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

Photo: Sirotti

ETOILE DE BESSÈGES

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NEWS

HERALD SUN TOUR

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PREVIEWS

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VOLTA A LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
06.02.2016 @ 22:34 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.

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, stage 5:

The course:

The race heads to the main city of Valencia on the final day when the riders will tackle a short 120.6km sprint stage. In the first part, they will head into the hills to tackle the category 3 Alto Oronet (5.48km, 4.9%) after 61.14km of racing but then they head back to the flat terrain in the city centre. The stage ends with 10 laps of a short 2.5km finishing circuit that is completely flat and doesn’t involve any major technical challenges, with two sweeping right-hand turns coming inside the final 500m.

 

The favourites:

Wout Poels lived up to our pre-race and pre-stage predictions by winning the stage and almost securing overall victory. The Dutchman again proved that he has stepped up his level massively and that he is able to win weeklong stage races. As he can now also time trial, Sky should soon give him the chance to be a leader in a weeklong stage race.

 

However, to take overall victory he still needs to get safely through tomorrow’s final stage. It is a typical criterium-like stage at the end of a stage race and it should follow the usual pattern. However, there’s a big change in the weather conditions as the usual sunshine will be combined with a pretty strong wind from a westerly direction. The riders will mainly have a tail- or headwind though and so the field is unlikely to split. Furthermore, the final part of the stage takes place in the city centre. However, stage 3 proved how nervous the peloton can be and tomorrow could be another very stressful affair.

 

There is a pretty hard climb at the midpoint of the stage and it is definitely not impossible that some teams will try to get rid of some of the sprinters there. Cofidis and Etixx-QuickStep have sprinters that climb well and a rider like Dylan Groenewegen is a very heavy guy. On the other hand, there’s still a long way to the finish so we expect almost all the sprinters to be there in the end.

 

There should be plenty of interest in making it a bunch sprint. Cofidis, LottoNL-Jumbo, Katusha, Etixx-QuickStep and IAM all have confidence in their fast riders so it should all come down to a bunch kick on the circuit in the city centre. It’s a very straightforward and high-speed affair and should suit the real power sprinters.

 

Nacer Bouhanni and Dylan Groenewegen were almost equally fast in stage 3 where they went head-to-head in a very close battle. It proves that there’s much difference when it comes to pure speed but the Frenchman has the advantage of having the best lead-out. Geoffrey Soupe and Christophe Laporte did everything perfectly in stage 3 and we expect them to do so again tomorrow. With fast riders like Borut Bozic and Cyril Lemoine also on hand, Bouhanni is likely to again be delivered on the front. As he is one of the very fastest, you have to be right on his wheel to beat him. Only very few are capable of doing so and so Bouhanni is our favourite.

 

In our stage 3 preview, we already pointed to Dylan Groenewegen as one of the big favourites. The Dutchman proved in 2015 that he is very fast and LottoNL-Jumbo have done a lot to beat a lead-out for him. They did very well in stage 3 and Dennis van Winden proved that he has developed into one of the best lead-out men by dropping his captain off on Bouhanni’s wheel. They should be able to go up against Cofidis and the final sprint suits Groenewegen really well. If he is close to Bouhanni, he obviously has the speed to win. The big danger is the climb which could end his chances very early.

 

Tom Boonen did a very good sprint on stage 3 and he may even have won if he had not been boxed towards the barriers. The Belgian seems to be in his usual great form at the start of the year and Etixx-QuickStep have one of the most powerful teams for the lead-out. This is a great sprint for a power guy like Boonen and he seems to have the speed to win.

 

We pointed to Jakub Mareczko as a favourite for stage 3 but he was never in contention. He is definitely one of the fastest riders in the race but he doesn’t have much team support. Furthermore, he could very easily be dropped on the climb and is probably more fatigued than his rivals. On the other hand he definitely has the speed to beat all his rivals.

 

Two years ago Alexander Porsev was flying at the start of the year and later he was riding really well late in the summer. 2015 was a disappointment but he seems to be back on track. He sprinted very well in stage 3 and seems to be in great form. He doesn’t have much team support though.

 

Jonas Van Genechten missed out in stage 3 but is also one of the fastest riders in this field. The same goes for Nicola Ruffoni who will probably pay the price for a lack of team support and poor positioning. Raymond Kreder is also a very consistent sprinter but he is probably not fast enough to win the stage.

 

Finally, we will point to Filippo Fortin and Albert Torres. The Italian seems to be back on track after a few difficult years and we have been very impressed by the Spaniard’s consistency both here and in Mallorca.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Nacer Bouhanni

Other winner candidates: Dylan Groenewegen, Tom Boonen

Outsiders: Jakub Mareczo, Alexander Porsev, Jonas Van Genechten, Nicola Ruffoni

Jokers: Raymond Kreder, Filippo Fortin, Albert Torres

 

Etoile de Besseges, stage 5:

The course:

For the fifth year in a row, the race is set to be decided in the final time trial which is almost identical to the one that has been used for the past three years. At 11.9km, it is a short affair and the first 9km are completely flat. However, the final 2.7km will take the riders to the top of the Montee de l’Hermitage on the outskirts of Alés, meaning that the stage is one for the powerful puncheurs who can handle both the flat opening section and the tough climb in the finale. This year the flat part has been made slightly longer.

 

The stage will decide the overall classification and has been won by Bon Jungels, Tobias Ludvigsson, Anthony Roux and Jerome Coppel, with three of those going on to win the overall classification too.

 

The favourites:

Whether it’s because they wanted to save energy for the time trial or didn’t believe they could beat Bryan Coquard is hard to say but it was a surprise that no team did much to help Direct Energie until it was too late. That allowed Angel Madrazo to take a surprise win but the outcome was also not too bad for Direct Energie. They may have missed a chance to win a stage but they escapees also took away important bonus seconds.

 

Now it will all come down to the final time trial and it will be decided by the riders that made it into the front group in the queen stage and haven’t lost time in the other stages. 20 riders are within 30 seconds of Sylvain Chavanel and they are the overall top 10 contenders.

 

It will be a rainy morning in but it should be dry by the time the stage starts. However, the roads may be wet for the early starters but that is unlikely to make much of a difference as the best time triallists will start late.

 

The time trial is a well-known affair and it is not one for the pure specialists. The final climb is a tough one and suits the really punchy riders. This is reflected in the results of past editions where good climbers and Ardennes specialists have often mixed it up with the versatile specialists.

 

At the start of the race, we pointed to Jerome Coppel as our favourite to win the overall and we see no reason to change that assessment. The IAM rider was reportedly in excellent form at the training camp and he was one of the best climbers in the queen stage. He is a former winner of this stage and is both strong on the flats and on the climbs. Furthermore, he stepped up his level massively in 2015. He would have preferred the stage to be longer and he is our favourite to win the stage. Whether he will be able to take back 14 seconds on Chavanel is a different matter and it will be a close fight for the overall. However, we put our money on Coppel to take it all.

 

Sylvain Chavanel claims that he needs his diesel engine to get warm at the start of the year but that has not been reflected in his strong riding at this race. He seems to be reinvigorated and very motivated and he remains one of the best time triallists in the world over this distance. He prefers time trials of 10-20km and the climbs will not do him much harm. He is probably a bit more powerful on the flats than Coppel who is the better climber. There is a solid chance that Chavanel will take his second stage win.

 

Tony Gallopin was second here in 2015. In a flat time trial, he would have no chance against Chavanel but here he has a chance. He is very good on a short climb like this one where he could go faster than both Chavanel and Coppel. If he can limit his losses on the flat, he can win the stage and then also the overall.

 

We have been very impressed by Thibaut Pinot in his first few races. He has been in a class of his own on the climbs, both in Marseille and in the queen stage. Furthermore, he has improved his TT skills a lot and has done well in this stage in the past. Of course he is not as strong as the bigger guys in the flat section but he could make up for it on the climb.

 

His teammate Arthur Vichot is not a TT specialist but he has done well here in the past. As an Ardennes specialist, he is really suited to this explosive effort and he finally seems to have overcome his health issues. Jean-Christophe Peraud should also be up there as he is one of the best time triallists. His form is improving but he is still not at his best so we doubt that he will win. His teammate Pierre Latour is one of the best climbers and did really well here last year. He won’t win the stage as he will too much time in the flat section but he will be up there.

 

Anthony Delaplace is a decent time triallist and is in good form as he is sitting in fifth overall. He will be one of the best on the flats but may struggle a bit on the climb. We also expect good performances from Antoine Warnier and Boris Dron.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Jerome Coppel

Other winner candidates: Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Gallopin

Outsiders: Thibaut Pinot, Arthur Vichot, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Pierre Latour

Jokers: Anthony Delaplace, Antoine Warnier, Boris Dron

 

Herald Sun Tour, stage 4:

The course:

Everything will be decided in the final stage which is the traditional queen stage to the top of the famours climb of Arthur’s Seat. The short 121.8km both starts and finishes at the top of the climb and sees the riders first tackle a big loop in the undulating terrain in the area before they climb the 3km ascent with its 8.1% average gradient for the first time. The final part of the stage consists of two laps of a 16.4km circuit that is mostly downhill until the riders hit the bottom of the climb which will be tackled no less than 3 times.

 

The climb of Arthur’s Seat is not very long but it is pretty steep and it is hard to enough to create time gaps that will go a long way in deciding the overall win in the race. It has been scheduled for both previous editions since the race returned to the UCI calendar in 2014 but it was cancelled in 2014 due to bushfires. Last year it was a scene of a thrilling battle between Cameron Meyer and Patrick Bevin, with the latter claiming the stage win and the former taking the overall victory.

 

The favourites:

Of all our stage winner picks this week, the one that we were most confident in was probably that Caleb Ewan would win stage 3 of the Sun Tour. However, the technical finale and a surprisingly poor lead-out from Orica-GreenEDGE meant that he could never use his impressive speed.

 

The sprinters will step into the background for the queen stage which will decide the overall – or at least the final spot on the podium. In reality, there is no doubt that Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome will make it a 1-2 in this race and we will be very surprised if they don’t make it a 1-2 in this stage too.

 

Kennaugh and Froome have done nothing to hide that they want to win the stage and Sky are by far the strongest team in the race. They will probably not get much help as everybody wants to try to change the predicted script by riding aggressively but they will make sure that it comes back together for a final battle on the climb. Luke Rowe and Salvatore Puccio will control things in the flat first part and then Ian Boswell and Sebastian Henao will set a fast pace on the climbs to make the race hard and prevent anyone from escaping.

 

Froome and Kennaugh have proved that they are the best climbers in the race and we expect them to ride away like they did in stage 1. Then it is up to them to decide who’s going to take the win. They have clearly said that they want Kennaugh to win the overall so we don’t expect Froome to drop his teammate even though he would definitely be able to do so. However, Kennaugh got the stage win on stage 1 so we expect them to share the spoils by letting Froome get the stage and Kennaugh take the GC.

 

It’s very hard to imagine that it won’t be a Sky 1-2 so the rest will probably be fighting for third place. Jack Haig was slightly off the pace in stage 1 but was the only climber who managed to follow the best on the short, steep climb in stage 3. He should be more comfortable on this harder climb than the one in stage 1 and he will be aiming to move onto the podium. He could easily end up as the best of the rest.

 

Ben Dyball, Jonathan Clarke and Damien Howson were the nearest chasers behind the Sky duo in stage 1 and they are all known as good climbers. The latter two proved their form in Cadel Evans’ race while the former is suited to the steeper slopes here.

 

We were a bit surprised that Chris Hamilton was not in the first chase group in stage 1 but he should be more comfortable on this harder climb. Michael Storer is proving is huge potential during the Australian summer but it remains to been how he handles this kind of tough ascent. Robbie Hucker also seems to be in great form at the moment. Finally, we won’t rule out that Sebastian Henao turns out to be the third best climber and if he can stay with his teammates, he may be given the win.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Chris Froome

Other winner candidates: Peter Kennaugh

Outsiders: Jack Haig, Ben Dyball, Jonathan Clarke, Damien Howson

Jokers: Chris Hamilton, Robbie Hucker, Michael Storer, Sebastian Henao

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