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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 4 Preview


Skipping from one island to the next has left the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia to play out the first exchanges between the general classification contenders upon the Sicilian slopes of Mount Etna. An extremely tough summit finish for the race’s fourth stage will come as a shock to the system for many, charging headlong into a 181km trip from Cefalú to Etna, built entirely around the ascent of Portella Femmina Morta and the volcanic finale itself. The peloton are afforded almost 60km to get their legs back into motion after the preceding rest day, and they shall need it once they ride onto the opening slopes of the Category 2 Portella Femmina Morta. Lasting a soul destroying 32.8 km would be enough for many to simply climb off their bike upon its average gradient of 4.5% (max. 8%), but combined with the subsequent rise to Etna, this is one of the worst stages for anyone to experience a bad day in the saddle. The Category 1 climb to Etna’s summit lasts 17.9km and averages 6.6%, but the constant fluctuation of gradients is what will make it so hard for the riders to find a rhythm more than anything else, while the steepest slopes max out around 12%. With the GC riders keeping close tabs on one another, it might be the chance for the breakaway to take the glory, but the prestige of winning this stage in the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia may prove an irresistible honour for some of the race’s biggest names.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview


Vincenzo Nibali has long been gifted the moniker of The Shark of Messina, his hometown being placed just over an hour away from today’s summit finish and a rare chance for Nibali to take the maglia rosa on his native island of Sicily. Though it may not prove a wise tactical move in regards to the entire three week contest, riders share a great love for winning races or stages close to home and it is that which marks Nibali out as a threat today. With weather forecasts predicting relatively strong winds once again, it could prove tough for the Italian rider to break free of his GC rivals, let alone the fact he has shown little to inspire beyond his Tour of Croatia win so far this year. Regardless, this is a huge opportunity for Nibali to take glory on his doorstep and a strong headwind compacting the peloton may just allow his prowess with decisive last gasp attacks to secure Stage 4.

Thibaut Pinot enjoyed a successful time at the recent Giro del Trentino and has convincing form when it comes to winning major climbing stages such as this. His greatest weapon on Stage 4, where the wind may negate attacks for the most part of the day, is his surprisingly strong sprinting ability compared to those expected to finish alongside him. Though he has improved a great deal in time trials, there is no doubt he shall be fearing the loss of time in the two mid to long distance TTs which feature in this year’s race, making the chance to gain an early advantage here clearly appealing if possible.

Ilnur Zakarin had to endure his dose of bad luck during the opening three days of the race and will now hope nothing but good fortune remains between himself and the last day in Milano. Having already conceded 20 seconds, the Russian rider will be allowed a greater degree of freedom than had been originally anticipated on Stage 4, offering him the chance to regain lost time and take the maglia rosa. His explosive approach to racing stages like this looks ideal, able to open up gaps rapidly with his strong acceleration and also one of the fastest sprinters likely to be present in a lead group on Etna.

Geraint Thomas is fully aware that he needs to capture time over his rival Nairo Quintana at every opportunity possible in order to head into the two crucial time trials able to put time into the Colombian, rather than having to recoup it himself. The Welshman’s showing at the Giro del Trentino looks to be a firm foundation to be entering this grand tour upon and he is not afraid of attacking late in a stage to secure crucial seconds if able to. He should not be dropped by his rivals on the day’s climbs, but whether he is able to distance them is much harder to forecast, especially given the complex team tactics within Sky’s incredibly strong rosta of climbers at the race.

Nairo Quintana seeks to tackle the Giro – Tour double in 2017, so will be wanting to keep his powder dry for as long as possible during these early stages of the race, hoping to deal his damage in the final week to Milano. The Colombian will be entering the contest with the intention of riding himself into his best condition, making attacks as early as Stage 4 seem unlikely, though it will certainly be a tough ask to dislodge him in order to gain time from the pre-race favourite.

Other riders who all show potential for taking the win from either the day’s breakaway or a late solo move are Adam YatesOmar FraileMikel LandaPierre RollandHugh Carthy and Kenny Elissonde.


1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Thibaut Pinot

Outsider: Omar Fraile

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Rapido Guide: Tour of Yorkshire 2017 – Stage 2 Preview


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


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.


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

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 20 Preview


Instead of providing us with drama drip by drip throughout this grand tour, yesterday’s stage felt as if the Giro d’Italia had decided to serve up everything in one go; crashes, abandonments, a maglia rosa lost and a champion resurrected. Ilnur Zakarin left the race with a broken collarbone, while Steve Kruijswijk lost possession of the pink jersey after crashing into a snow bank and now appears set to abandon having sustained a fractured rib. Today is the final day in the mountains and thus the last chance for a rider to win this race with one last gasp attack when it counts most. The short 134km stage from Guillestre is sure to be explosive, taking in three Category 1 ascents, then finishing upon a Category 3 climb all the way up to the finish line at Sant’Anna di Vinadio. The general classification now sees its top four riders all within two minutes of one another and only the processional ride into Torino is left beyond today; the fuse is lit here and it wont be long until the Alps echo with a bang.



Vincenzo Nibali has once again revived a grand tour campaign from the brink of demise with one fantastic day in the saddle. The Italian champion dropped all of his rivals on Stage 19 and is now within touching distance of placing the pink jersey upon his shoulders with the last arduous mountain trial before Torino. Much of Nibali’s potential success today will be dependent upon another strong performance from his Astana teammates, who on this crucial stage, are anticipated to make life hell early on. The plan will be to isolate Esteban Chaves by dispatching his limited Orica-GreenEDGE support before the battle for the maglia rosa has even really started. Nibali’s performances in the third week of a grand tour have often been unrivalled and it certainly looked that way again, Chaves unable to follow him in the final moments of yesterday’s stage. The finale itself suits his Colombian rival neatly and Chaves will focus upon riding defensively throughout the day in order to conserve energy, so Nibali will need to have recovered well from yesterday’s efforts in order to gain enough time to take the pink jersey; do not forget the ten second time bonus for the stage winner too.

Esteban Chaves came the closest we have seen to truly blowing up at this year’s Giro d’Italia, but maintained a steady enough pace to come home third and take the leader’s jersey with one final test remaining. As mentioned previously, Chaves is likely to become isolated very early on here as Astana whittle down his support as soon as possible. Due to being race leader though, Chaves needs only to follow the attacks of the day; easier said than done. Should he approach the line alongside the likes of Nibali, he may just edge out the Italian on a finale which suits him well.

Alejandro Valverde has been unable to stick the pace of the true overall contenders for the Giro title, but will be confident of sealing another podium place at a grand tour by the end of Stage 20. The Movistar leader even has a chance of another stage win if he makes it to the line within the lead group; the uphill run being the ideal terrain for Valverde’s turn of pace.

Mikel Nieve finished second yesterday after pacing his final ascent very well indeed, his performance also sets him up well as the lead protagonist in today’s sub-plot; the mountains classification. It seems certain that Nieve will join the breakaway and aim to sweep up the large amount of points on offer throughout the stage to take the maglia azzura on the last day in the Alps. Current leader Damiano Cunego will need to follow Nieve or use teammates to try and protect his lead in the competition, but his chances look slim after a poor showing yesterday suggested he may have finally cracked.

Two breakaway candidates who have still yet to secure an elusive win are Joe Dombrowski and Darwin Atapuma. Both have shown they have the form to do so, yet have been unlucky to not make the grade, especially Atapuma on Stage 14. With today’s stage their final opportunity to steal a win from the general classification riders, it is likely both men will be in the day’s move.


1st Vincenzo Nibali 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Mikel Nieve

Maglia Rosa – Vincenzo Nibali

Maglia Azzura – Mikel Nieve


Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 4 Preview


The 2016 Giro d’Italia’s first foray into Italian territory takes the form of a 200km trip from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare, poised to be a hectic finale. The second half of this race looks set to shatter the ambitions of the pure sprinters, though many of the more versatile strongmen could mount a convincing challenge and take the win here instead. For many, the major challenge to overcome are the ascents of Bonifati, San Pietro and Via del Fortino late on in the race; the last of which includes ramps hovering around 18%.



Giacomo Nizzolo has been one of the strongest climbers amongst the quick-men in recent years and is likely to fancy his chances of taking his first ever grand tour stage win at 2016’s Giro d’Italia. His recent showings demonstrated a greater turn of speed than we have previously seen from him in the sprints when beating the likes of Mark Cavendish in Croatia, making him the likely favourite in a reduced sprint which lacks the powerhouse that is Marcel Kittel.

Sonny Colbrelli enjoyed a relatively successful Spring campaign which showed his return to strength after a 2015 season hampered by poor health. Colbrelli seems to flourish in the face of an attritional race, and with so many late climbs to test the legs, it is easy to see him turning in a good showing here. A strong tempo which drops his faster rivals will do him huge favours on Stage 4, leaving him the fastest man left in a sprint.

Matteo Trentin is the perfect alternative for Etixx-Quick Step to secure glory despite their expected loss of the maglia rosa, as Marcel Kittel is not anticipated to stay in touch over the final decisive climbs. Trentin has form for winning on these tricky intermediate stages, possessing similarly styled staged wins at Tour du Romandie and Le Tour de France for example. He is a dangerous man amongst any elite group and will need serious marshalling to reduce his odds of winning here.

Luka Mezgec is an interesting watch for Stage 4, the Slovenian rider has great form for winning from a reduced sprint, though may lack the support today. Mezgec has recently moved to Orica-GreenEDGE and potentially misses the team commitment required to really dominate on a day such as this. Depending on the condition of teammate Caleb Ewan, Mezgec may find his efforts somewhat hamstrung here unfortunately.

Kristian Sbaragli and Arnaud Démare are two riders who often lack the ability to string together a convincing run of form in order to contest a day such as this, but if today does prove to be an on form stage of the Giro, then they are a danger to anyone’s ambitions after surviving the late ascents.

In regards to a late breakaway move lasting all the way to the line as a result of a poorly organised chase, Gianluca Brambilla will be a threat along with Tim Wellens, while a wildcard sprinter worth remembering is Movistar’s José Joaquín Rojas.


1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Luka Mezgec


Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 3 Preview


Marcel Kittel crushed his rivals into the same dust they were left to chase as he opened up his sprint and crossed the line well ahead of any other riders. Stage 3’s 190km run from Nijmegen to Arnhem is essentially one giant u-turn on the previous day’s affairs, likely to feature a greater amount of crosswinds however; no doubt adding to early tour stresses. Unless the wind really stirs and causes a level of trouble on par with that of Stage 2 at last year’s Tour de France, then Arnhem should enjoy another high speed Giro finale.

Giro d'Italia Stage 3 Preview


Marcel Kittel already appears in unstoppable form after only a single win, seeing his Etixx-Quick Step team perform perfectly and deliver him to the ideal position to take the victory relatively stress free. A repeat is very much expected on Stage 3, which looks likely, but his greatest rival may in fact actually be the wind. Scything gales have the potential to cause mayhem during the day, though these are well anticipated by many, so their damage should be greatly reduced as long as riders maintain concentration. In regards to the chances of other teams scuttling the hopes of Kittel and co, FDJ were a surprise package and subsequently warrant keeping an eye upon.

Arnaud Démare has long been known for his great turn of speed, though having lacked convincing support for so long now, Démare’s palmarés lack the quantity of wins to showcase this; a Milan-San Remo win certainly demonstrates the quality however. The surprising effectiveness of his FDJ teammates today saw him finish second behind an indomitable Kittel, but with better anticipation and preventing Etixx-Quick Step from delivering their German ace onto his back wheel once again, Démare could secure an early French victory.

Sacha Modolo surfed the wheels with great success after his limited team resources dropped him off into a good position ahead of his sprint as the Italian rider secured third. On the right sort of finish it is easy to see Modolo taking a stage win at this year’s Giro d’Italia, though today does not tick the boxes required for that to happen.

Giacomo Nizzolo was a real disappointment on Stage 2 after many, including us, had expected him to at least be in the mix for a podium place. The Italian could well have cooked himself earlier in the day at the intermediate sprints unnecessarily, leaving him short on the energy required to really have chance of winning. It would come as no surprise to see him keep his powder dry on Stage 3 instead, which would improve his chances no end, especially given his recent victories in Croatia.

Moreno Hofland managed to turn in an almost solo effort amongst the maelstrom to take fourth place after making up ground rapidly before the line. The Dutch rider often goes under the radar at tours such as this and can never truly be ruled out of taking a win; especially if the winds take hold and riders such as Kittel miss the crucial echelons as they form.

Caleb Ewan is sure to find this race a great learning experience for himself, one of the few who does possess the speed to better Kittel, though today he simply failed when it came to positioning himself well enough to contest the win.


1st Marcel Kittel 2nd Arnaud Démare 3rd Sacha Modolo


Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 2 Preview


After yesterday’s prologue decided the order of things ahead of the first road stage at 2016’s Giro d’Italia, attention now switches to the sprinters and their opening skirmish in the battle for the points jersey. Running a total of 190km from Arnhem to Nijmegen, the terrain is typically flat for this gallop around Dutch roads, but does feature the first categorised climb of this year’s race with the Berg En Dal. 



Marcel Kittel has returned to impressive form since his slump last season and is expected to dominate the sprints throughout the next three weeks. This looks to be a typical ‘power sprint’ for the German ace to open his account with and it will be tough to match both his speed and positional abilities here.

Caleb Ewan is one of the few riders who can challenge Kittel in regards to speed, the young Australian already establishing himself as a major threat since rising to the very top of cycling. The team at hand to lead him out in the sprints is by no means a well oiled machine to match the likes of Etixx-Quick Step and could be the biggest detrimental factor to his hopes of winning Stage 1.

Giacomo Nizzolo does not suit this finale on paper due to the flat and non-technical nature, but his recent form warrants a mention here regardless. Nizzolo’s team has the level of firepower to match anyone in the sprints, able to bridge the gap to bigger sprinters if executed perfectly and secure Italy its first home win.

André Greipel would normally be one of the first names in mind for a stage like this, but the German arrives here with limited support and is notoriously awkward at positioning himself in the sprints on his own. He needs a lot of luck to have a chance of finding himself in the right place before opening his sprint up, but remains noteworthy in case he can pull off such fortune amongst a sprint which plays to his strengths.

Other riders likely to feature in the top ten are Elia VivianiSacha Modolo and Jakub Marezcko.


1st Marcel Kittel 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd Giacomo Nizzolo

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 3


The third stage of his year’s race should guarantee a group sprint of sorts, though the composition of such a drag race to the line will depend upon the intensity of the final kilometres. Overall, the day is a simple enough affair from Castelnuovo Val di Cecina to Montalto di Castro, a 176km jaunt which includes only a single categorised climb; the 16.7km rise up to Scansano.


Peter Sagan took second yesterday on a tricky finish which saw Zdenek Stybar solo his way to victory, but Sagan did secure second with a convincing sprint which he made look easy going. Considering the inclusion of moderate slopes during the finale here, Sagan might have the edge over his purer sprint rivals. Another man well worth keeping an eye upon given the terrain is Giacomo Nizzolo, arriving here in great early season form and possessing a strong leadout train to position him well. Caleb Ewan has already demonstrated that he can better the big names of sprinting at the top level and will be eager to repeat such feats on Stage 3 today; a real threat if still present in the final few kilometres. Another new hotshot on the sprinting scene has been Fernando Gaviria and he fits the bill here with a blend of climbing prowess and top finishing speed; he does arrive here however off the back of a testing Track World Championships which secured him a rainbow jersey though. Outsiders worth keeping an eye upon include Jempy DruckerEdvald Boasson Hagen and Elia Viviani.


1st Peter Sagan 2nd Giacomo Nizzolo 3rd Caleb Ewan