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

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Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

The breakaway could finally have a chance of being allowed a shot at victory by the peloton on Stage 15, something which has become a rarity during the opening two weeks of this year’s Le Tour de France. Starting at Laissac-Sévérac L’Église, the course takes in a very lumpy 189.5km route to Le Puy-en-Velay, featuring four officially categorised ascents and plenty of shorter digs to tire the hopefuls. Beginning with a small section of flat racing, the peloton will soon find themselves heading briefly downhill in order to approach the foot of the day’s opening climb, the Category 1 Montée de Naves d’Aurbrac. The climb itself is 8.9km in length and averages a gradient of 6.4%, concluding by almost immediately starting the next challenge of Stage 15; Côte de Vieurals. A Category 3 task, it is only 3.3km long and averages 5.9%, but could prove crucial in the formation of the day’s break as a result of its proximity to the first of the day’s climbs.

There is then an extremely long duration of rolling roads, with the rise towards L’Hospitalet du Sauvage able to impact upon the escapees, before the road then plummets rapidly downhill shortly after passing Saugues. From the valley the riders will ride upwards to tackle the Category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, a climb which could leave some struggling to find a rhythm at times, lasting 8.3km with a gradient which averages out at 7.4%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will chase one another down again, quickly overcoming the Category 4 Côte de Saint-Vidal as they accelerate towards the penultimate finish before the second rest day of Le Tour.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz should be the ideal card for AG2R La Mondiale to play on Stage 15, allowing them to sit back in the bunch with their leader Romain Bardet and leave those interested in the stage outcome to take up the chase. Performances up to this point have been encouraging from the French rider and should be enough to gain the backing of his team to make a move on the tough start to the day. Gifted in all three aspects required to compete well on this course (climbing, descending & sprinting), Vuillermoz could emerge as a key protagonist on a day expected to be decided by the breakaway.

Greg Van Avermaet has previously caused a surprise when successfully taking on grand tour stages of this nature and emerging victorious at the end of what many assumed to be too tough a task for the classics focused rider. BMC are now aiming themselves at stage wins as a result of Riche Porte’s abandonment and could choose to back the Belgian hero from their strong array of breakaway riders. Certainly the fastest in a sprint of those likely to make the day’s break, if Avermaet is on top form and able to control the accelerations throughout the major challenges, then he will be a tough prospect in any deciding sprint. His greatest issues however is joining the crucial attack early on despite a categorised climb not long after the start, meaning his team could turn to the likes of Damiano Caruso or Alessandro De Marchi instead.

Tony Gallopin briefly tried to get away from the peloton late in yesterday’s stage, but soon realised his efforts were better saved for today, especially given its more fitting course. He is returning to full strength after sustaining a foot injury early in the race and now looks to be poised to make a move in order to secure another memorable win at his home grand tour. A fully fit Gallopin is capable of making the cut on the first couple of climbs and fast enough to see off many of his likely rivals in a sprint at the end of the day.

Stephen Cummings could decide that Stage 15 is another opportunity to join the breakaway and hope that the peloton are more forgiving in comparison to his earlier efforts last week. Having taken both national titles the weekend before Le Tour de France kicked off, many were surprised by his strength and condition, given that he had been out of competition due to broken bones for some time. An extremely astute rider tactically, Cummings will not wish to waste energy in the rolling attacks which occur when riders seek to escape from the peloton. Instead, he will wait until he sees the right move beginning to form and then commit his efforts in order to increase its chances of sticking. If he can do this, then the final 40km – 50km offer him opportunities to go it alone and push for the win using his time trial talents once again.

Nicolas Roche will be hoping to bring some celebrations to BMC after a torrid first half of the race, now potentially the strongest man available to them, given his lack of lieutenant duties which are likely to have kept him relatively fresh compared to others with eyes on Stage 15. Very strong on his day, the Irish rider will be hoping to set a strong pace which ditches the faster riders hoping for a larger sprint, as he knows that a tough race is bound result in him being the fastest men left at the front of affairs.

Lilian Calmejane already showcased his talents a few stages ago and will be eager to revisit his exploits once again on Stage 15. No doubt marked more closely now than before his victory, the French rider will be expected to animate the selection process upon the opening climb of the day and pin his hopes upon slipping away from his rivals in the final quarter of the day to take another brilliant win.

Alberto Contador is the rider most likely to attack from the group of original general classification favourites, though admits himself that his focus is now upon stage wins rather than a good overall position by the time the race reaches Paris. The finale is the most unappealing aspect of the course today, as he will be concerned that faster riders will be able to follow him into the finish town, so will want to work hard in the second half of the race to force another split amongst the break.

Others to consider are Alessandro De MarchiDamiano CarusoTiesj BenootEsteban ChavesGianluca Brambilla and Primoz Roglic.

Outcome:

1st Alexis Vuillermoz 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Alberto Contador

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

A victory of great panache by Warren Barguil secured a back to back correct prediction for Spokenforks yesterday, tightening his grip upon the polka dot jersey and managing to take France’s first Bastille Day win at Le Tour since 2005. Today’s 181.5km course from Blagnac to Rodez will be a tougher affair to predict than yesterday, rolling terrain lending itself well to the ambitions of the breakaway, though an uphill finish to the day will have caught the eyes of several punchier sprinters and their teams. The first of two Category 3 ascents, Côte du viaduc du Viaur (2.3km, avg. 7%) is followed relatively quickly by the Côte de Centrès (2.3km, avg. 7%), neither of which are likely to cause much of an issue for breakaway or bunch alike. Though uncategorised by the race manual, a following rise is then apparent en route to Bonnecombe, which could potentially prove a useful launchpad as the break begins to fracture late on. The road starts to drop back down to Rodez, while the tension ratchets up ahead of the decisive climb of Côte de Saint-Pierre, which lasts just 570m and averages a tough 9.6%. Expectations are that an elite sprint finish will crown the day’s winner, though this is the Tour de France and life rarely goes to plan.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet has not shown his face a great deal at this year’s race, no doubt hoping to keep himself out of trouble and in good condition ahead of today’s finish, having previously won in Rodez at the Tour de France a couple of years ago. There will be a greater amount of pressure upon the Belgium to perform now BMC’s general classification hopes have left with Richie Porte in the back of an ambulance, but also a greater degree of team support as a result. With stage wins now the team’s main agenda, everyone will be fully aware of how ideal today’s finale is for Van Avermaet and they will do their utmost to control the race especially for him.

Michael Matthews should be motivated on a day which could help him massively in the green jersey competition, as the finish will be his greatest chance of taking a victory with Marcel Kittel firmly out of the picture. His team are on a high as of yesterday’s Bastille Day victory with Warren Barguil and will be hoping to continue their success with another strong showing on Stage 14. His climbing prowess has repeatedly allowed him to showcase how much stronger he is going uphill than many of his rivals, placing him in good stead for the tests expected here. A hard day and a hard ridden finish will favour Matthews, one of the most durable riders outside of the general classification big names, possessing a brilliant uphill sprinting talent to see it off emphatically.

Philippe Gilbert fits the bill well of a potential winner for Stage 14, having the endurance required to follow the rolling attacks and sprint convincingly over the Côte de Saint-Pierre in order to distance his opposition. His greatest strength will be the support, specifically positionally speaking, of his teammates as they guide him through the concluding half of this stage. The competition will be fierce for the win today, though Gilbert has the grit to suffer the punches and emerge sharpest when it matters most.

Diego Ulissi has carved out a talent for this style of finale, so should be looking upon this with eager eyes and serious conviction to be amongst the frontrunners on the Côte de Saint-Pierre. The Italian is not at his best right now, yet should be able to contest this outcome at least, given it being towards the lower end of his toughest career victories. UAE Team Emirates have focused plenty of effort in placing Louis Meintjes well in pursuit of the white jersey, though shall be eager to take a potential stage win by switching their support to the celebrated Italian for the day.

Sonny Colbrelli will no doubt have circled this as a day to aim for since the route was first released, but would surely have liked to be sat before it in stronger condition than currently seen to be riding in. Despite this fact, Colbrelli has done well at major races when somewhat below par by simply riding smarter than his rivals, maintaining freshness for the last push to the line. With limited team support, he may end up becoming swamped by the stronger teams around him late on, so might actually prefer a tougher selection process for the finale.

John Degenkolb does have form for producing brilliantly strong efforts upon late rises to the line, yet is likely to be further down the pecking order in Rodez as a result of lacking form and weaker team support. The German has not been able to produce the level of performance previously seen by him at Le Tour de France, but can expect to edge closer to victory now the race is getting tougher for the more lightweight sprinters. Powerful enough to grind a huge gear over such a short climb, this is well within his capabilities on paper, though has not shown enough up until now to suggest he will take the win.

Daniel Martin has survived his collision with Richie Porte relatively well, though yesterday’s post-race walk to the team bus did showcase just how much pain and bruising the Irishman has suffered as a result of his misfortune. Surprisingly strong yesterday, his teammates have rallied round him to accelerate his recovery as best as possible when riding a grand tour and he definitely looks dangerous enough to challenge for stage honours if the race lends itself to the maillot jaune group. This short and sharp conclusion to the day is ideal for Martin to attack upon, but it is not necessarily likely he will be in a position to do precisely that. If however the battle for the yellow jersey swallows up the day’s smaller moves, then Martin is the most likely to win from such an outcome.

Tony GallopinJan BakelantsEdvald Boasson HagenBen Swift and Alberto Bettiol could all cause an upset from either a breakaway or simply bursting forth from a bunch sprint when least expected.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Philippe Gilbert

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 10 PREVIEW

Course:

The preceding rest day shall seem like a distance memory as the peloton’s Andorran adventure continues for another day here on Stage 10. From Escaldes Engordany to Revel is a 197km journey which opens immediately with a tough task, climbing the 22.6km long Port d’Envalira (5.5%), a Category 1 ascent that will put many riders into the red as soon as they roll out. A breakaway has a great chance of determining today’s outcome, though much will be decided by the final run into Revel, the Category 3 Côte de Saint-Ferréol (6.6% avg) appearing poised to play a crucial role.

Tour de France Stage 10 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Peter Sagan looks to have the option of either joining the day’s breakaway or save his efforts and aim to take the win in a larger bunch kick at Revel. He will be aware that a win here should return the green jersey to his hands once again, but it could prove tricky deciding which method offers the best chances of another Tour de France victory.

Edvald Boasson Hagen entered the race with a great deal of form and has everything going in his favour to suggest he can pick up a stage win during 2016’s Tour de France. The Norwegian enjoys tough days in the saddle which help to reduce the number of contenders, so the finish into Revel should catch his eye as an ideal platform to ratchet up the pressure on his likely rivals.

Michael Matthews has not been as prominent as perhaps many had expected him to be during these opening stages, but Stage 10 offers an ideal opportunity to remind pundits that the Australian is still at the race. His Orica teammates can certainly take advantage of the Côte de Saint-Ferréol near the finish, applying the requisite pressure to crack the purer sprinters and set up a battle amongst the puncheurs and stronger fast men.

Bryan Coquard would have seen few complain about him collecting a stage win in the opening week, but unfortunately he has not quite managed to achieve this thus far. The French rider is evidently in brilliant form right now and will not hesitate to utilise his team’s strength to try and set himself up for the win here. Coquard is light enough to make it over the final climb and has demonstrated already that he is one of the fastest here; bigger names would be foolish to discount this precocious talent.

Marcel KittelMark Cavendish and André Greipel would be the leading names for today’s finish, but the monstrous Port d’Envalira ascent which opens Stage 10 will be a great task to overcome in order to contest any form of a sprint. It seems unlikely that such a long opening climb will be contested without any attacks being initiated with the hope of placing the afore mentioned trio in jeopardy and therefore out of contention.

Alexander Kristoff would have been a favourite for this stage a year ago, unfortunately there has been little to encourage his usual backers in recent weeks that the Norwegian will be a frontrunner by the time they reach Revel however.

Those likely to form part of a breakaway or last gasp attack include: Greg Van AvermaetTony GallopinJan BakelantsJasper StuyvenTom Jelte-SlagterLaurens Ten DamStephen Cummings and Nicolas Edet.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Peter Sagan

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 5 PREVIEW

Course:

Once again the riders face a day in excess of 200km as they make their way down towards lumpier territory before the weekend begins. Today is a 216km jaunt from yesterday’s finish of Limoges to Le Lioran, where a rather tricky finish is likely to lure the puncheurs to the fore as a battle breaks out upon the late ramp to the line which hovers around the 5% – 6% mark.

Tdf Stage 5 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde was meant to be keeping a low profile during these opening days of 2016’s Le Tour de France, but the temptation for victory was evidently too great when finishing 3rd on Stage 2. The veteran Spanish rider loves this type of finale and never normally struggles to demonstrate this fact when given the opportunity to do so. The greatest negative in regards to the chances of him winning at Le Lioran is the likely lack of support from his Movistar teammates, of which they look more likely to protect leader Nairo Quintana than himself.

Julian Alaphilippe came incredibly close to securing his maiden grand tour victory on Stage 2, but saw his chances snatched from him by a perfectly timed sprint by Peter Sagan. The French prodigy is another exceptional talent on finishes such as these, as demonstrated by his recent emergence in the Ardennes classics. Given that his Etixx team are likely to be riding on a high after Marcel Kittel’s surprise win in Limoges, they will wish to continue their success here and look to set Alaphilippe up for the win on Stage 5.

Dan Martin offers a fantastic back-up plan for Etixx if Julian Alaphilippe looks unable to contest the finale, dropping a hint as to his current form when finishing 4th on Stage 2. There is no doubt as to Martin’s ability to dominate this type of uphill finish, but there is certainly a question as to whether or not the gradients are truly tough enough to see the best from him.

Tony Gallopin is another Frenchman harbouring ambitions of winning here, looking to finally convert the efforts of his Lotto-Soudal team during this opening week into a stage win at last. There is little recent form to suggest something special from Gallopin here, but a Frenchman at his home race is always a danger to the major contenders.

Romain Bardet will no doubt be part of any front group which forms late on today, within which all the big name contenders for the overall title shall be situated. For Bardet though there is an extra incentive, as Stage 5’s route will feature roads he knows particularly well, which could give him the inspiration to attempt a stage win here; depending on how the final 50km are ridden. He is no slouch in an uphill contest and it is likely that we will see a greater number of general classification contenders than normal in the mix for a stage like this.

Rounding out the list of contenders who are perhaps closer to being sprinters and will only come into contention here if the race is ridden easier than expected include; Michael Matthews, Peter Sagan and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Outcome:

1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Julian Alaphilippe 3rd Romain Bardet

Amstel_Gold_Race_Preview

Rapido Guide – Amstel Gold 2016

Course:

Our official Rapido Guide to the exhilarating Ardennes classics begins with the infamous Amstel Golda race which has often churned up a surprise thanks to a testing course and highly tactical finale. This year’s edition is a familiar affair, likely to be decided by the strongest of riders on the Cauberg, where an elite group is often seen trading punches as they haul themselves to the top. Those first over the Cauberg for the final time will then have 1.8km separating them from the line, a stressful stretch of tarmac as riders calculate which wheels to follow and when to launch their move for the victory. Overall, 2016’s Amstel Gold is 248.7km long and packs in a staggering 34 recognised climbs to help decide who deserves the title of champion.

Amstel_Gold_Race_Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews has ridden incredibly strongly so far this season and we are not even into summer yet, so his form is only expected to get better still. The Australian rider should cope well with these short climbs throughout the race and will utilise a strong Orica-GreenEDGE team to keep all moves on a tight leash, hoping to power up the Cauberg on the final ascent in pursuit of victory. His performance at 2015’s World Road Race Championships showcased his talents on a demanding course like this and he could emerge as the man to beat during the final 1.8km run into the finish.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the defending champion here and will hope to stay in contention during the final decisive ascent of the Cauberg. He has already won E3 this year, but then looked less impressive at Ronde van Vlaanderen, though Amstel Gold is a far bigger target for him in 2016 and should hope to rise to the occasion here.

Julian Alaphilippe experienced a breakthrough season at these Ardennes races last year and will look to build upon that in 2016 by winning one. Though he has recently battled illness, Alaphilippe appears to be riding himself into ideal condition ahead of these races which he has performed so well at previously. He is a great threat to many, as he has the potential to drop others on the Cauberg, attack solo or even win a reduced sprint finish; a risky man who cannot be afforded too much space.

Other riders who may emerge as surprise challengers if they make it into the race winning move on the day include Simon GerransTony Gallopin and Ben Swift.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Julian Alaphilippe 3rd Michal Kwiatkowski

Rapido Guide – Branbantse Pijl 2016

Course:

While most fans and riders are still recovering from the maelstrom which was Paris-Roubaix, this week’s stopgap ahead of the major Ardennes Classics is filled by the lumpy Branbantse Pijl, serving up an insight as to 2016’s favourites for Amstel Gold, Fléche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Brabantse-Pijl-2016

Contenders:

Orica-GreenEDGE will fancy their chances of adding another victory to their recent Paris-Roubaix triumphant through the ever-improving Michael Matthews. The young Australian rider’s ability in a sprint has been impressive for some time now, but it is his growing talent on the climbs which have moulded him into the deadly rider we see now. Twice a runner-up in this race, Matthews clearly performs well on this type of course and used this as a stepping stone to the bigger Ardennes Classics last year; almost delivering him his first win there. His biggest concern in pursuit of victory will be controlling the breakaway and covering attacks via his Orica teammates on a rolling course which benefits aggressive riders.

Those mostly likely to rival Matthews in a potential sprint finish are Bryan Coquard (who can contribute to the chase with his Europcar team) and Sonny Colbrelli (limited chasing resources). Tony Gallopin has an encouraging record here and certainly has the skills to convert this into a victory; often the fastest in an elite group and strong enough to go solo. Other riders who are bound to catch the eye are Dries DevenynsTim Wellens and Silvan Dillier.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Bryan Coquard 3rd Tony Gallopin