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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Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

After forecasting another correct outcome at this year’s Tour de France to make it eight wins from sixteen stages thus far for Spokenforks, life gets trickier to predict as the peloton head into a pair of gruelling mountain stages. The first is a 183km passage from La Mure to Serre Chevalierfeaturing three of the most historic ascents from Tour de France history and ending with a fierce descent into the finish line. Beginning almost immediately uphill for the second day in a row, the riders start by pedalling towards the summit of the Category 2 Col d’Ormon, something of a warm up during its 5.1km duration which could soon see some struggle on its average gradient of 6.7%. A short drop back downhill will send the pack racing through the day’s intermediate sprint point, leaving them at the foot of the HC Col de la Croix de Fer, an imposing 24km long climb which continually breaks rhythm. This will make it hard for some to pace it correctly, especially if AG2R La Mondiale choose to attack Chris Froome once again, aiming to reduce his supporting riders ahead of the next two ascents.

Having survived the draining Col de la Croix de Fer and navigated safely back into the valley, the frontrunners will then be required to begin the Category 1 Col du Télégraphe. Shorter at 11.9km from top to bottom than its predecessor, though with a steeper average gradient of 7.1%, its a relatively even climb which offers extremely brief respite ahead of the concluding climb of Stage 17. The Col du Galibier is a HC challenge, opening with slopes manageable enough to lure riders anxiously waiting to attack into making a mistake, as it only gets tougher as the bunch near the summit; 17.7km long in total and an average of 6.9%. A long downhill leads all the way into Serre Chevalier, technical enough to turn the screw on rivals to begin with, though it is likely that gaps will begin to close once the descent becomes easier nearer town. A subtle drag leads up to the finish line, so it may prove ideal territory for a puncheur or even a general classification favourite to take the win.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Mikel Landa would normally be a name well worth considering for victory today, but with duties to his Team Sky leader keeping him on a tight leash, it is unlikely that the Basque rider will be allowed to attack and distance his captain in the process. He is clearly in fantastic form at the moment and evidently believes he is capable of winning the overall competition, expressing his disinterest at the potential of returning to another grand tour tethered to Chris Froome. The ascent of the Col du Galibier looks perfect for him to spring an attack from, sailing away downhill and potentially rolling any fellow escapees in a dash for the line. Should Chris Froome prove to have another bad day in the mountains; will Team Sky choose to send Mikel Landa back to help him and risk losing two riders on the general classification, or potentially give the talented lieutenant a chance to win this year’s Tour de France.

Romain Bardet will be on what many consider to be home soil for today and tomorrow, assessing how best he and his AG2R La Mondiale teammates can deal damage to Chris Froome before the individual time trial in Marseille. The Frenchman possesses the only team with the firepower capable of isolating the current maillot jaune and will be acutely aware that risking everything on tomorrow’s summit finish atop the Col d’Izoard could prove a miscalculation. The double header of Col du Télégraphe into Col du Galibier is where Bardet is most likely to make his move, attacking over the final summit and forcing a potentially lone Chris Froome to chase him down the concluding ascent. A stronger rise to the line would have made victory more likely, but if he times his offensive manoeuvres perfectly, then Bardet may well be on course for stage honours and a yellow jersey.

Dan Martin unexpectedly lost time in the crosswinds yesterday, despite finding himself well placed alongside giants Alexander Kristoff and André Greipel, compounded by the fact his Quick – Step teammates failed to live up to expectations as masters of such conditions. With their focus seemingly upon an unrealistic win for Marcel Kittel, the Irishman is now forced on the attack and will be appreciative of the stage which has been offered to him. With its long downhill run into the finish and the probability of him being the fastest present in an elite group of riders, this is a brilliant chance for Martin to collect a richly deserved stage win at this year’s race. However, the greatest concern is whether he can survive the onslaught of major climbs, especially if Romain Bardet signals his men to light the race up once again. Regardless, Martin seemed confident of returning to full fitness after his crash as the race enters its final week and will view this as an all or nothing day in the saddle.

Rigoberto Uran faces the greatest test of his surprise tilt at the yellow jersey during these next two days, as we await to discover how great a threat the Colombian may prove as the race approaches the crucial time trial in Marseille. Since his consecutive runner-up placings at the Giro d’Italia a few years ago, Uran has never appeared to be as strong as he once was in grand tours, thus this small renaissance of a much liked member of the peloton has the makings of banana skin for Chris Froome. Regardless, for now he must focus upon the task of Stage 17, one which suits his attributes well enough to hint at another potential stage win. Much like Dan Martin, his best hope is to stick within part of a small group of elite riders and hope to beat them all with the sort of acceleration which snatched victory by the millimetre on Stage 9.

Warren Barguil looks assured of standing atop the podium in Paris with the polka dot jersey upon his shoulders, yet he could still be lured out in pursuit another stage win today. With so many points on offer, Barguil could choose to hammer home his advantage by joining the early move of the day and aim to stay at the front of affairs right the way into Serre Chevalier. His form as been blistering during the race thus far, contributing to the goals of Michael Matthews equally as he has worked in pursuit of his own campaign in the mountains. The Frenchman may also instead wish to invest one final effort into a potential victory atop the Col d’Izoard tomorrow, though there is little to suggest he cannot win today if he chooses to attack.

Others who may hope to succeed from the early breakaway or attack over the summit of the final climb are Simon YatesAlberto ContadorTony GallopinPrimoz Roglic and Thomas De Gendt.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Warren Barguil 3rd Mikel Landa

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

After two days of sailing through the desert, Stage 3 finally provides a significant uphill challenge to the peloton as the race looks to rearrange the general classification with a testing climb to the finish line. The 150km journey from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet is another predominantly flat affair, teeing up the climbers for the ascent to the line which is certain to decide this year’s overall winner of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Having stayed safe throughout the day’s flat section, those with an eye on victory shall begin the 10.8km climb which averages 6.6% and possesses a maximum of 11% just before it eases ahead of the finish. With this in mind, any rider with a potent kick who survives the initial selection process upon the lower slopes will become a clear favourite to win the day.

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-3

Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali has ridden relatively lightly since this year’s Tour de France and was one of the main protagonists on this same stage last year; his crash at the Olympic Road Race keeping him off the bike until now. The Italian could sign off from his time at Astana with a final victory ahead of his move across to the brand new Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team for 2017. There is certainly no doubt that Nibali will survive the ascent and he has a brilliant chance of winning if he manages to ditch the strong puncheurs before making a move in the final kilometres.

Alberto Contador is another big name rider leaving his team at the end of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour, leaving the histrionic Oleg Tinkov’s eponymous squad to join a rejuvenated Trek-Segafredo for 2017. Contador had not raced since his fourth place finish at the Vuelta a España, so is somewhat of a mystery in regards to anticipating his form right now. This shorter ascent may not play to his strengths which have seen him dominate grand tours for so long, but there is no reason to think he cannot at least follow the main contenders.

Diego Ulissi could catch the climbers napping here if he manages to stay in contention during the ascent and then strike out with one of his famous uphill sprints. Given that the road does ease ahead of the summit, Ulissi has a strong chance of putting the purer climbers to bed with on well timed attack within view of the finish line as nobody can match him upon his favoured terrain.

Andrey Amador has a rare chance to lead Movistar in the absence of both Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, no doubt looking to make this opportunity count by winning today’s summit finish. He has enjoyed a successful year while riding in support of his team leaders and is sure to view this as a golden chance to add to his sole career win; a statistic difficult to believe.

Nicolas Roche looks to be Sky’s best chance of featuring well today, the Irishman arriving in Abu Dhabi to sign off from his time at the British outfit ahead of his move to BMC next year. He is a strong climber and is actually quite a potent finisher when required to go head to head with a rival for the win.

Other names who could all cause a stir are Davide RebellinTanel KangertThomas De GendtAlexandr KolobnevChristopher Latham and Michal Kwiatkowski.

Outcome:

1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Alberto Contador 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

After almost three weeks of racing, the specialists against the clock shall step into the limelight at last and look to take their sole opportunity of glory in Stage 19’s individual time trial. A relatively simple route from Xàbia to Calp will last 37km and looks the ideal terrain to establish a high speed battle amongst the contenders for stage honours here. However, with many twists and turns on the cards for the riders, there is also a large technical element to the day which will need negotiating en route to victory.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 19 Preview

Contenders:

Jonathan Castroviejo shall view today as his to lose, with few thoroughbred time trialists at La Vuelta, there shall not be many likely to push the Spanish rider to his limits for the win. The Movistar rider has long been closing the gap to the likes of Tony MartinTom Dumoulin and Bradley Wiggins, now finding himself without such a rival to truly test him as the peloton reaches Stage 19. Barring any technical errors or bad weather, Castroviejo is the clear favourite to secure a home win for Spanish fans.

Chris Froome may not be at his imperious best, but there is no doubt that he has been saving energy in anticipation of putting in a monstrous performance today. The gap to leader Nairo Quintana has grown considerably and it is hard to imagine Sky were expecting to chase such a deficit by the time they reached this point. Regardless, Froome’s goal now is to reduce the lead of Quintana as soon as possible, potentially setting himself up for a spectacular final few days at La Vuelta a España.

Luis León Sánchez Gil has previously performed very well during individual time trials which come late in a grand tour, marking himself out as a definite contender, especially given his strength during the last couple of weeks. He might not be the fastest against the clock, but once an attritional race takes its toll on his rivals, there is no reason he cannot better the time of any rider.

Victor Campenaerts is reigning Belgian time trial champion, contesting his first career grand tour in the shape of La Vuelta and clearly has an eye on performing well here after finishing last yesterday in hope of conserving energy. Had this come during the first week of racing, Campenaerts would have been high on the list of contenders, but the effects of a draining debut grand tour may now limit his chances on Stage 19.

Vegard Stake Laengen took a surprising third place during this year’s Giro d’Italia on Stage 9, reminding people of his decent ability in an individual time trial as a result. Given the distance and terrain on offer, the Norwegian has a great chance of featuring in the mix once again and should be worth watching.

Others deserving of consideration are Tobias LudvigssonFabio FellineAlberto ContadorSilvan Dillier and Thomas De Gendt.

Outcome:

1st Jonathan Castroviejo 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Luis León Sánchez Gil

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

After yesterday’s surprising exchanges between the general classification favourites, Stage 12 should follow a more orderly script, but that is not to say that the outcome will be easy to predict here. Stretching over 193.2km from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao, today’s stage takes in a total of four categorised climbs and will see the roads packed with some of cycling’s maddest fans as it passes into the Basque country. The immediately steep start to the day should lure out a breakaway with a greater number of climbers present, especially those eager to accumulate points in the chase for the mountains classification. The first ascent of the day is also the toughest, the Category 1 Puerto de Las Alisas is 10km in duration and averages a steady 6% gradient, after which the pack drop down to another flat section ahead of the next climb. Second on the day comes the Category 3 Alto La Escrita (6.4km avg 4.5%), then a longer run of flat terrain leads into the first of two finishing laps and onto the Category 2 Alto El Vivero (4.2km avg 8.5%), which will be summited a second time with less than 13km from the finish. Tactics on the concluding finishing circuits will play a huge part in the outcome of Stage 12 and it will be a late call as to whether a small move can stay clear into Bilbao.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 12 Preview

Contenders:

Fabio Felline has come agonisingly close to a stage victory on a couple of occasions at this year’s race and is likely to have requested that his Trek-Segafredo teammates commit to the day’s chase in hope of setting himself up for a win in Bilbao. His climbing ability has really caught the eye in this opening week and a bit of racing, now raising the question as to whether or not rivals can make life tough enough for him on the final climb.

Gianluca Brambilla should now find himself with a great deal of freedom to attack by the peloton, as a result of having blown a large amount of time on the general classification. This type of hilly terrain, which concludes with a descent to the line, is perfect for Brambilla to launch a late attack; while he shall also be a favourite to win from a reduced bunch sprint if required to.

Alejandro Valverde could be tempted to contest the finale here, a rider who often emerges as the strongest on a course which concludes with a late ascent that leads into the finish. His focus is now focused upon securing himself another grand tour podium finish, so may instead wish to simply follow the wheels of rivals and ride defensively during what may be a tougher than expected last climb. As ever though, if he is present in a lead group which splinters from the peloton late in the day and reaches Bilbao first, then Valverde will be many’s pick for the win.

Omar Fraile seems certain to join the day’s breakaway in order to continue his mission to secure the mountains classification and shall see the start to Stage 12 as an ideal springboard to do so. The main negative aspect for Fraile in regards to winning the stage is the amount of effort he is likely to invest when securing his points, certain to blunt his ability somewhat come the final climb.

Thomas De Gendt and Alexandre Geniez will be alert to the movements of Fraile in an attempt to prevent him gaining a greater advantage on the pair of them. De Gendt is perhaps the more likely of the two to go after the stage win given his recent form, while Geniez could be playing the long game and instead focus upon collecting points rather than stage honours.

Others with the potential of taking the win include; Luis Leon SanchezMathias Frank and Dries Devenyns.

Outcome:

1st Gianluca Brambilla 2nd Fabio Felline 3rd Thomas De Gendt

 

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Another day of rolling terrain awaits the peloton on Stage 6 as they tackle the 163.2km route from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra. Opening with an 86.6km circuit which loops back to the day’s starting city, the riders will have plenty of time to get their legs up to speed while rattling over the relatively tame terrain. The greatest pressure shall come from the battle for the breakaway, many teams aware of how unpredictable this year’s race appears to be and are already eager to make this count before opportunities dry up. The peloton will then begin facing their first serious ascending roads, culminating with the Category 2 Alto Alenz which lasts for 10.9km and sustains an average of 5.1% throughout. The following descent leads the pack to the foot of an uncategorised climb, a 13.3km ascent which has an average gradient of 3.4% and eventually flattens out with 20km remaining. From here follows a 1.8km drag (avg 6%) which finishes at the 3km to go banner, after which the final uphill section shall be the last 300m to the line with an average gradient of 3.5%.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take victory if the peloton bring back the day’s breakaway in the final kilometres. He is an extremely opportunistic rider who does not hesitate to seize upon the chance for bonus time or stage wins, though the day does appear to favour a breakaway more than a sprint finish. The natural momentum of the peloton may unintentionally sweep up the escapees during the final drags into the finish and this scenario would likely make Valverde the man to beat in Luintra.

Fabio Felline came extremely close to picking up the stage win yesterday and would surely have got the better of Gianni Meersman had the Belgian’s teammate Zdeněk Štybar not contributed such a brilliant effort to secure Etixx another victory. Felline has proven that his form is strong enough to challenge in the sprints and has previously joined late moves on courses similar to this, arriving at the line as the group’s fastest finisher.

Simon Clarke offers a great chance for Orica-BikeExchange to make the day’s move and thus reduce the pressure on them to chase down the leaders. The Australian looks to be in good form at La Vuelta a España and is the type of rider who is equally dangerous sprinting for the win from either a long distance breakaway or last minute move.

Samuel Sanchez and Philippe Gilbert are BMC’s best cards to play on Stage 6, both riders eager to take grand tour stage victories late in their careers now. Sanchez has been riding at the level of some of the biggest general classification contenders at this year’s edition and can clearly deliver a strong attack when required, though he may find his ambitions hamstrung by the team’s need to protect the red jersey of Darwin Atapuma instead. The fact that Gilbert suits this course so well should provide him with a greater level of freedom to attack in the final kilometres, and if the race develops favourably for him, then it is difficult to see many beating him in a head to head slog up to the line.

Zdeněk Štybar buried himself for Gianni Meersman yesterday as his teammate took Etixx’s second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España. Today’s offering may prove an ideal chance to swap the previous day’s roles around and instead support Štybar in a finale which could provide an ideal launchpad in the final kilometres for him to attack upon and solo to victory; a talent which has already secured high profile victories for him on several occasions.

There is a great chance that the day’s early breakaway will in fact make it to the finish first, riders who could all make the cut and subsequently steal stage honours on Stage 6 include; José GonçalvesEnrico BattaglinThomas De GendtDries DevenynsHugh CarthyRobert GesinkAlberto Losada and Rein Taaramäe

Outcome:

Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Philippe Gilbert 3rd Simon Clarke

Breakaway: 1st Thomas De Gendt 2nd Alberto Losada 3rd Samuel Sanchez

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

It may only be day four, but the peloton shall face their second summit finish of 2016’s La Vuelta a España already, though they shall be glad to see the gradients are somewhat easier compared to the previous day. The 163.5km trip from Betanzos to San Andrés de Teixido should provide the breakaway riders with another great opportunity to take a stage win before the first week is over. The first challenge of the day is the Category 3 Alto da Serra Capela (6.5km avg 4.6%), followed by another Category 3 ascent in the shape of the Alto Monte Caxado (7.3km avg 4.5%); before then dropping down rapidly and beginning a subsequent rolling section en route to the finale. The decisive Category 2 climb up to San Andrés de Teixido averages 4.8% during its 11.2km entirety, but does get harder nearer the summit as the road kicks up to over 7%. Stage 4 should be a day for the breakaway and it appears to be a case of who will win the fight to make the cut in the opening kilometres, before then hoping their luck holds right the way to the line.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

Thomas De Gendt has enjoyed a successful year thus far and shall be hoping that his impressive Tour de France form shall be carried into La Vuelta a España as he pursues another grand tour stage win. He enjoys this type of terrain which avoids getting too steep and never struggles to maintain the type of effort which the peloton finds hard to counter in the last moments of the race.

Gianluca Brambilla dug deep yesterday, but should be fresh enough on Stage 4 to try and make the day’s crucial move. He has form for riding aggressively on stages like these and has already worn the leader’s red jersey as a result of his tactics during last year’s edition of the race. If he is part of a small group which is clear of the peloton on the final ascent, there is a strong chance that Brambilla will be first rider home.

Alejandro Valverde is the most likely to win from a group of general classification riders, possessing a well documented talent for uphill sprints. If the dynamic of the race results in the day’s breakaway being caught upon the final climb, then Valverde will look to pounce late on and secure another stage victory at his home tour.

It is ultimately a guessing game as to who could make the day’s key breakaway move and the start will be fast as team’s know how high the chances are of staying clear right the way to the line today. Those who have what it takes to emerge victorious on Stage 4 include; Vicente ReynesOmar Fraile and Davide Formolo.

Outcome:

1st Gianluca Brambilla  2nd Thomas De Gendt 3rd Omar Fraile