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We provide you with short previews of the stages at the Dubai Tour, Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Etoile de Besseges and Herald Sun Tour 

Photo: Sirotti

DUBAI TOUR

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NEWS

ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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NEWS

HERALD SUN TOUR

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NEWS

PREVIEWS

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VOLTA A LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA

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NEWS
04.02.2016 @ 23:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

This week is an extremely busy affair in professional cycling as no less than four stage races will take place in Australia, Dubai, Italy and France respectively. Instead of doing our usual extensive stage preview, we will provide a short preview of the stages each day.

 

Dubai Tour, stage 3:

The course:

For the first time, the riders will get two chances to leave the city for more than just a brief stint. Like in the past years, the third stage will bring them into the desert and over some of the small climbs in the area before they again will finish in Hatta. In 2014 it was a flat finish and the late climbs failed to make much of a difference but last year the organizers introduced the punchy finale on the Hatta Dam which will again feature in 2016. However, the organizers have taken out some of the late climbs that created selection last year and it will be much easier to still be in contention for the uphill sprint

 

Known as the Westin stage, the 172km stage replicates almost entirely the inaugural edition stage, with the addition of the harder final climb of Hatta Dam as experienced in 2015. It’s characterized by long stretches in the desert crossing the two neighboring Emirates of Sharjah and Ras-al Khaimah.

 

The stage has its usual start at the Dubai Marine Club. Once it has left the last buildings in Dubai, the stage will touch Labab, Al Madam and Al Malahia on the mostly flat desert roads to Hatta where, before facing the finale, riders will face two climbs, the second with peaks of 11% and a fast and challenging downhill. There will be intermediate sprints at the 87.1km and 109.8km marks.

 

The final climb also featured in last year’s stage. It is 1.5 km-long, with a gradient of about 8%, peaking 11% in the final stretch, and with a demanding descent straight afterwards. The carriageway is quite wide and the road surface is excellent. The summit comes 11.5km from the finish and after the descent, there is another small 500m climb with a 9.1% average gradient. Then it’s slightly downhill before the riders hit flat roads with 7.5km to go.

 

The final 3 km are a continuous ascent, with some sharp bends leading to the final climb towards the Dam: a short, sharp rise of about 200 m, with gradients ranging from 12% to 17%. The first 100m have a gradient of around 8% but the final 100m are much steeper with gradients above 14%. The home stretch is 150 m-long, on 5 m-wide, asphalted roadway. The roads are mostly straight but there is a sharp turn at the bottom of the climb and then the road bends slightly to the left.

 

In 2014, the stage was won by Marcel Kittel who impressed most of his rivals by hanging onto the field over the climbs before he beat Juan Jose Lobato and Peter Sagan in the sprint. Last year it was another win for Giant-Alpecin as a very impressive John Degenkolb powered up the steep ramp and held off the Movistar pair of Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Lobato to move into the race lead.

 

The favourites:

After two stages where they fought for the win, the sprinters move into survival mode on this stage and they hope to limit their losses to keep their GC options alive. Key contenders Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish missed out on crucial bonus seconds today but gained five important seconds on most in yesterday’s split. With bonus seconds also on offer in tomorrow’s stage, their options are still alive but they can’t allow themselves to lose much time in the explosive finish in Hatta that doesn’t suit them.

 

However, the decision to remove the late climbs makes this stage much easier and almost all the selection will be made on the final ramp. In 2014, the riders also tackled the late two climbs and even Marcel Kittel managed to survive. In the desert, the wind could play a role but there will only be a moderate wind from a northerly direction. It means that the riders will have a crosswind almost all day and this will make it a nervous stage. Some teams may try to attack but it is unlikely to be enough to split the field.

 

With the easier climbing, it should be a rather big peloton that arrives for the sprint up the final ramp. There is lots of interest in setting up a sprint finish and BMC, Movistar and Trek will make sure that the early break doesn’t stay away. BMC really have big hopes for the GC and they need a hard race for Philippe Gilbert to gain enough time so they will ride hard on the final climbs in an attempt to get rid of the sprinters.

 

Among the fast finishers, Giacomo Nizzolo should survive easily and Sacha Modolo should also be there. Elia Viviani is usually a good climber too and he claims to be in better condition than last year. Kittel is the worst climber but he handled the ascents in 2014 and he seems to be in great form. We expect him to make it as well. Last year Cavendish survived a much harder stage but he doesn’t have the same climbing condition as he had 12 months ago. However, he is a better climber than Kittel so we expect him to make it too but we are definitely not certain. As opposed to this, Andrea Guardini is likely to fall off the pace. However, none of these riders will be in contention for the stage win.

 

We expect it to come down to a sprint on the ramp. It’s a narrow road and last year’s stage that positioning is more important than actual power. A strong team and positioning skills are just as important as sprinting legs for this kind of puncheur finish. Last year Cavendish only lost 10 seconds to the best and if the sprinters start near the front, it will again be a matter of seconds.

 

Meanwhile, the puncheurs will fight for the stage win and we put our money on Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss is in outstanding condition as he proved by winning a race in Mallorca that should have been too hard for him. He was really impressive in yesterday’s stage where he led the peloton single-handedly for a very long time in the finale and he has done nothing to hide that he has big ambitions for this race.

 

He is great at positioning himself and that makes a big difference. He is a big guy for these steep gradients but the finish suits powerful guys as Degenkolb proved last year. There are faster guys than Cancellara but his form and positioning should make the difference.

 

His big rival will be Gilbert. He was sixth last year and seems to be in a similar condition. It is hard to say how he is going as he has not really tested himself but his goals and ambitions are clear. BMC have a strong team to make the race and usually Gilbert is very hard to beat in this kind of finish. It all depends on whether his form is good enough at this point.

 

Last year Juan Jose Lobato was third. He was probably the fastest but as usual he paid for poor positioning. If it was all about speed, he would easily win this stage but when positioning is crucial, he usually comes up short. This time he cannot rely on Alejandro Valverde to help him in the finale so we expect him to miss out. However, if for once he makes things right, he will win the stage.

 

Instead, Movistar’s best card could be Gorka Izagirre who has been riding very attentively near the front in the sprint stages. He is good in uphill sprints as he was third in Stirling at the Tour Down Under last year. We also have expectations for Lieuwe Westra as he has reportedly lived like a monk and should be in excellent form. He has been attentive in this race too which indicates that he has big goals.

 

This stage is also perfect for Simone Ponzi who came out flying two years ago. If he has the same kind of form and can get the positioning right, he could win the stage. Sky have both Lars Petter Nordhaug and Ben Swift. The former is in great form but may not be explosive enough. The finale should be good for the Brit who has been strong in recent races but has never really won sprints on such steep ramps.

 

Matteo Trentin could be up there for Etixx-QuickStep and Rui Costa is always in good form even though he claims not to have any goals. On paper it is a good finish for Giovanni Visconti but he crashed today and seems to be without any real goals in the race. The same goes for Lars Boom who should have the punch for this kind of climb. Finally, Daniele Bennati will try to do well for Tinkoff but we expect it to be too steep for him.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Fabian Cancellara

Other winner candidates: Philippe Gilbert, Juan Jose Lobato

Outsiders: Gorka Izagirre, Lieuwe Westra, Simone Ponzi

Jokers: Lars Petter Nordhaug, Matteo Trentin, Ben Swift

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, stage 3:

The course:

The sprinters will have their first chance in stage 3 which brings the riders over 173.5km from Sagunto to Alzira. Both cities are close to the coast and the main city of Valencia and the stage consists of an inland trip to get around the major city before heading for the finish. After 22.52km, the riders will reach the summit of the category 3 climb of Alto del Oronet (5.39km, 5.0%, max. 9%) but otherwise it is an almost completely flat affair. There are a few corners inside the final kilometre, with a final U-turn coming 660m from the line.

 

The favourites:

As we had predicted, the final climb in today’s stage was more about sprinting skills than climbing legs and it was punchy guys like Dan Martin, Jesus Herrada and Wout Poels that came to the fore. They will go into survival mode for tomorrow’s stage which should be one for the sprinters. The wind is always a risk in the coastal area but there will barely be any, only a light breeze from a southeasterly direction. It means that it will mainly be a cross-headwind. There will be tailwind for the sprint after the riders have turned around 660m from the line.

 

The field is not loaded with sprinters so it is not clear who’s going to chase down the break. On the other hand, it opens the door for many riders so there should be enough interest in setting up a bunch sprint. We expect Cofidis, LottoNL-Jumbo, Southeast and maybe IAM and Etixx-QuickSteo to control the stage and make sure that the sprinters will have their say.

 

The riders will come to a standstill 660m from the line so acceleration skills are hugely important as is positioning as it will be hard to move far up after the U-turn. That makes it a perfect sprint for Bouhanni. On paper, he probably has the best lead-out in the race and his main asset is his explosiveness. This makes it a very food finish for him and we expect Cofidis to show their strength in the finale. Bouhanni showed good form in Mallorca and is the big favourite to win.

 

The only rider that probably has the speed to beat Bouhanni is youngster Jakub Mareczko. He showed his impressive talent in the controversial sprint in San Luis and now he will not have to be bother by internal rivalry. He is definitely fast enough to win but it remains to be seen whether he has the team support to get into a good position.

 

Dylan Groenewegen is one of the most talented sprinters and he can rely on a pretty powerful LottoNL-Jumbo lead-out. The Dutch team is working hard to improve in the sprinting field but they don’t have much experience so it may take some time for them to make things work. Furthermore, Groenewegen crashed hard at the end of 2015 and we don’t know whether he is already in a sufficient condition to win here.

 

Tom Boonen is also returning to racing following his injury and he will take thinks day by day This sprint is not really one for him but with Gianni Meeersman, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert to set him up he has one of the strongest teams which could make the difference.

 

Nicola Ruffoni is extremely fast but he has had a bad 2015 season. He needs to show that he can get back to the 2014 level. If so, he has the speed to win this sprint. The same can be said for Alexander Porsev who was strong in 2014 but slowed down in 2015. He hasn’t been positioning himself well and doesn’t have much team support. However, he came out flying in 2014 and if he can do so again he will be a contender.

 

Jonas Van Genechten has been sprinting reasonably in Mallorca. In 2014, he proved that he has the speed to win and he also picked up a few victories last year. Furthermore, he has a good team to support him. Finally, we will also point to Filippo Fortin who seems to be back on track after a couple of bad years.

 

Other sprinters include Arman Kamyshev, Matti Breschel, Raymond Kreder, Jose Goncalves, Andrea Pasqualon, Enrico Gasparotto, Roman Maikin, Bartlomiej Matysiak, Federico Burchio, Albert Torres and Fabio Chinello

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Nacer Bouhanni

Other winner candidates: Jakub Mareczko, Dylan Groenewegen

Outsiders: Tom Boonen, Nicola Ruffoni, Jonas Van Genechten

Jokers:  Alexander Porsev, Filippo Fortin

 

Etoile de Besseges, stage 3:

The course:

The queen stage has traditionally come on the third day when the riders have often tackled the same 152.6km course around the city of Besseges. It will be no different in 2016. It mainly consists of three laps of a tough 44.65km circuit around the city and this means that the riders will go up the hard Col de Treylis and the uncategorized Col des Brousses three times. However, the climb comes in the early part of the circuit and as the race ends with three laps of a 6.8km finishing circuit, there is time for a regrouping to take place ahead of what is usually a sprint from a reduced peloton. There will be bonus seconds on offer at the end of the first and third laps of the big circuit.

 

Bryan Coquard has won this stage twice in a row but Jerome Cousin and Pierre Rolland proved in 2012 and 2013 respectively that it is possible to deny the sprinters.

 

The favourites:

This stage is the hardest of the entire race but history shows that the sprinters usually have their say. Furthermore, excellent weather with only a light northerly wind is forecasted and this will make it easier for the fast guys.

 

The racing in this stage has usually been very aggressive and we should see some moves from the many strong puncheurs in the race. However, they won’t get much room as the GC favourites will be marking each other closely and if the GC is suddenly at risk, the strongest teams have plenty of interest in organizing a chase. Most are keen on deciding things in the time trial. We could see GC riders pick up bonus seconds but we expect it to come down to a reduced bunch sprint. Direct Energie didn’t get much help in today’s stage but in this kind of stage, it will not only be up to the sprinters to chase if the break is a potential threat so they should be given more help today. Furthermore, it is a good stage for Arnaud Demare so FDJ may also be keener to work after the former French champion got a confidence boost today.

 

We expect a reduced bunch sprint. Until now, Bryan Coquard has been in a class of his own in the sprints and he seems to be much faster than the rest here. Furthermore, the Direct Energie team has been excellent in the lead-outs and this has been important as he has often been very bad at positioning.

 

It remains to be seen whether his lead-out guys will survive tomorrow but Adrien Petit is in great form and Angelo Tulik is a good climber. Sylvain Chavanel will also be there and that should be enough to deliver Coquard on the front. Then it will be another Direct Energie win.

 

Arnaud Demare has been held up by crashes in the first two sprints but he gained confidence from today’s fifth place. The FDJ lead-out was much better today and in a smaller field, things will be less hectic. Demare has the speed to beat Coquard and he is a good climber who should easily survive in this stage. If he can finally get the positioning right and stay on Mickael Delage’s wheel, it may be time to open his account.

 

Lotto Soudal have one of the strongest teams in the race. They have not had much luck until now but should have strength in numbers after this hard stage. Tosh van der Sande specializes in reduced bunch sprints and is in good form. He seems to have become a bit faster and has Tony Gallopin for the lead-out. He is not as fast as Coquard and Demare but if he can get the perfect lead-out from a strong team, he will be in contention.

 

Timothy Dupont finally has become a team leader and he is very fast. Furthermore, he is a solid climber and he has been consistent in the top 10 in big French sprints. He is in great form and should be able to surive the climbsBaptiste Planckaert showed great form in Marseille and is very consistent in these sprints. He will definitely survive the climbing and should benefit from a harder race.

 

Romain Feillu should usually be able to survive the climbs here and he showed solid speed in today’s stage. He will be fired up to prove that he belongs at a higher level and that means that he could be I great form from the start of the year. It’s also a good sprint for Armindo Fonseca but he is probably not fast enough to win. The same can be said about Oliver Naesen who is likely to get his chance at IAM as this stage will be too har for Pelucchi.

 

Dimitri Claeys was impressive in today’s stage and now eyes the GC. He was fourth in La Marseillaise and has a decent turn of speed. If Wanty sprinter Antoine Demoitie is left behind, he will probably test himself in a sprint finish. Leonardo Duque also likes reduced bunch sprint but he probably doesn’t have the speed to win.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Bryan Coquard

Other winner candidates: Arnaud Demare, Tosh van der Sande

Outsiders: Timothy Dupont, Baptiste Planckaert, Romain Feillu

Jokers: Armindo Fonseca, Oliver Naesen, Dimitri Claeys, Leonardo Duque

 

Herald Sun Tour, stage 2:

The course:

The sprinters will hope to get their first chance in the 144.2km second stage that brings them from Yarra Glen to Moe. It has a flat start and a rolling middle section with three categorized climbs – one in the second and two in the third category – which leads to a mostly descending final third. The stage ends with a 14.9km finishing circuit that includes a steep little climb at the midpoint.

 

The favourites:

Today’s stage almost completely as we had predicted, with Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome dropping he rest and Kennaugh being given the win. Now Sky will control the race in the two flat stages before they aim for another dominant showing in the queen stage. Unless disaster strikes, the battle for the GC is over.

 

Meanwhile, the sprinters will get their chance in the next two stages. This is a big race for Orica-GreenEDGE and they know that they won’t win the race overall. Hence, their big goal is to win sprints with Caleb Ewan and they will make sure that tomorrow’s stage comes down to a bunch sprint.

 

There is a small climb on the circuit and it is hard to find any information about it. However, it’s a short one so it should not trouble Ewan who is a solid climber, much.

 

The field is not stacked with big-name climbers and there aren’t many sprinters either. Caleb Ewan was in a class of his own at the Tour Down Under and he should be superior here. With Sam Bewley and Mitchell Docker at his side, he also has one of the best lead-outs so it will be a surprise if he doesn’t take the win.

 

His biggest rival will probably be Niccolo Bonifazio. The Trek rider showed good form in Evans’ race where he sprinted to third. He is not a pure sprinter though and would have preferred a harder course. On the other hand, Jack Bobridge and Eugenio Alafaci form a solid lead-out but they need Ewan to be out of position to win.

 

The third big-name sprinter is Steele von Hoff. He is climbing really well but has not had any success in the sprints where his positioning has been poor. In this race, it should be easier to overcome that obstacle and this could make him a contender.

 

Unitedhealthcare have lots of fast guys in the race and John Murphy has proved that he has the speed to finish it off. The American team could be one of the strongest in the finale and Murphy should be up there. Nicolas Marini is a promising Italian sprinter. He has the speed but the late climb could be his undoing. If he is dropped, Daniele Colli will take over but he is clarl not in his best form.

 

Finally, we will point to Jesse Kerrison who is a talented young sprinter. Russell Downing and Anthony Giacoppo will also test their legs but they are not fast enough to win.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Caleb Ewan

Other winner candidates: Niccolo Bonifazio, Steele von Hoff

Outsiders: John Murphy, Nicolas Marini, Daniele Colli

Jokers: Jesse Kerrisson, Russel Downing, Anthony Giacoppo

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