretagne, unable to pursue the attack of Vuillermoz late on due to his position and wind direction hampering his efforts. The general classification has little interest in pursuing Martin, meaning he could well be allowed to escape as part of a strong breakaway which goes on to contest the win.

Orica-GreenEDGE will no doubt look upon both Adam Yates and Simon Yates during Stage 11 to feature in any race winning moves. It was already stated in the opening week that the twins’ race does not really begin until they have entered the Pyrenees, Adam in particular beginning to build form during the race at the moment and will be on his toes to join the right move immediately. Simon on the other hand has already enjoyed an impressive year before this race started and has aimed to carry that form into Le Tour as best as possible. Though there is speculation that Simon may have been slightly under the weather heading into the rest day, Adam looks to be building nicely ahead of a stage such as this and both Yates twins stake a strong claim to animating the race to Cauterets.

French showing on Bastille Day was close to disastrous, finishing the day with more British riders in the top ten than native riders. Pierre Rolland could remedy this immediately, but will have to work hard to either join the right breakaway or ensure the race is not over before he has had the opportunity to get involved by letting a move vanish up the road. He is a true rider for the mountains on a day which features a second half consisting of long and often arduous ascents, all of which should play into the hands of the Frenchmen. The finale which softens greatly could perhaps scupper his chances if the advantage is not enough towards the end, no doubt likely that he would have preferred a drag to the line rather than simply a flattening run to the finish.

The defending Polka Dot Jersey at this year’s tour is Polish rider Rafal Majka, a man who could build upon newly discovered freedom in the wake of team leader Alberto Contador’s lengthening gap to Chris Froome currently. Majka looks to be building in strength right now and his team Tinkoff-Saxo will instead look to pick up stage wins rather than riding solely for the overall victory; all building a strong case for Majka to feature during Stage 11. It is likely that for him to achieve these aims that Majka will either need to take off solo late on or join an earlier breakaway which goes clear and decides the outcome amongst themselves.

Alejandro Valverde was surprisingly animated during the previous day, possibly aiming to gauge his current level of form ahead of a day which suits him very well in the final decisive kilometres. The Spaniard will aim to keep everything together ahead of the last climb of the day, at which point it is likely that he will make his move and get a head start before the road flattens out; upon which he will be the favourite to win any such sprint for the stage victory. Though some concerns are present regarding his ability to stay with the best on the Col du Tourmalet, he is a extremely skilled descender and could utilise this ability as a safety net in order to regain any losses which have occurred during the ascent.

Outcome:

A wide open day which could suit a selection of riders far beyond those mentioned above, a breakaway of six to eight riders would be difficult to bring back if strong enough and could go on to decided the result amongst themselves. Rafal Majka, Rafael Valls and Steven Kruijswijk are perhaps the best picks for a reasonable break to win the day, all more than capable of working hard out front over two such testing climbs and bolster the talents to duke it out for the win without conceding their advantage over the peloton. From the purer climbers comes the likes of Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin who both suit the flattening finale particularly well if still in the shake up for the win with 3km remaining. Finally, the French are in need of seeing their honour restored at their home race and Pierre Rolland is clearly the man to do just that, though the finale does not suit him that well in reality.

 

From a Breakaway: 1st Rafael Valls 2nd Steven Kruijswijk 3rd Rafal Majka

Outsiders: Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde and Pierre Rolland