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We provide you with previews of the stages at the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour La Provence

Photo: Tim De Waele




24.02.2016 @ 21:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In addition to several one-day races in the weekend, this week offers two stage races, the Tour de Langkawi and the inaugural edition of the Tour La Provence. Every day we will offer you short previews of the stages at both the Malaysian and French race.


Tour La Provence, stage 3:

The course:

The final stage will see the riders tackle 173km from La Ciotat to the major city of Marseille. It includes a tough start as the riders will go up the Cote du Grand Caunet right from the start and then head onto the Col de l’Espigoulier (9.1km, 6%) and Cote du Regage (5km) early in the stage. From there, the terrain gets significantly flatter. There’s still the small climb of Cote Baume du Loup (1km, 5%) at the midpoint and the small challenge of Cote Bleue with 26km to go and La Calade 10km from the finish but it will be a flat run-in to the finish in Marseille.


The weather:

Thursday will mostly be sunny but there will be more clouds in the early afternoon. The maximum temperature at the finish will be 16 degrees. There will be a moderate wind from a northwesterly direction which means that it will mainly be a headwind or cross-headwind in the first part and then a cross-tailwind and tailwind in the coastal run to the finish.


The favourites:

Tour La Provence is a new race but it has already built a reputation as being extremely dangerous. The circuits in the first two stages have both been very technical and riders have complained about their tricky nature. Today it inevitably led to a late crash when Lorrenzo Manzin hit the deck in the turn very close to the finish and this prevented us from having a real sprint and it was just a procession for Davide Martinelli and Fernando Gaviria to make it a 1-2 for Etixx-QuickStep.


The stage went perfectly for Thomas Voeckler. There were no dangerous riders in the break and so it was an easy affair for Direct Energie to control the situation before Etixx-QuickStep came to the fore to prepare the bunch sprint. They hope for a similar scenario tomorrow but it will be a bit harder for them to get things as they want.


The first part of the stage is actually pretty hard and includes some serious climbing. It will be very interesting to see how Etixx-QuickStep approach the stage. On one hand, they have Petr Vakoc in second place on GC and that’s an incentive to try to blow the race to pieces. On the other hand, they have Fernando Gaviria who is the big favourite in a bunch sprint.


In any case, it will be very fast from the start as this is where the GC can really be changed. We will probably get a strong breakaway but Direct Energie will be strong enough to control things. They even have Lilian Calmejane in third place so the best way to defend Voeckler’s jersey could be by having the young talent join the move. Otherwise, they just have to make sure that Etixx-QuickStep don’t have a rider in the break. That should be a manageable task and from there they can expect the Belgians to lend them a hand in the chase. Cannondale may also lend a hand as they did not have any success with Wouter Wippert today and the late climbs will do no damage.


The only danger to a bunch sprint will probably be the cross-tailwind in the final coastal section. This will make things very nervous but we doubt that it will be strong enough to split the field. In any case, the major teams should be alert and the key riders should make any kind of selection.


With another bunch sprint on the cards, it is hard not to point to Fernando Gaviria as the big favourite. He would definitely have won today’s stage if it hadn’t been for the late crash. He was in the perfect position to sprint as Etixx-QuickStep really nailed the lead-out but in the end he decided to give Martinelli the win. Etixx-QuickStep don’t have a real train here but there aren’t any big sprint teams. It seems that they are strong enough to position Gaviria and as he is clearly the fastest, we expect him to win.


The only rider with the speed to really match Gaviria is Wouter Wippert. Today he was caught behind the crash and never got the chance to sprint. There is no doubt that he is the second fastest rider here and he showed his great form in Algarve. The main problem is that he doesn’t have an experienced lead-out train. It was costly today but tomorrow a less tricky finish should give him a better chance.


Yesterday we pointed to Alexander Porsev but like Wippert he was nowhere to be seen in the finale. The reason is the lack of lead-out as Katusha don’t have any really fast riders here. However, tomorrow’s less tricky finale should make things easier for him and there is no doubt that he has the speed to be in front. The form is definitely there as he was strong in Valencia and his illness cannot have cost him everything.


When it comes to lead-out trains, FDJ are among the strongest. Today they did a great job to position Lorrenzo Manzin on Gaviria’s wheel but the youngster slid out in the turn. It remains to be seen whether he is fit to do the sprint tomorrow. If he is, he should benefit from his team to do well.


It was no surprise to see Michael van Staeyen up there in today’s stage. The Cofidis rider is very consistent and has a great team here. However, he is probably not fast enough to win.


Timothy Dupont was nowhere to be seen in the finale of today’s stage. The tricky nature probably cost him as he is isolated in the finales. However, he has proved that he has the speed to be close to the very best at this level. The same goes for Antoine Demoitie who can rely on the experience of Danilo Napolitano in the lead-out.


Daniele Ratto is not a pure sprinter and probably lacks the speed to win. Today he benefited from the technical finale and his positioning skills mean that he will probably be close to the front.


Romain Feillu is no longer as fast as he once was but he has shown great form recently and seems to be very motivated to prove that he deserves to return to the top level. Finally, we will again point to Louis Verhelst who proved at last year’s Tour de l’Euroemtropole that he has the speed to win at this level.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Fernando Gaviria

Other winner candidates: Wouter Wippert, Alexander Porsev

Outsiders: Timothy Dupont, Michael van Staeyen, Lorrenzo Manzin, Antoine Demoitie

Jokers: Daniele Ratto, Romain Feillu, Louis Verhelst, Benjamin Giraud


Tour de Langkawi, stage 2:

The course:

The second stage is another typical Langkawi affair as it is an almost completely flat run over 158.1km from Sg. Pegani to Georgetown. There is a pair of climbs in the second half, with a category 4 climb leading to a harder category 3 ascent that summits 29.3km from the finish. After the descent it is a mainly flat run-in to the finish but the final kilometres are slightly downhill. Again the finale is very technical as there are two turns in quick succession inside the final kilometre.


The weather:

Thursday will be another brutally hot day with lots of sunshine and a maximum temperature of 36 degrees. However it will be relatively windy as there will be a strong wind from an easterly direction which means that there will be plenty of crosswind and tailwind all day. In the finale, the riders will gradually turn from a crosswind into a headwind before the two late turns lead into a tailwind on the finishing straight.


The favourites:

It seems that nothing can stop Andrea Guardini in Malaysia. His only support rider crashed with four kilometres to go and so he was completely on his own in the finale. In the past, he has had a hard time when it comes to positioning but in Langkawi there are no such issues. He handled the tricky finale perfectly and was in third position in the crucial turn with 300m to go. From there, the outcome was never in doubt.


Tomorrow’s stage will be very similar to today’s and we can expect another bunch sprint. However, Astana didn’t get much help in today’s stage and as they are down to just five riders, more teams have to lend them a hand. Today Southeast made the difference but as they had no luck in the sprint, they will probably be a bit more conservative.


If Astana don’t get any help, the break could actually make it. However, there are so many sprinters in this race and there is no doubt that a guy like Brenton Jones got his confidence boosted. Hence, there should be enough interest in making it a bunch kick.


The late climbs won’t be enough to drop the sprinters but the wind could be a threat. It will be a mostly a crosswind and the wind will be strong. However, at this level, all the top teams should be able to make the selection.


It is hard to look beyond Andrea Guardini as the favourite. However, it won’t be a straightforward affair to win. He is now without Ruslan Tleubayev and so doesn’t have his usual lead-out man. He will be even more isolated than usual and as team support is crucial in this very tricky finale, he may be out of the running before the sprint has even begun. However, he is in great form at the moment and this is important in the fight for position. Furthermore, the windy conditions may create a selection which will make it less hectic. He is the fastest rider here and must be the favourite.


Yesterday we claimed that Drapac have the best lead-out and they proved us right. Graeme Brown managed to position Brenton Jones perfectly for the sprint and was the first rider through the turn. Unfortunately, Jones lost a few positions in the finale and had to start his sprint from behind. He proved his speed to take second. If he can keep up with Brown, he has a great chance to win in a stage where lead-outs are of utmost importance.


The Unitedhealthcare train of Ty Magner, Tanner Putt and John Murphy also did really well to position the latter. That worked out in a similarly tricky finale in the Herald Sun Tour and could do so again here. If that’s the case, Murphy will be ready to strike


Speaking about lead-outs, Androni probably have the best team as they have three potential sprinters. Today they failed and Marco Benfatto could only manage ninth. However, they definitely have the potential to be the first team through the final turn and if that’s the case their sprinter will be in prime position to win. Tomorrow they will probably give Francesco Chicchi a chance but Benfatto and Luca Pacioni could also be the preferred option.


Andrea Palini deserves a mention. The Italian is excellent at positioning himself and that allowed him to sprint to third. Tomorrow is all about positioning and this naturally makes him a danger even though he has no real support.


Things didn’t work out for Jakub Mareczko who is probably the only rider with the speed to beat Guardini. The Italian doesn’t have much support here and this is a big disadvantage in these tricky finale and will make it hard for him to make use of his speed.


Bardiani did a really good job to put Nicola Ruffoni into position but he dropped his chain. If they can repeat that performance, the Italian has the speed to win.


Apart from Drapac, Roth were the strongest team in the lead-out but Dylan Page missed the speed to win. However, tomorrow’s stage is not all about speed but more about positioning and this will provide the Swiss with a chance.


Tinkoff were taken out by a crash today but with two fast riders, they have the potential to do a good lead-out. Michael Kolar and Erik Baska can both be given the chance but the former will probably be the captain.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Andrea Guardini

Other winner candidates: Brenton Jones, John Murphy

Outsiders: Francesco Chicchi, Marco Benfatto, Andrea Palini, Jakub Mareczko

Jokers: Nicola Ruffoni, Dylan Page, Michael Kolar Erik Baska, Luca Pacioni



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