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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

Despite a high speed pile-up during the final few hundred meters of Stage 1, a sprint finish decided the outcome of the opening day as expected, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen navigating a late path to the front of affairs in order to take the win as predicted by Spokenforks. Stage 2 should be an easier day in the saddle for the peloton, lasting a relatively short 122.5km from Tadcaster to Harrogate, the course only possessing a single classified climb in the shape of the testing Côte de Lofthouse (1.7km, avg 11.4%). The racing is likely to be more intense as a result of the shorter distance, but the general belief is that a sprint finish shall once again determine the stage victor at the Tour of Yorkshire. With a finale which tilts upwards in regards to gradient, this could be a day for the punchier lightweight sprinters to stake claim to stage honours.

Tour of Yorkshire Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

Nacer Bouhanni failed to capitalise on the work of his Cofidis teammates yesterday, finishing off the podium in fourth place, despite a committed effort by the French outfit in the final kilometres. He will not be best pleased with yesterday’s result, so shall no doubt be motivated to strike success at the second time of asking at the day’s finish in Harrogate. Bouhanni climbs very well for a sprinter and is unlikely to be worried about the final section of rolling terrain which leads up to the finish line itself.

Caleb Ewan has previously combined his explosive power and small build to take advantage of uphill finishes such as these, making him a likely contender for the win on Stage 2 of 2017’s Tour of Yorkshire. Beaten in surprising fashion by Dylan Groenewegen yesterday, the latter having to start his sprint from amongst traffic, Ewan will know that he realistically is the fastest rider at the race. With the finish in Harrogate expected to be less hectic than Stage 1’s finale, he is bound to be positioned well by his Orica-Scott team in order to burst uphill for the win.

Kristian Sbaragli is never afforded a great deal of time in the limelight at major races, yet is a name which is often seen populating the upper rankings of stage finishes at major races. Though he struggles against the most powerful sprinters on a flat head to head finale, today’s gradient to the line should provide him with a levelling of the field for him to take advantage of. He came home in sixth place on the opening day, which is an encouraging sign, and will have a strong roster of Dimension Data riders at his disposal to help him late on.

Dylan Groenewegen took the opening stage as anticipated by Spokenforks, remaining anonymous in the leading group until very late on in the final kilometre. The young Dutch rider showed great patience while boxed in by his rivals, eventually being reward with a small gap to manoeuvre through, from which he ultimately surged to the line to edge out Caleb Ewan. Some will argue that today’s Stage 2 is an even better prospect for Groenewegen, and with concerns over the fitness of team leader Steven Kruijswijk after crashing, the powerful LottoNL – Jumbo team could decide he is the new man to back at this race.

Danny Van Poppel should be in the mix for the win on Stage 2 and will be eager for his Team Sky teammates to stay clear of any late crashes in Harrogate this time. The Dutch sprinter could prove to be another rider who benefits from the slight rise at the finish, but his form has not been particularly consistent this season, making it difficult to know exactly how great a contender he is. Regardless, he should be guaranteed a good position when it matters most and his explosive acceleration is capable of establishing a gap which is difficult to close when racing uphill.

Magnus Cort Nielsen may be gifted leadership from Caleb Ewan for a finish such as this, but only if the Australian is not feeling up to contesting the finale. Nielsen has risen rapidly through the peloton in the last year, demonstrating a great power in tough sprints, but will struggle to be allowed to go for the win himself on Stage 2. Will not start Stage 2 after sustaining suspected broken collarbone.

Adam Blythe was not directly hampered by the crash in the final kilometre yesterday, though certainly hesitated to continuing sprinting once he realised things around him were not going to plan. The British champion was not feeling in the best of form on the opening day, so his team will be hoping he can bounce back in Harrogate to challenge for the win and deliver the first British winner of a stage of the Tour of Yorkshire.

Tom Moses is a Yorkshireman who may well find himself with greater freedom to attack now his JLT – Condor team leader Russell Downing is out with a broken collarbone. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an uphill sprint, it would not prove wise to let Moses gain too great a gap on the peloton in the final moments of Stage 2.

Outcome:

1st Kristian Sbaragli 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd Caleb Ewan

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Yesterday proved to be a more tame affair than anticipated for the general classification contenders, instead they were pleased to allow the day’s breakaway to acquire a lengthy lead and decide the stage’s outcome from within their ranks. Having kept their powder dry yesterday, today’s first of two stages in the Alps should see life at the front of the general classification animated once again in 2016’s Giro d’Italia. Stage 19 comprises a 162km trip from Pinerolo to Risoul, spending the majority of time creeping upwards for around 80km, ultimately concluding with the 12.8km ascent to Risoul.

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 PreviewGiro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

 

Contenders:

Steven Kruijswijk appears to have cemented himself as the strongest climber in this race after all attempts so far from his rivals have failed to crack him. Though he may not be directly pursuing this stage as a target for victory, the impetus of other general classification focused teams is likely to reel in the breakaway late on and may inadvertently set the Dutchman up for victory. The climb to Risoul is relatively consistent throughout its ascent and should subsequently play to the strengths of the Dutchman; marking him out as the most likely GC rider to win here.

Esteban Chaves is still relatively unconfirmed in regards to surviving the concluding week of a grand tour, but is certainly one of the best climbers here on paper at least. It looks like it will take a perfectly timed and potent attack to finally drop Kruijswijk, so his chances of a stage win are more realistic if he sits back within the lead general classification group and aim to beat the rest in an uphill dash.

Ilnur Zakarin looks to be gaining strength as the race enters its final decisive moments and could well be in search of an opportunity to gain time on his rivals and step up to the podium. The Russian’s chances of succeeding here increase the longer we have to wait for action from the overall contenders, Zakarin likely to come unstuck if the tempo increases too early on the final climb. Should the action remain limited until the final few kilometres however, Zakarin will be one of the favourites to take time and possibly a stage win.

Darwin Atapuma will be aware that a good performance on Stage 19 will place him firmly in the mix to win the mountains classification jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His performance upon the queen stage deserved the win, but he was robbed by Esteban Chaves and his fellow escapees in the final kilometres. With a showing such as that already in the bag, there is no doubt that Atapuma could go the whole way today and win.

Sky are still searching hard for another victory and are likely to turn to the likes of Nicloas Roche and David Lopez. Both have demonstrated encouraging signs in the last few days, be it sticking with the GC frontrunners or turning in solid breakaway efforts, thus marking them out as clear contenders. It may also be worth keeping an eye upon Philip Deignan, the Irishman has been anonymous up to now and subsequently makes him a very difficult rider to assess, but his ability to climb should be enough to keep him in the mind of Sky.

Giovanni Visconti saved his efforts yesterday and is thus likely to have an eye upon a good performance here in an attempt to make gains in the mountains classification; much like Atapuma. If he is totally focused upon accumulating points, then it is likely he will be out of contention for the stage win as a result of doing his utmost to be first over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Should events develop in a manner which see him part of a lead group deciding the win, then Visconti’s sprinting ability could be enough to better most rivals.

For further breakaway contenders; Tanel KangertIan Boswell, Joe DombrowskiBlel Kadri, Giulio CicconeRubén Plaza and Amets Txurruka could all play a part.

Outcome:

1st Steven Kruijswijk 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

Breakaway: 1st Darwin Atapuma 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Philip Deignan

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview

Course:

The breakaway caused a huge shock yesterday after an acute lack of coherent chasing during the final kilometres ultimately conceded the day’s outcome by the sprinters, primarily due to a single well timed attack from Roger Kluge after the final corner. Today’s stage will be a manic affair once again, a long flat opening set to provoke rolling attacks from riders desperate to make it into the day’s breakaway, but it is the finale which causes the most interest. The 240km route from Muggió to Pinerolo features little in the way of challenges for the most part, but the climb of Pramartino will demand an immense effort to surge over its near 20% gradients and could instigate attacks from amongst the general classification rivals.

Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Giovanni Visconti is likely to take centre stage for Movistar on Stage 18, as though the finale does suit Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish outfit will look to limit their team’s efforts in regards to chasing ahead of further stresses in the mountains. Visconti is in good form thus far at this year’s Giro d’Italia and possesses the required skills to perform convincingly here; climbing, descending and sprinting better that many favourites to make the break today.

Tanel Kangert can definitely feature late on here if he manages to join the right move early on, potentially picking up a rare win at this year’s Giro for Astana. The Estonian rider is certainly strong enough to power over the Pramartino climb, though it shall take an immense effort during the early part of the day to join the decisive move.

Gianluca Brambilla has already enjoyed a successful Giro d’Italia when taking a stage victory and thus wore the maglia rosa for a short time. The Italian is likely to have seen his powers diminish somewhat, though at this point of the race few remain in the condition they entered in, but this stage is very well suited to his attributes. Like many here, the ability to perform well on the Pramartino climb is only half of the equation, as the lighter climbers like Brambilla still face the tough task of joining the day’s move amid a hectic start.

Nicolas Roche is likely to pick up the mantle of saving Sky’s Giro today, the Irishman being plenty strong enough to survive the fast paced opening section, while also having enough to survive the final climb in a position which should keep him in contention. Roche can also deliver a good sprint when required, but this is a well known fact, so he might find it difficult to acquire riders willing to join him out front all day.

A raft of riders are likely to invest the utmost in featuring in Stage 18’s battle for stage honours; Tim WellensJelle VanendertGeorg Preidler, Francesco BongiornoDiego Ullisi and Moreno Moser all potentially making the day’s moves.

Beyond the victor, the most interesting aspect of today is how the general classification riders will tackle the ascent up the steep Pramartino climb. Blessed with the title of ‘The Shark of Messina’, Nibali should know plenty about tasting blood, but on this occasion it is his rivals who sense that he himself is wounded. The result of this might be a concerted effort by both Esteban Chaves and Ilnur Zakarin to bury the Italian champion with a single well timed attack upon the steepest ramps of Pramartino. Alongside this, Alejandro Valverde may view this as an opportunity worth investing his efforts into, attempting to see Steven Kruijswijk crack for the first time. Regardless of who instigates it, the general belief is that Nibali will suffer the greatest if all hell breaks loose here; Astana will need to be well prepared.

Outcome:

1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Tanel Kangert

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 15 PREVIEW

Course:

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

giro-ditalia-stage-15-preview

Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome:

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

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 14 PREVIEW

Course:

The Dolomites now loom large upon the horizon as the riders have to face up to the monstrous climbs which now appear before them in the midst of 2016’s Giro d’Italia. We expect to see the first official exchange of blows amongst the real general classification favourites here, but whether such skirmishes will decide the day’s winner is still a tough questions to answer. A potent mixture of six climbs, comprising three Category 2 ascents and a further two Category 1 climbs, Stage 14’s 210km affair from Alpago to Corvara looks gruelling.

giro-ditalia-stage-14

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves has dropped hints of his form thus far, but we have not really seen the wide smiling Colombian truly drop the hammer, making Stage 14 an enticing prospect to watch Chaves attack his rivals with both barrels. Talented on the steepest slopes, both uphill and downhill, Orica’s captain here stands a great chance of taking the stage and subsequently igniting his campaign for a podium place.

Vincenzo Nibali appears to be flying somewhat under the radar here by doing the minimum required of him to stay amongst the frontrunners, but today’s draining test could be happy hunting for the Italian champion. Nibali has long established himself as the man to beat upon these long mountain days in the saddle and possesses a team strong enough to control the day in order to provide him with the opportunity to win.

Rafal Majka is blessed with a general classification position currently which could afford him the freedom to attack late on Stage 14; the sort of attacks which we saw him use to secure the Tour de France’s mountains classification. The final drags up to the finish should favour the Polish rider, but beating GC men such as Nibali will be tough.

Steven Kruijswijk does not seem to be attracting much attention right now despite following the very best climbers at this year’s Giro. This is the first real foray into the Dutchman’s favoured terrain and if he continues to build upon his form the harder the race becomes, it is easy to see him winning tough stages such as today.

Alejandro Valverde‘s hopes of winning 2016’s Giro d’Italia are likely to be tested for the first time during Stage 14 with the Spaniard’s abilities on such tough stages often stretched to their limits. Though unlikely to go on the offensive, it seems certain that he will manage to stay in touch of his rivals and possibly negate any deficit by descending like a madman once again. Should Valverde feature in a lead bunch which comes to the line first, then there are few who can beat the Movistar leader in a sprint.

Giovanni Visconti is placed nicely upon the mountains classification and is an obvious pick to make it into the break on Stage 14 during this crucial battle for the mountains jersey. Visconti even looks strong enough right now to elude the chase behind and win the stage outright.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Rafa Majka

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 6

Course:

With race organisers making the bold (yet correct decision) to prioritise rider safety when cancelling Stage 5, we move swiftly onto Stage 6 with an ever greater scope of riders still in contention for the overall win than expected by this point. The penultimate day is a 210km stretch from Castelraimondo to Cepagatti and is likely to encourage several of the well placed sprinters and strongmen on the general classification to try and gather a few bonus seconds ahead of the final time trail by winning Stage 6. The day as a whole is very simple, but the rises in the final 35km will be noteworthy, as well as a uphill battle to the line.
Stage 6

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has so far managed to avoid winning a stage here with great aplomb, but today’s challenge surely looks tailor-made for his abilities. With a 200km+ distance and some lumpy terrain late on, the reigning World Champion must feel confident of powering away from the rest of the contenders on the rise up to the finish line. A certain rival on this occasion will be Fernando Gaviria, the young Colombian being in great form right now and appears to dominate this type of uphill finale with great sucess. Caleb Ewan is one of the fastest in any race and is certainly the man to beat in a drag race here, but this final incline will blunt his speed somewhat, though Stage 3 demonstrated that this still results in a ferocious turn of speed. Moreno Hofland saw his team fumble the leadout on Stage 3, but will once again be a contender today if everything goes to plan on this occasion. With only the time trial remaining after this, Greg Van Avermaet could well fancy stealing bonus seconds by winning the stage and help cement BMC’s chances of winning this race overall alongside teammate Tejay Van Garderen.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Fernando Gaviria

Oman

Rapido Guide: Tour of Oman Stage 6 Preview

Course:

The final day of 2016’s Tour of Oman should be one for the sprinters yet again, promising a blood and thunder finale poised to be decided by a drag race to the line. A total of 130.5km separate the riders from the start at The Wave Muscat to Matrah Corniche, encompassing two categorised climbs along the way before a rolling section which exits on to the flat final few kilometres.

Oman

Contenders:

Alexander Kristoff will be confident of picking up another early season win here, the Norwegian is in imperious form once again in the Middle East and will surely be the man to beat on Stage 6. Moreno Hofland was not far behind Kristoff a few days ago in the sprint finish and there is no reason to think he cannot at least equal this result with such a strong leadout team in support of him. Jean-Pierre Drucker might not be a pure sprinter, but given the amount of climbing apparent in the later stages of today, he should be considered as a potential podium contender at the very least.

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Moreno Hofland 3rd Jean-Pierre Drucker