Tour of the Alps Stage 5 Preview and Betting Tips

Stage 4 Recap.

Luis Leon Sanchez gets the win he’s been waiting for and the GC favourites are once again locked in a stalemate.

This year’s TotA is becoming an advert for shorter stages as stage 4 was yet another with action from the off. Today’s break was an incredibly strong one with the likes of Ben Hermans, Mark Padun, Louis Meintjes, Felix Grosschartner, Mikel Bizkarra and Hubert Dupont all making it into the front group of 9. They were never given much room however and were all brought back before the final climb of the Bannberg. From here on out we were treated to some thrilling racing as one after another the favourites attacked. Aru was the first to put in a serious attack but was reeled in quickly by the ever-present Kenny Ellisonde. Froome then put in a couple of (quite weak) attacks which didn’t cause much of an issue for the other favourites and off the back of him attacks came from Pozzovivo, Lopez and Bennett. Despite the high intensity a group of a dozen made it over the top of the climb. Pinot cleverly took the front as to set his own pace for the decent and despite Froomes efforts to come round him he actually did a stellar job and ended up pulling out a small gap on the rest alongside Froome and Sanchez. On the flat they were quickly reeled in a after a small break Sanchez went again in what was the winning move. It was classic Luis Leon and a well-deserved victory after his efforts yesterday.

Parcours.

The Innsbruck stage, 164.2km with a preview of the upcoming World’s circuit.

The riders begin in Rattenburg and do a couple of loops before heading Southwest. They’ll hit the Alpbach climb after 64km, 7.4km at a 7.1% average, before continuing on to Innsbruck for the tough finishing circuit. Alpbach sounds relatively benign but is a staircase climb and has a two separate km’s nearing 15%.

The uncategorized Gnadewald is next at 105km and offers up 2.5km at a 9.9% average. From here the peloton will descend to Hall in Tirol before immediately hitting the first of three ascents up the Olympia climb. It’s listed as 6.5km at a 5.9% average. It’s a bit of a staircase with some testing gradients in the middle but its the repetition that will burn out the legs and hopefully produce some great racing.

Race Strategy.

The GC is still incredibly tight, only a time bonus’ difference. The route is slightly longer than in previous stages but not by enough to deter the big teams from ramping up the pace early on and again a break will find it hard to form let alone get a significant gap. The pace will be high on Alpbach and it’s tough gradient could be enough to put some riders in trouble but with the long (ish) transfer over to Gnadewald there’s a good chance they can get back on.

The pace will be high on the run in to the Gnadewald cllimb which will hit the riders like a wall and I would not be surprised to see someone like Aru try a long range one from here. Maybe even the likes of Luis Leon Sanchez who is now only a minute down on GC and could be a bit of a stealth pick for Astana.

Sky, Astana and FDJ will keep the pace high as long as they have team members in the front group and so I think a decent sized group will make it over the first ascent of the Olympia climb but we will likely see the race splintering on the second and third times up. FDJ will have their work cut out trying to defend Pinot’s lead and a lot of the leg-work will be left up to him.

Contenders.

Two in two for Luis Leon Sanchez? This is the third day in a row he’s top of my list and shortest at the bookies and with good reason. He’s climbing incredibly well. He’s shown he can mix it with the pure climbers like Pozzovivo but he also has the raw horsepower to stay away solo. He has the added incentive of the GC which isn’t completely out of reach. If Astana can mob the front group like they did today there’s nothing to suggest the LLS can’t slip away again for the win.

I’m not his biggest fan, but next up is George Bennett. He looked really strong today and put in a valiant effort to bridge up to LLS, actually managing to finish only 6 seconds behind him and 5 seconds up on the chasing group. 1:10 down on GC he probably won’t be at the forefront of Pinot’s mind but if he goes there’ll be plenty of others who’ll want to jump on his wheel for a free ride. He’s more than proved he’s capable of winning a stage like this, he’ll just need things to break his way.

Ben Hermans could be ideal for tomorrows stage. He was out in the break today so may feel some fatigue today but with the racing being so hard I think everyone will be struggling at this point. His palmares is littered with wins on stages like this and he goes well when forced to repeat short high intensity efforts. He was high on GC going into stage 4 and this was one of the reasons the break was never given any room but since then he’s slipped down to 3 minutes and is no longer a threat. At odds of 41 I definitely think he offers good value.

I also think Alexander Geniez could go well. He was over 11 minutes down today after puncturing with 30km to go and this has knocked him way down on GC and has potentially afforded him some vital rest before tomorrow’s final stage. He’s been in the hunt all week and tends to go well over the smaller slimbs that we have on offer tomorrow. Think back to his stunning win in the Vuelta a couple of years ago which was on stage with 4 medium length climbs in the final 60km.

Giulio Ciccone is a rider that I would love to go well tomorrow. He’d made the decisive moves more often than not throughout the week and was particularly impressive today mixing it with the big boys. My only worry is that he’ll choose to sit tight and protect his top 10 on GC because for him and his team this is a huge result in itself.

Finally I also like the look Michal Schlegel. Like Ciccone he’s been consistently well placed throughout the week, making the front group on stage 3 and finishing with the second group on stage 4. I expect tomorrow to be a frantic stage where anything could happen and so a well timed attack could be all thats needed for Schlegel to take his first win as a pro.

Tips.

Outrights –

0.5pt on Luis Leon Sanchez at 5.5 (bet365)

0.2pts Alexandre Geniez at 23 (bet365)

0.1pts Michal Schlegel at 201 (bet365)

Matchups –

2pts on Markus Eibegger to Sergey Firsanov at 2.37 (bet365)

 

Tour of the Alps Stage 4 Preview and Betting Tips

Stage 3 Recap.

Ben O’Connor takes his second pro win and in turn secures a big win for the eachwayvelo blog!

The touch paper was lit early in stage 3 as Pinot, Pozzovivo and O’Connor upped the pace on the Mendelpass and quickly got a substantial gap over a Sky and Astana led peloton. They hit the final climb of the Gampenpass with around a minute but crested it with only 20 seconds. As the peloton also neared the top of the Gampenpass Froome attacked and caused some panic taking away a group of about 8 riders. As the road tilted downward Froome got his descending boots on and pushed on and eventually managed to reel in the 3 up front. Prior to this, race leader Ivan Sosa had crashed and ended up rolling in 4 minutes down.

As the road flattened out Ben O’Connor sensed his opportunity and went for it. Froome initially looked to follow but sat up waiting for someone else to do the work and that was all it took. Ben O’Connor was away for the biggest win of his career. Pinot won the sprint for second and took with it the race lead while Miguel Angel Lopez dropped 9 seconds.

Parcours.

Two category 2 climbs are all the riders will have to deal with in another short 138km stage.

The final climb of the day, the Bannberg, comes with 17km to go and has some spicy lower slopes with percentages in the double digits. It’s got a couple of short descents within it’s 6.0km length which skews the average gradient but it would take an attack right from the bottom to create any sort of gap.

From the top of the climb there’s a 10km descent down to the finish line. The final km is downhill too and so if someone has managed to get away there’s a good chance they’ll be able to maintain it to the line.

Race Strategy.

It’s incredibly tight at the top of the GC right now with only 16 seconds separating the top 4, that the difference between a time bonus and no time bonus.

I think it will be another high stress day where none of the major players want to allow a break to stay away. I don’t think they’ll want to make the same mistake as they made today and anyone trying to get away will be marked tightly. There are however plenty of riders prepared to risk an early move so I would not be surprised to see the likes of Pozzovivo giving it a nudge on the lower slopes of the Bannberg or potentially even earlier.

Despite Astana’s slight off day today they are still in the driving seat and I think will look to make amends by thinning the bunch as much as possible throughout the day to tee it up for LL Sanchez or Pello Bilbao in the final.

Contenders.

Luis Leon Sanchez is again the bookies favourite and was itching for the win today. He’ll probably see this as his last chance to get away and the shorter climb of the Bannberg will suit. If he gets out front a peloton full of his Astana teammates is unlikely to put in a concerted chase.

Astana again have the option of Pello Bilbao for a reduced bunch sprint. He was off the pace today but much like LLS he will benefit from the smaller climbs of stage 4. Astana are in the ideal position with him and Sanchez and should it be a small group at the finish with Pello involved, he’s surely the top pick.

Can Ben O’Connor do it again? Unfortunately no. I think he’ll be there again in the finish but he won’t be allowed to drift off the front like he did today.

Alexander Geniez has improved stage after stage. He was right up there today and will fancy himself for a good result. He’s a bit further down on the GC at 2 minutes 40 and like today there will probably be a bit of hesitation from the favourites if he goes. If he can muscle his way over the top of the Bannberg first the there’s a good chance he takes it all the way.

This could certainly be Froome’s day. He’s up for this race and wants the win badly. He’s spoken about the importance of the time bonus’s and is a great descender. He’s not been given much room whenever he’s spun it up nor have these attacks looked devastatingly powerful. I think he came into this race slightly undercooked and is gaining form throughout. I think we’ll see him try something on the descent into the finish.

My final pick is Riccardo Zoidl. In the 3 stages so far he’s finished well consistently and will have gained confidence form this. He was about a minute off the top guys today but if he’s on a good day should be able to get over the Bannberg within touching distance of the front group. His proven time trialling ability could come in handy and he’s one who may well be given some room in the final as the other favourites watch each other. In a similar light, I’ll also be interested to see how Mark Padun does if let off the leach by Bahrain Merida.

Tips.

Outrights –

0.2pts Chris Froome at 8 (bet365)

0.2pts Pello Bilbao at 26 (bet365)

0.1pts Riccardo Zoidl at 126 (bet365)

Matchups –

2pts Herbert Dupont tb Mikel Bizkarra at 1.83 (bet365)

2pts Giulio Ciccone tb Ben Hermans at 2/1 (bet365)

 

 

Tour of the Alps Stage 3 Preview and Betting Tips

Stage 2 Recap.

Defensive riding on Pampeago saw Miguel Angel Lopez win a 5-up spint while Androni’s 20 year-old Ivan Sosa took the leaders jersey.

Six riders were in the break today but were kept on a tight leash and mopped up easily on the lower slopes of the Pampeago. FDJ set the early pace on the climb while Sky held back. At one point a small gap opened but it turned out this was a deliberate ploy by the sky boys and is similar to how we’ve seen Froomey ride these kind of steep climbs in the past. Sky eventually came to the front and cranked it up 2012 style with the pace so high that no-one was brave enough to attack and rider after rider was popped from the back of the group. Jan Hirt tried an attack with 3km to go but never looked a real threat and it was under the flamme rouge that Kenny Ellisonde pulled off and Froome began to spin it up. He didn’t get a gap but did eject the like of Fabio Aru and George Bennett. Pozzovivo tried to go over the top but wasn’t allowed much room and once he’d been brought back the pace slowed and the riders prepared for the sprint. Froome went first but Lopez was pushing a bigger gear and quickly came over the top of him with Pinot and Sosa in tow. With his second 3rd place in two days Sosa moved into the leaders jersey.

Parcours.

Setting off Auer – Ora the rider have a pretty benign 70 or so km before hitting the major test for the day up the Mendelpass. Its a 17km brute with an average slope of 6.4%. Taken at pace this will be more than enough to thin down the peloton. After a 7km descent the riders will then tackle the much easier Gampenpass which is a decent 12.9km but only averages 4%.

From the top of the Gampenpass is a long, straight descent. There’s 9km of valley riding to the finish and the final km is a little uphill but nothing severe.

Race Strategy.

I fear for Sosa. The like of Astana, Sky and FDJ will look to isolate him as soon as the road goes uphill. Based off the first two stages he should be able to hang on but will struggle if teams start firing riders up the road. Astana have Lopez and Hirt within touching distance of his race lead and Bilbao, Zeits and Sanchez all within a minute thirty.

Astana will look to thin the race as much as possible and I expect Sky will try to retain more of their workers there for the run-in.

Its a long descent to the finish and a tough one to get away on solo because it’s so straight. Any rider that tries to get over the top of Gampenpass solo will have the might of Astana chasing behind and for this reason I think we will see a reduced bunch sprint or a late break from an Astana rider.

Contenders.

Luis Leon Sanchez loves these kind of finishes and is in the ideal position to push on.

His teammate Pello Bilbao could well pick up his second win in only three stages. He’s more than shown he’s capable of getting over climbs like the Mendelpass and has the best finishing kick of anyone at the race. He has the option of going solo or winning from a reduced bunch.

Outside of Astana it will take a monster ride or a bit of luck. I’m expecting 5 or so Astana riders to make it over the Mendelpass with the front group and so it will take a major tactical blunder to lose the stage from here.

If someone else is to snatch it I think Ben Hermans will have the best shot. He has a proven finishing and was very impressive on Pampeago. He’ll definitely make it over the Mendelpass its just a question of how the race pans out from there.

AG2R’s pairing of Montaguti and Geniez also have a good shot tomorrow. Both finish surprisingly well on stage 2 but are a good couple of minutes outside the GC lead so may well be given some room. They’ve both got big power and could be good for a late break.

My outside pick is Ben O’Connor. A second year pro he won a stage similar to this in the Tour of Austria last year. At 151s he’s worth a small punt.

Tips.

0.1pts on Ben O’Connor to win at 151 (bet365)

Tour of the Alps Stage 2 Preview and Betting Tips

Stage 1 Recap

Fan-favourite Pello Bilbao takes a popular win as Astana dominate.

The early break was filled with a typical cast of pro conti riders and was caught quite easily on the final climb. Giro stage-winner Guilio Ciccone took off shortly after the catch was made and actually managed to crest Serrada first but was looking behind every 10 seconds and never looked confident. We saw Pinot attack but get reeled in easily by Kenny Ellisonde and we saw Froomey speaking at length into his radio before Sky upped the pace and wittled the front group drastically. Froome then attacked only Pozzovivo, Bennett and Pinot could follow but once they started the descent they couldn’t get working and were caught by a group that contained 5, yes 5 Astana riders. It was as this moment then Pello took the opportunity to attack. Astana’s huge numbers in the group behind deterred anyone from making a concerted chase and from here his victory was sealed. LL Sanchez got 2nd and 20 year old Androni rider IR Sosa rounded out the podium. Another young Columbian to keep an eye on?

Parcours.

The race heads further North with another short stage and a tough summit finish.

There are three categorised climbs on the menu starting with the cat 1 Passo del Redebus (12.5km @ 5.5%) before a lumpy 50km transfer over to the much shorter cat 3 climb  up to Calvalese (3km @ 5.7%) which they will complete twice. Only the first ascent will have mountain points on offer. From here the riders head towards the final climb of the Alpe di Pampeago where 9km at an average gradient of 9.3% awaits. The final 4km of the Pampeago doesn’t go below 11% and it’s here that the stage will be decided.

Race Strategy.

With the race descending for the first 20km we may not see the early break form until the riders hit Passo Redebus. From here they’re unlikely to be given much of a gap and will be caught on the lower slopes of the Pampeago if not earlier on the second ascent up to Calvalese.

With the leaders jersey and clearly the strongest team the it will be down to Astana to set the pace for the peloton but I imagine Sky will chip in as they always do. Pinot was isolated on the final climb after FDJ did the brunt of the work chasing the break and so I imagine they’ll sit back a bit more tomorrow.

Froome looked keen make his mark on the race today and so I think we’ll again see Sky come to the front on the final climb and press on. The pace will be relentless and it would take an immense effort to go over the top of the Sky train. I think once the likes of Diego Rosa, de la Cruz and Ellisonde are gone a lot of the favourites will fancy their chances at a stage win and a time bonus and so I think we will see multiple attacks in the final 4km.

Contenders.

Chris Froome’s form looks like it’s headed in the right direction. He was the first contender to put in a proper leg-breaker and he was beaten only by Thibaut Pinot in the final push for the line. He looks up for it and has commented on the importance of the time bonuses as this race. He’s fired up, he wants a stage win and he want the time bonus to go with it. This is a Chris Froome I can get behind.

Thibaut Pinot wanted to make his mark on this year’s TotA. He was confident enough to set his FDJ team up to chase and he went on the attack early but seemed to overestimate how much pain the rest of the pack was in as former teammate Kenny Ellisonde calmly reeled him in. Despite wasting energy like this he was one of only 3 riders able to go with Froomes attack and he was then the strongest of them all sprinting to the line for 4th. Tommorow’s climb up the Pampeago will be a sterner test for Pinot as he often struggles on steeper climbs but he clearly has the form and I have no doubt he’ll finish well.

I didn’t rate Domenico Pozzovivo’s chances before this race but his stage one performance was strong and he looked comfortable in the role of team leader. He was straight on Bennetts wheel when Froome attacked and he did more work than others trying to make it stick. He only weighs 53kg and so tomorrow’s final climb could be perfect for him.

Another rider that the steep finish of tomorrow will suit is Fabio Aru. He looked good on stage 1 but tried attacking right before Froome wound up an attack of his own and Aru looked as though he was struggling trying to bridge back up to the leaders. Attack is the best form of defence when it comes to Aru and he’ll want to make amends after making such a simple tactical blunder today.

It’s obvious that Miguel Angel Lopez has the strongest team at the race but is his form good enough to win here? He tellingly lost a few extra seconds over Froome and Pinot on the final ramps but perhaps this is just because of he’s not particularly explosive. If Astana are really behind him they will look to make the pace hard as soon as they hit the final climb. If not Lopez maybe Pello Bilbao can hold on although I think this climb will be too much and what about Luis Leon Sanchez? Honestly though, despite Astana’s strength I think the combined might of Sky and FDJ will see Astana losing the jersey on Stage 2.

Sam Bennett also had a good ride on stage 1 but I can’t see him winning here. He looks in good form but rarely puts in attacks of his own. he’s got a good chance at a podium though and for that reason I’m backing him each way at 18s.

What can Ivan Sosa do? The favourites gave him some room to attack in the final km but it was a mightily impressive ride even so. If his legs aren’t too heavy tomorrow he may well be given a bit of leeway again tomorrow. I’ll definitely be rooting for him but it would be a shock if he were take take the stage.

Tips.

Outrights –

2pts on Froome to win at 2.87 (bet365)

1pt on Bennett e/w at 18 (bet365)

1pt on Aru e/w at 15 (bet365) – I’m potentially going with my heart over my head here so this bets just for fun.

Matchups –

3pts on Louis Meintjes tb Amaro Manuel Antunes at 1.53

 

Tour of the Alps Stage 1 Preview and Betting Tips

The most beautiful race on the calendar. The Tour of the Alps (previously Giro del Trentino) condenses the best bits of the Giro d’Italia into five short but mountainous stages.

Parcours.

The riders will roll out from the pretty town of Arco in the foothills of the Dolomites, heading North towards Mezzocorona. Straight out of the gate they will be climbing and the gradient won’t ease for 50km. It rarely goes over 4% so shouldn’t cause anyone any trouble but it will set the tone for what is going to be a very testing week.

Once they’ve completed the first climb the riders will swing a U-turn and head back South. The stage is only 134.6km and so after only 35km of flat road they will hit the final ascent of Serrada. It’s quite a steady climb with the most testing gradients packed into the final 7km. Once they’ve crested Serrada there remains 6km of undulating roads until the finish line which could be just enough time to bring back a lone attacker.

Race Strategy.

With such a short stage it would not be unheard of for one team to light it up on the first climb and try to blow the race apart however with this being the first stage I think this is unlikely. The main contenders will want to suss each other out before they lay it all on the line.

Having said this we are sure to see some fireworks up Serrada. I doubt the big teams will give the breakaway much more than a couple of minutes into the bottom of the climb and once on it I think we will see Sky and Astana and potentially UAE Team Emirates start to crank up the pace. I think it’ll be poker faces for a long way up the climb as the favourites try to work out what sort of condition each other in and it may allow for a slightly lesser known rider to clip away for the win. 

The 6.5km of rolling terrain after the summit will prove interesting as anyone who’s got over solo will probably need a decent gap if they want to stay away to the finish. 

Contenders.

I’m really looking forward to this first stage as there are plenty of guys capable of taking the win. It’s a tough one to call as so many of the favourites have raced sparingly this year but this should make viewing all the more interesting. 

Top of the list is Miguel Angel Lopez. A climbing sensation but one that can sometimes blow hot and cold. His most recent performance at Itzulia didn’t exactly set the world alight but this was probably to be expected as he tends to excel on climbs longer than those found in the Basque Country. He’s a bit of a diesel engine and should go well on stage 1 but I don’t see him winning as he watches the other favourites.

Chris Froome starts a race for the first time since Tirreno and his form is largely unknown. As he’s going for the Giro-Tour double this year I don’t think we can expect him to be flying just yet. Last year he went into the Tour de France slightly undercooked so that he could hit top form at the race and continue that through to the Vuelta. I think we’ll be seeing a similar thing with the Giro this year so I’m not sure that he’ll be in top form just yet. With him seemingly rattled by the media on a weekly basis he may be out to prove a point. He certainly has the power it’s just a question of where his head’s at and how he’s targeted this year. 

It wouldn’t be shock if Thibaut Pinot slips away up Serrada. He’s raced very little this year but was impressive in Cataluyna despite telling the press he was nowhere near top form. He tends to do well on long steady slopes where he can turn a big gear and so Serrada should suit him perfectly. Unlike Froome and Lopez he may be more anxious to get a head start on his rivals and so if he’s capable I would expect him to attack. 

Next up is Fabio Aru. He’s probably the last of the guys capable both of taking the win today and the overall come the finish in Innsbruck. He’s one of the most explosive climbers in the peloton and he’s incredibly exciting to watch. If he doesn’t attack today he’s sure to try something later in the race. Unlike the others he’s got a decent number of race-days under his belt with his attack on stage 4 of Tirreno a particular highlight. I think he will be strong but he has a tendency to save his best performances for the grand tours so I doubt we’ll see a win from him here today. 

With this being the first stage it’s quite likely that these four mark each other out and we see an opportunist clip away for the win.

Cheif of these is Giovanni Visconti. He’s the shortest priced favourite behind Pinot which is down to his ability to climb with the best and his fast finishing speed. Arriving without a clear team leader he’s sure to be given a lot of freedom both by his team and the other favourites. He’s a great pick just at 7.5 he’s a little too short for my liking. 

Pello Bilbao could definitely go well. He had an awesome ride in Itzulia and has a nice finishing kick that could be perfect if we see a reduced group come over the top of Serrada. He’ll be working for Lopez so if none of the favourites go it’s likely he’ll still be there and could potentially mop up the win for Astana. If it’s not Pello then potentially Luis Leon Sanchez? He’s raced a lot this year and has been cashing in on some stellar form. He will muscle his way up here and has the pure watts to stay away on a flat road to the finish. 

Outside of FroomeTeam Sky have two other potential winners in Diego Rosa and David de la Cruz. The former was dominant in the Coppi e Bartali, potentially putting in his best performances in a Sky jersey while the latter has ridden well all year, taking an impressive win on the final stage of Paris Nice only a month ago. Both are similar riders and if given any freedom today they most certainly have the talent to take the win. It really is a big IF though…

AG2R’s Alexandre Geniez and his treetrunk thighs might well be able to force his way off the front. Despite his large frame he climbs very well and with the finishing climb lacking any seriously big gradients it could suit him well. AG2R come without an obvious GC contender and so their aim will be stages just like this, plus it’s his birthday! Similarly Matteo Montaguti can climb well and won a stage here last year. He will have been given a similar brief and so I expect to see some attacking riding from the AG2R boys. 

George Bennett leads LottoNL-Jumbo and is hotly tipped by many as the next big thing despite already being 28. His wiry frame is probably suited to climbs steeper than this but he’s had a good start to season and will be slightly lower down the list of marked men. 

Finally I’ll list off a couple of outsiders. Valerio Conti showed he can go well on hilly days with his win in the Vuelta a couple of years ago but a win here would likely need to be from the early break. Young Felix Grossschartner has one of the coolest names in the peloton and is having a bit of a breakthrough year with strong results in Paris Nice and Itzulia. I’ll be watching out for how her performs here. The person I’ll be backing today as a bit of fun is Jan Hirt. It’s his first year in the world tour and his 12th place in the Giro last year shows he’s got world class legs when in form. If he’s given some freedom by Astana he’s got a chance. Domenico Pozzovivo rides and is often up there but rarely wins. Ben Hermans is Israel Cycling Academy’s best chance and Davide Ballerini is Nippo’s. Finally Damiano Cunego may roll back the years and take the stage here as he has done so many times in the past. 

Tips.

A very open race with a whole host of different outcomes. I think I’ll wait to see how the favourites are looking after this stage to place any significant bets but I’ll have a couple of fun ones today with small stakes.

Outrights – 

0.1pts on Jan Hirt at 151 (bet365)

0.2pts on Alexandre Geniez at 17 (bet365) It’s his birthday!

Matchups – 

Bet365 have a few up for Stage 1 but I don’t like the look of any of them to be honest. If you really fancy it I think the best option is Dupont tb Torres at 2.62 (bet365) but I think each one of them is a bit of a lottery. 

 

Amstel Gold Wrap Up

Michael Valgren times his attack perfectly to take his second win of the season.

Pre-2017 I’d never have imagined I’d be describing Amstel Gold as fast and unpredictable but that’s exactly what we got today. Since the route change of last year we’ve had a pair of attacking races decided only in the dying moments and this year it was outside bet Michael Valgren that shocked everyone to take a stunning victory. 

The first race-defining attack came when Kreuziger pushed on in the crosswinds over the top of the Keutenberg at 27km to go. It ejected the likes of Bauke Mollema and drew out Gasparotto who bridged quickly. They had a decent gap which was thinned down by Pieter Serry of QS before a number of attacks flew up the Cauberg. It wasn’t until the Geulhemmerberg that Valverde made his move, bridging to the pair up front and shattering the likes of Gilbert and GvA. Only Sagan, Alaphilippe and Valgren were able to follow immediately and in hindsight this was a moment that gave us a big clue as to who would be strong in the final.

The front group swelled as dropped riders managed to drag themselves back on and it was great to see Rieseebeek and van Hecke from the early break still making moves and going for glory. Importantly Fuglsang managed to make it to the front and was very active, attacking three times and causing a different one of the favourites chase each time all while Valgren sat on the back completely invisible.

With less than 10km to the line Valgren attacked right up the centre of the road and was so powerful that the animal that is Tim Wellens simply couldn’t follow and had to rely on Sagan to bring him back. I think this took a lot out of Sagan and made him hesitant to close any other gaps for fear of taking Valverde and Alaphillipe to the line.

At 2.2km Valgren went again and was followed closely by Kreuziger and then chased a few seconds later by Gasparotto. Sagan et al hesitated and watched each other giving the front pairing a gap of about 15 seconds. At this point it was game over, both were committed and had more than enough strength to take it to line. Valgren waved his elbow aggressively at Kreuziger with about 500m to go signalling for him to come through and to my surprise he actually did, giving Valgren a perfect leadout who sprinted around him for a well-deserved win.

So a great race but because of that only a mediocre day at the bookmakers. I stand by my main pick of Valverde who I think looked the strongest today and was a sight to behold when he whacked it in the big ring and blew away the likes of Kwiato, GvA and Gilbert. Him and Sagan seemed to mark each other out in the final few km’s and it was again that man Sagan who pipped him to the line and left Valverde in 5th. 

Kwiato just didn’t have it today it seems, dropped like a brick on the Geulhemmerberg.  Benoot DNF’ed but despite my best efforts searching through twitter I’m at a loss as to why. Wellens on the other hand made the final selection but it was telling that he couldn’t close down Valgren’s first attack and despite a couple attempts to get away he had run out of gas when it really mattered. PhilGil was my final pick and by the sounds of things a lot of people thought he had this race wrapped up on the startline. He struggled when Valverde attacked but put in a decent effort to get back to the front group and despite being dropped again he actually managed a pretty respectful 13th place. Still, there’s no way he’s happy with that and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes for the rest of the week although I doubt anyone will have as much faith in him to deliver.

Much like Roubaix, it was the matchbets that saved me and resulted in a nice bit of profit from today. Poels DNFed meaning Nibali won that matchup by default and Gilbert finished in the same group as GvA but luckily for me managed to pip him to the line by a single place.

Overall, I had 2.75pts staked on outrights and 4pts on the matchups for a total of 6.75pts. We returned a big fat 0 from the outrights but with both matchups coming in we returned 6.88pts and so took home a small but important 0.13pt profit. That’s a huge 2%!

Jokes aside I’m quite happy to come away from that with a profit. It’s not much but we could’ve done a lot worse with non of my 5 picks on the podium!

So, return of 6.88pts, a profit of 0.13pts (2%). Next up we have the Tour of the Alps (previously Giro del Trentino) which I’ll try to do previews of when I can and then on Wednesday we have Fleche.

 

 

Amstel Gold 2018 Preview and Betting Tips

Cobbled classics done, it’s time for some climbing.

It can be hard to get over the excitement of the Flanders – Roubaix fortnight, and the Ardennes week can often feel like a slap across the face as we watch the peloton roll around for 6 hours waiting to turn it on in the last 15 minutes.

Do not fear! The revised route from 2017 is back and if last year is anything to go by we’re in for some gripping racing that isn’t decided by one final climb. There is a stellar cast of riders lining up in Maastricht and while we see a lot of the classics contenders returning we also see the reemergence of a different type of rider, the climber.

16-04-2017 Amstel Gold Race;

Parcours.

260.6km, 3449m of elevation. Ouch.

As always the Amstel Gold route is brutal. Rolling out from Maastricht, the riders will twist and turn their way around the southern-most region of the Netherlands (not the Ardennes) along dangerous narrow roads and up a total of 35 climbs.

The riders hit the first climb only 9.3km into the race and this is often used as a launchpad for the days breakaway. The race is rarely flat and the climbs short but often steep. Of the 35 hills, the Sibbergrubbe, Bemelerberg, Loorberg and Gulpenerberg are to be ridden twice and the Cauberg and Geulhemmerberg make three appearances. You can take a look at the full list of climbs over at cyclingstage.com (https://www.cyclingstage.com/amstel-gold-race-2018/).

Honestly though, you probably only have to worry about the final few climbs of the day.  The Kruisberg is where splits began to occur last year and you can see why when it averages nearly 9% and has a maximum of over 15%. The Keutenberg, which comes at 27km, has a maximum gradient of 22% which is gnarly on a good day let alone after 230km of racing. Next up is the famous Cauberg at 19km to the finish. This climb used to decide the race because it was so close to the finish but as of last year it’s been moved back and the race is so much better for it. It’s still a tough one though at 800m long and an average of 6.5% so could still be a deciding factor in the final selection. The last two climbs are the  Geulhemmerberg at around 14km to go and then finally the Bemelerberg which is crested with just over 6km to the line. Both are relatively benign at 5% and 4.5% compared to what the riders have faced so far but the intensity of the race and growing fatigue will make these deciding factors in the outcome of the race.

amstel 2018 elevation

Weather.

Cloudy but warm. The weather gods have been kind to the riders this spring and that’s set to continue for Amstel Gold. We might see a small bit of rain in the morning but nothing that will cause any issues and wind is set to be consistently light throughout the day.

Race Strategy.

Pre-2017 the tactics at this race were simple. Each team would bring their best puncheur, lead him out into the bottom of the Cauberg, and let them loose in a battle of maximum 2 minute power. If we were lucky we’d get a pair or a small group cresting and get to witness a sprint for the finish a couple of km later.

However!

The route change that moved the Cauberg back to 19km to go saw this tactic largely thrown out of the window and we were treated to exciting racing from much further out. I expect this to happen once again as the roads in the final 40km are deliberately tight and the organisers have ensured lots of technical 90 degree bends. Teams will find it difficult to control the race and moving up the bunch on this kind of terrain wastes a lot of energy. I expect teams will prefer to have there best riders up the road and so I imagine that we will again see some of the main protagonists trying to escape with as much as an hour left of racing.

The Kruisberg was where the real racing began last year and then it was on the Keutenberg where we saw Gilbert and Kwiato really put the pressure on before breaking away as a pairing on the Bemelerberg.

I believe we will see a similar scenario this year. The climbs come in such short succession in the final hour that we will see a whittling down of the favourites until the decisive move is made on one of the last two climbs, most likely the Bemelerberg, where either a rider will get away solo or a small group will make it over the top and ride to the finish.

Contenders.

Peter Sagan, Peter Sagan, Peter Sagan. Somewhat surprisingly after his big win in Roubaix Sagan will be taking to the start line in Maastricht and is the bookies favourite to take the win. I wrote him off last week and as a result am scared to do so again. He’s once been on the podium at this race before in 2012 behind Gasparotto and Vanendert. That was back when the finish was at the crest of the Cauberg and so was a pure uphill sprint, a skill that Sagan had perfected at the time. The year after, in 2013, when the finish was moved back a couple of kilometres, he didn’t fare so well and despite good positioning was dropped on the Cauberg as Gilbert rode away for the win. He’s a much more complete rider now and has a real shot but I think the course may just be that little too hard for him. On top of this, if he wasn’t the most marked man in cycling already everyone is going to be wary of what happened last week. He won’t be allowed to ride away alone and if he’s in a group it’s likely to falter as everyone plays games worrying about his sprint.

Equalling Sagan as joint favourite is Alejandro Valverde. His record speaks for itself in the Ardennes, four wins in LBL and five wins in Fleche but interesting a big fat 0 wins in Amstel despite participating 12 times. He’s come close a number of times, with 3 podium and a memorable 2nd place to then world champion Michal Kwiatkowski in 2015. He seems guaranteed to do well at every race he enters and somehow (drugs) seems to get faster with age. He’s had a great start to the season with stage race wins in Cataluyna and Abu Dhabi plus he’s also had great showings in the one day races he’s entered with a 4th place in Strade and an 11th in DDV. Having had a little bit of a rest I think Valverde will be firing on all cylinders and is being offered very generously a 9s with William Hill so I’ll be backing him outright. 

Lotto Soudal’s pairing of Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot are back after their successful 1st and 3rd placings at DBP and have both heavily targeted this week. Wellens looked unbeatable as he rode away from the group in DBP and I can only dream of the kind of watts he must have had to sustain in those final 7km. I found it strange that no-one from the chasing group came around a spent Gasparrotto to help chase him down but I can only guess that no-one had the legs. All the more testament to his incredible effort. If he’s to win it will probably be in similar style to that of DBP from one of his trademark solo moves. Everyone will be watching for it but if he can time it like he did on Wednesday then no-one will be able to follow however hard they try. Betvictor are currently offering him quite long at 15s so I’d get on that asap. Tiesj Benoot on the other had was comparatively quiet and it was hard to pick him out until the very final climb. Despite this he still picked off 3rd place and so is clearly in good form. I think that his recent trip to Sierra Nevada perhaps left him a little out of sorts for DBP (as altitude camps so often do) and that he was using it more as a tune up. Either way I expect him to be on great form this weekend and while Wellens odds have shorted his have drifted. Betfair currently have him at 23s.

What about Philip Gilbert? So much was expected of him in Roubaix yet he seemed over-anxious to get out in front of his teammates before one was able to take off and leave him to play the team role. I think he’ll be quite disappointed by his Spring campaign, despite saying how happy he is for his teammates, and he may be looking for redemption here. He was last years winner and is one away from equalling Jan Raas’s record of 5 wins at this race. His pedigree at races like this is unrivalled. Who could forget 2011 where won DBP, Amstel, Fleche and Liege! Despite his results not including a win this year his performances have been very impressive. He’s been visible in all of Terpstra’s wins and without him there’s a good case to say Terpstra wouldn’t be having such a great year. Quickstep also bring Alaphilippe who loves these races and comes off the back of 4 top 10s in 7 stage at the Tour of Basque. It’s about time he wins one of these races but I’m not sure that this is the one, he quick in a sprint but not as quick as many of of the other favourites and he’s not got the raw power to go away solo. I think Liege will be more up his street.

Michal Kwiatowski came to the line with Gilbert last year and surprisingly was beaten in a sprint. Kwiato often seems to blow hot and cold, one minute he’s world class the next he’s pack fodder. But for all that Amstel Gold is one race that he has been spectacularly consistant in. Top 5 in all four that he’s finished with a win in the world champs jersey in 2015. He’s explosive, he can climb, and he has a very strong team around him at Sky, with the like of Sergio Henao and Wout Poels (returning from a collarbone break) able to help him in the finale. His form is similar to that of last year with the exception only of his win in Sanremo and so I expect a good showing. At 10s he’s decent value.

Greg van Avermaet is the type of rider that should be ideally suited to this race but has never really shone here. Even on his incredible run of form last year he was left floundering as the front-runners pushed on up the road and he was unable to follow Kwiato as he bridged to the front group when it really mattered. After a 2018 Spring campaign that was nowhere near the level of 2017 he’s still searching for that big win although it may be his teammate Dylan Teuns that has the best shot. He’s hotly tipped by many and his odds reflect although I’m really struggling to see why? Sure he’s a great prospect but I don’t think he’s quite there yet. BMC do have a strong team overall with De Marchi and Gerrans also along for the ride but in my opinion none of them will feature significantly in the finish.

Michael Matthews is another that is hotly tipped but hasn’t shown the form so far this year to suggest he has a real chance of winning. This is largely because he’s been hampered with a shoulder injury from a crash in Omloop and has raced comparatively little since. He was okay in the Basque country, with his standout performance being the TT. I think he has a chance a good result but with the racing set to begin from further out I think he will once again find it too difficult to be there in the final.

Outside of the big favourites I think there’s quite a good chance for a relative outsider to have a good ride. As mentioned previously it’s going to be a very difficult race to control once the riders are within the final loop and if a lesser known rider where to find them in the winning break then anything can happen. Prime pick of these is Jelle Vanendert. He’s finished on the podium here before and was awesome in DBP. With all eyes on Wellens and Benoot it could be his chance to slip away under the radar. Michelton Scott’s duo of Michal Albasini and Daryl Impey are also worth watching. Both are quick finishers and on a good day can climb with the best over the short sharp climbs found in Limburg. Alexis Vuillermoz is probably AG2R’s best shot while Tom Jelte Slagtor lead Dimension Data. They will miss Nathan Haas who now rides for Katusha and has described this event as his ‘Holy Grail’ and is due a breakthrough win at an event like Amstel. Bert Jan-Lindemann is Lotto Jumbo’s best shout while Astana bring quite a strong squad but without one rider who I think can really challenger for the win. I’m excited to see what Omar Fraile can do after his stunning win in the Basque country and Dario Cataldo, Jakub Fuglsang and Michael Valgren offer alternatives. Vincenzo Nibali rides for Bahrain alongside Sonny Colbrelli and the enigma that is Gasparotto. Colbrelli looked good in DBP and despite not being able to go with the winning move he was able to win the sprint only a few seconds behind. Gasparotto was dropped by Wellens but did the majority of the work in keeping him within 30 seconds from the group. I’m not sure what to make of Nibali but I’m excited to see what he does. He’s raced a lot this year and never shows up without the intention of trying for the win. Diego Ulissi and Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates could also go well but have shown little of note so far this year while similar can be said of Dan Martin although I think he’s more suited to LBL or Fleche.

Of the pro continental teams Bryan Coquard offers a great sprint option and was very strong in DBP however if the racing is as hard as expected I doubt he’ll be near the front when it matters. Damiano Cunego is a former winner of this race and is backed up by in-form Marco Canola. Roompot’s Pieter Weening may have been a strong pick in the past and I expect we’ll see him on the attack at some point while Aqua Blue’s Larry Warbasse was their most visible rider in DBP but it would be a miracle if he were to get a result here.

Tips.

 

Outrights –

1pts on Valverde to win at 9s (WillHill)

0.5pts on Kwiatkowski to win at 10s (Betway)

0.5pts on Gilbert to win at 11s (Betway)

0.5pts on Wellens to win at 15s (Betvictor)

0.25pts on Benoot to win at 23s (Betfair)

Matchups –

2pts on Nibali tb Poels at 1.72 (bet365)

2pts on Gilbert tb van Avermaet at 1.72 (bet365)

 

 

 

De Brabantse Pijl 2018 Wrap Up

Wellens does a Wellens and takes a dominant win at DBP.

Brabantse Pijl 2018

Live coverage kicked in around 90km from the finish and already the pace was clear to see with Colbrelli’s Bahrain-Merida massing at the front and the breakaway’s gap reduced to only 3 minutes, down from the 8 it had enjoyed earlier in the race. Lotto and Michelton Scott sent Tosh Van Der Sande and Jack Haig up the road, putting in a very solid effort to last until 12km to go and really put the pressure on the likes of Bahrain-Merida and BMC to chase. The pace was hot into the base of pretty much every climb and we saw a number of people attempting flyers to bridge over to Haig and Van Der Sande. Surprisingly even Colbrelli went on the attack with just under 20km to go but it wasn’t until the final ascent of the Ijskelderlaan that the decisive move of the day came when Vanendert moved clear and about 6 others managed to follow, including teammate Tim Wellens. Sensing a slowing of this group Wellens attacked soon after and Gasparotto tried to follow along with Lindemann and Serge Pauwels but Wellens gap only grew.

The peloton managed to catch the 6 riders Wellens had originally gone away with but strangely left Gasparotto on the front to do much of the chasing. I can only guess that no-one in the reduced bunch had the legs to come round and do a turn because there was no way Gasparotto was going to close the gap on his own after having put in such a big effort to stay with Wellens and yet still get dropped. Wellens gap grew to about 25 seconds and from the second he attacked the win never really looked in doubt. Colbrelli sprinted in for second and Tiesj Benoot, who had been invisible all day, came in the for third.

Our pick of Fabio Jakobsen DNF’ed for reasons unknown to me and Coquard finished 19 seconds down in 19th place with the final couple of climbs a bit too much for him. His positioning throughout the race was exceptional and when Colbrelli went on the attack he was the first rider on his wheel. I think under different circumstances this race could one day be ideal for Coquard but yesterday the pace was just too hot and Lotto Soudal just too strong.

With Wellens taking the win we made a healthy 4.5pts profit from our outright bets.

Out matchup bets were equally successful. Canola was touted as an outside favourite for this race but the matchup against Paul Martens seemed a bit of an oversight from the bookies as Martens seems to love this race with top 20s in each of his 7 participations. At 2.62 picking Martens was great value and as expected he finished with yet another top 20 in 11th place, a healthy 16 places ahead of a Marco Canola who looked to go on the attack far too soon. As it happens Dries van Gestel finished only 1 place behind Martens and wrapped up the other matchup over Grellier down in 23rd.

So to wrap up, we staked 6 pts split equally between outright bets and matchups. Of the outright bets we had a winner with Tim Wellens which returned a healthy 7.5pts. On top of this both of our matchups were successful, with the 3pts staked returning a 5.42pts.

In total then we returned 12.92pts, a profit of 6.92pts (115%)! Very nice return on a race that offered good value. Next up, Amstel Gold.

 

 

 

De Brabantse Pijl 2018 Preview and Betting Tips

One last Belgian cobbled race to ease us into Ardenne season. A Europe Tour 1.HC race, De Brabantse Pijl falls just after Paris Roubaix and just before the hillier classics kick off at Amstel Gold. Its place on the calender tends to draw an eclectic startlist with some coming off the back a long spring classics campaign and others just about hitting peak form in time for the Ardennes. Rarely does a large group come to the finish and the tough finishing circuit frequently brings exciting and unpredictable racing.

de brabants pilj 2017

Parcours.

The race is really defined by it’s finishing circuit although this is not to write off the first 120km which includes the Alsemberg,  Bruineput and La Hulpe/Terhulpen, all of which feature ramps in excess of 10% and will work to soften up the legs.

The rider cross the finish line for the first time at 135.2km but will have already negotiated part of the 23.3km finishing circuit which they will then have to complete a further 3 times. Each circuit packs in 5 climbs ranging from 300m to 955m in length and with gradients regularly going into double digits. The winning move could go from any of these climbs such is the nature of this race but unless we see someone riding to the finish line unaccompanied we are likely to see the decisive move made on the final climb of Schavei. 700m at an average of 7% it arrow straight meaning it is easy to misjudge your effort. With only 200m to the finish line once this is crested there is little room for error.

Weather.

Currently forecast to be dry with an 10kph Easterly breeze. Unlikely to affect the race.

Race Strategy.

De Brabantse Pijl is a race usually defined by a move made on the finishing circuit but on which lap this will go is a lottery.

Last years winner, Sonny Colbrelli has the archetypal profile of a rider suited to this race. Someone able to repeat short, high-power efforts and with a strong finishing kick able to win out of a small group. Look back further and the majority of winners fit this specification with the likes of Gilbert, Hermans and Sagan all recently taking the top step on the podium.

Teams will look to throw riders up the road as the technical up and then down finishing circuit makes any kind of organised chase difficult. Expect to see a number of different groups spread across the road.

Contenders.

Tiesj Benoot is the prime pick having skipped Roubaix in order to focus on the upcoming fortnight. He’s just off the back of a short training camp at altitude in Sierra Nevada so could either be absolutely flying or still be recovering with an eye on Amstel this weekend and LBL the next. He’s a great climber (top 20 finisher at the Tour de France) and is arguably better suited to the hillier classics than those that he’s been riding so far this Spring. Lotto Soudal also bring Tim Wellens which could prove to be a great tactical move. Both have proven their ability to win from a lone move and if one is brought back then the other will be in a great position to counter-attack. Jelle Vanendert and Toshe Van Der Sande also offer good options for Lotto.

I’m very interested to see what Fabio Jakobsen can do. He’s still relatively untested in these kind of races but has shown that he’s more than quick enough in a bunch finish with his wins in Scheldeprijs and Nokre Korse but can also tough it out on short climbs with his 13th place in le Samyn. He’s good value at 15s and one that I will be backing.  If the climbing does prove too much then Quickstep can also call upon the horsepower of Bob Jungels. He can sustain huge power for extended periods and has the ability to bridge alone to any dangerous looking moves. He’s listed as number 41 on the startsheet so I’m guessing he’ll be given some freedom by his team but there’s a chance he’s here to keep the race together for Jakobsen to take out the sprint. As long as 34s he represents pretty good value.

Unusually Bahrain-Merida have probably brought the strongest all-round team. Sonny Colbrelli is back again but has no where near the same level of form as he had this time last year. Top 15 in each of MSR, E3, Gent Wevelgem and the Ronde before his win last year the best result he’s had in 2018 was 3rd at Kuurne, a much flatter race than what’s in store on Wednesday. They also bring Enrico Gasparotto, formerly on the podium at this race, Arashiro, Borut Bozic and Ramunas Navadauskus all of whom usually take on team roles but on their day have the capacity to do very well in this kind of race. I would think it’s all in for Colbrelli after his success last year but don’t count out the likes of Gasparotto who may be given more of a free hand if Colbrelli looks to be struggling.

Dylan Teuns leads BMC and remains on stellar form after his breakthrough year in 2017. He was up there with the best climbers in the world at points last week in the Basque country and was very strong in Paris Nice before that. With his 3rd place in La Flèche Wallonne last year he’ll be targeting the Ardennes classics and should just about be peaking. If the racing is tough I would most definitely expect him to be involved in the finish and this has been reflected by the bookies who have him as favourite at 4s but I’ll be staying away as I expect his relatively weak team to be a major disadvantage.

I also cannot count out the likes of Warren Barguil who rides for the first time in this race  and comes off the back of a rest period, last racing two weeks ago in Catalunya. He likes the punchy style of climbing required here but is prone to wasting his energy or attacking in the wrong place. This race can be incredibly tactical and more down to the timing of an attack than the strength of a rider. I expect him to do well but doubt he’ll be on the top step of the podium.

While I expect a small group to come to the finish on Wednesday there are a number of fast finishers that will be worth watching out for in the case of a reduced bunch sprint. Vital Concept bring Bryan Coquard who has an okay record at this race and is probably the fastest finisher of anyone on the startline. Despite his small build he really isn’t a great climber and even the short inclines we’ll see on Wednesday may prove to be too much. Eddie Boasson Hagan will lead Dimension Data and always has the potential to go well but is wildly inconsistent. I like the chances of Daryl Impey who comes as part of a strong Mitchelton Scott team. His confidence is likely still high after his big win at the Tour Down Under and he will be in a great position the riders come to the finish in a reduced bunch.

Final mentions also go to Roman Kreuziger and Pieter Weening who have one big races in the past and could slip away here relatively unmarked.

Tips.

Outrights –

1 pts Tiesj Benoot at 4.5 (Coral)

0.5 pts Tim Wellens at 7.5 (Coral)

0.5 pts Fabio Jakobsen e/w at 34.0 (Unibet)

0.5 pts Bryan Coquard e/w at 17 (Skybet)

Matchups –

1pts on Paul Martens tb Marco Canola at 2.62 (bet365)

2pts on Dries Van Gestel tb Fabien Grellier at 1.4 (bet365)

 

 

 

 

Paris-Roubaix 2018 Wrap Up

Nobody expected him to do it, but equally nobody is shocked, Peter Sagan wins Paris-Roubaix and takes his second monument. Gilbert, Stybar and then van Avermaet all tried their hand before at 53km Sagan slipped off the front, bridged to Dillier and then rode it home in convincing style. The turn of the head from GvA as Sagan rolls away is the staple of a race-winning move and a clear indicator that the group is starting to run out of legs. Sagan was the strongest man on the day and a deserved winner. Dillier finished right behind him with a career defining performance and Terpstra broke away from the chasing group to take the final spot on the podium.

sagan wins roubaix 2

The bookies were correct in selecting Sagan as their favourite but at 4s he didn’t really hold too much value. Gilbert and Stybar both put in decent performances but I sense their attacks were mistimed, as if eager to get out in front before another one of the Quickstep boys managed it. Both seemed to invest quite heavily in futile moves with Gilbert attacking as far out as Arenburg and Stybar persevering solo for kilometre after kilometre with only a 15-20 seconds gap on the peloton. Both finished pretty well with Stybar earning yet another top 10 and Gilbert a top 15.

What to say on Vanmarcke? Another good showing, visible in the final but dropped by Terpstra and beaten by Stuyven and GvA in the sprint so finished outside of the top 5.

My outside pick of Kristoff was looking good after a shaky start that saw him dropped on Troisville, only to be taken out by a pretty severe crash at 48km to go where he went down with Luke Rowe and Tony Martin. He looked pretty second hand sitting on the road but he did in fact get back on his bike and bring it home for 57th, 4 places ahead of Demare and helping us to bring in the 2.75 matchup between the two. With the results of Haussler, Stuyven and Vanmarcke we also managed to tie up the other matchbet.

As always Paris-Roubaix throws up some unexpected performances. The most obvious of those was Sylvain Dillier whose ride was reminiscent of Mat Hayman a couple of years ago. I was particularly impressed with Nils Pollit who showed that he may have a real future in these types of races and Mike Tuenisson who went with Gilbert at 90km and despite making the error of overworking in the break still managed to finish in a very respectable 11th place. Wout van Aert put in a great ride as many people expected with only a shipped chain late on preventing him from a certain top 10. I’m convinced he’s going to win this race one day. Two final performances that I though were particularly noteworthy were John Degenkolb’s and Tony Martin’s. Degenkolb was very active and was a major factor in the success of Stuyven while Martin seemed to be in the top 5 riders for over 100km before being taken out in the same crash as Kristoff.

So to conclude, we staked 7 points, with 4 of those being on outrights (e/w) These all lost unfortunately but we’ve been saved by the success of both of our matchbets in which we staked the remaining 3. Kristoff to beat Demare was a large 2.75 (2pts) and  Haussler tb Petit, Stuyven tb Moscon and Vanmarcke tb van Aert was 3.37 (1pt) giving us a return of 8.87 pts.

This gives us a tidy profit of 1.87pts (26%). This is very sociable considering the rollercoaster that is Roubaix, onto the Ardennes!