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We provide you with previews of the stages in Provence and Langkawi

Photo: Tim De Waele




23.02.2016 @ 21:08 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 2:

The course:

There aren’t many flat roads but the organizers have found some for the second stage which will bring the riders over 185km from Miramas to Istres. The climbs of Cote des 4 Thermes (2km, 6%), Cote de Rognes, Cote de Seze (1km, 21%), Revers de Seze (3km, 6%), Cote du Calvaire (2.5km, 5%), and Montee Val de Aurons  feature early in the stage but the final 60km of the stage are flat. The stage ends with four laps of 6.3km finishing circuit that only has a very small climb.



The weather:

Wednesday will be another sunny day with a maximum temperature at the finish of 16 degrees. I will be much less windy as there will only be a light wind from a westerly direction. This means that the riders will mainly have a tailwind in the first half and a headwind in the second half. It will be a tailwind sprint.


The favourites:

The first stage taught as what was once a well-known fact but seemed to belong to the past: that you can never give Thomas Voeckler too much leeway on a lumpy, technical course. In the past, he has so often denied the peloton in this kind of terrain but in the last few years he has been far from being his former self.


Nothing seemed to have changed this year as he has been far off the pace in all his races until now but today things suddenly changed. It was a real quality breakaway and to be able to drop the likes of Peraud, Anthomarchi and Edet in this terrain requires considerable strength. He even had time to miss a turn in the finale and still keep the peloton at bay!


Voeckler is now the overwhelming favourite to win the race. Direct Energie have a solid team for this race and the final two stages are not overly difficult. There won’t be much wind and that will make it even harder to make a difference. It seems that we will have two bunch sprints even though his rivals will definitely try to put him under pressure.


Tomorrow’s stage has 1913m of climbing and is definitely not flat but there will be plenty of time to get things back together. Etixx-QuickStep are in an interesting situation as they both have the fastest sprinter and cards to play in the GC. They will probably try to blow the race to pieces in the first part to see whether they can challenge Voeckler and it will definitely be a fast start. However, Cannondale will go all out for a sprint and as they will join forces with Direct Energie, we expect the race to be relatively controlled. With a long, flat section in the end, this stage should be decided in a bunch sprint. If Etixx-QuickStep fail to get one of their GC riders in the break, they will even join be an ally for Direct Energie as they want to do the sprint with Fernando Gaviria.


There is little down that Gaviria is the fastest rider in this field. Last year he made it look easy when he beat Greipel in the Tour of Britain and he just had to push the pedals briefly to distance all his rivals in San Luis earlier this year. However, he has just come back from his injury sustained in Argentina and he is clearly not at his best. On the other hand, he was better than one could expect in Haut Var where he was not too far behind. This indicates that his form is actually not too bad. He doesn’t have a real lead-out here but Davide Martinelli, Petr Vakoc, Pieter Serry and Julian Alaphilippe are all fast. If they can position their Colombian talent, we doubt that anyone will be able to beat and so he is our favourite.


The big rival for Gaviria will be Wouter Wippert. With fourth and second places in Algarve, he confirmed what we already knew: that he has the speed to take on the giants in Europe. Alex Howes, Ruben Zepuntke and Toms Skujins should be able to do a decent lead-out. Last year he proved that he almost had the speed to beat Cavendish so if the Dutchman gets into a good position, Gaviria has to be at his best to come around him.


Alexander Porsev was looking really good in 2014 but 2015 was a difficult year for him. Now he seems to be back on track as he was riding really well in Valencia. Unfortunately, he has just come back from illness and he doesn’t have a real lead-out here but he is definitely one of the fastest.


Youngster Lorrenzo Manzin has proved that he can win at this level. He is not as fast as Gaviria and Wippert but he has a great team to support him. Anthony Roux, Kevin Reza and Sebastien Chavanel probably form the best train in this race and this could be enough for Manzin to take the win.


Veranda’s Willems have two sprinters here. It is the season debut for Aidis Kruopis so we expect them to go for Timothy Dupont. He is very consistent in the French sprints and is always up there. He just needs a bit of luck to finally open his account.


Cofidis are here with Michael van Staeyen who will get a chance to sprint for himself instead of working for Nacer Bouhanni. He is very good at positioning himself but probably lacks the speed to win.


Antoine Demoitie is a great sprinting talent and has proved his good condition earlier this year. He can count on the experience of Danilo Napolitano in the finale. The veteran Italian may also do the sprint for himself.


Androni came up short with Francesco Gavazzi in today’s stage and will now turn their attention to sprinter Daniele Ratto. However, he usually needs a slightly harder stage to really excel. Louis Verhelst should be up there for Roubaix and confirm his potential and it will be interesting to see how BMC approach the sprint with Taylor Phinney and Danilo Wyss even though both of them probably lack the speed to win


For more sprinters, keep an eye on Maxime Daniel, Yoann Gene, Benjamin Giraud, Kevin Ista, Alexis Bodiot, Stephane Poulhies and Romain Feillu


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Fernando Gaviria

Other winner candidates: Wouter Wippert, Alexander Porsev

Outsiders: Lorrenzo Manzin, Timothy Dupont, Michael van Staeyen

Jokers: Antoine Demoitie, Daniele Ratto, Romain Feillu, Louis Verhelst


Tour de Langkawi, stage 1:

The course:

The race kicks off with a 166.6km stage from Kangar to Baling. It is a mostly flat affair but includes two category 4 climbs at the midpoint. The main challenge is a category 3 climb which summits 24.2km from the finish from where it is a downhill run to a completely flat finish. A long, straight road leads to a final turn just 200m from the line.


The weather:

The usual Malaysian heat awaits the riders as it will be bright sunshine with a maximum temperature of 33 degrees. There will be a moderate wind from an easterly direction which means that the riders will mainly have a cross-headwind or a crosswind. It will be a crosswind in the finale and a headwind on the short finishing straight.


The favourites:

There’s not much mystery when it comes to the Tour de Langkawi. The first stage always ends in a bunch sprint and it will be no different this time around. The profile looks pretty dramatic but the climbs in Malaysia are never as hard as they look on paper. Almost all the sprinters should be able to survive the challenge.


Most teams are here with sprinters and at the start of the race they will all be confident. Hence, there will be plenty of interest in setting up the bunch kick. However, it will be a very challenging finale with such a late turn and the real sprint will take place before they even hit the finishing straight. This makes lead-outs very important.


Andrea Guardini is known as Mr. Tour de Langkawi and he will probably leave Malaysia with several stage wins. He likes the short, easy stages here as he has an amazing speed. In the past, positioning has been a concern for him but he has improved a lot in this area. He goes into the race with decent condition as he was up there in the echelons in Qatar. He failed to impress in the sprints in his first races but that was mainly due to a lack of lead-out.


There is little doubt that he is the fastest rider here and again team support will be the main challenge. However, he can count on Ruslan Tleubayev and Arman Kamyshev which is probably enough to get him into a good position. The late turn will be a big challenge though and this is not a sprint made for him. However, he is still our favourite to win.


As lead-outs will play an important role, it is a good idea to keep an eye on Brenton Jones. Like Guardini, he is very fast and likes these easy stages. He has the experienced Graeme Brown to lead him out and can also rely on the power of Jens Mouris. If Drapac can nail the lead-out, it could be a victory for Jones.


When it comes to pure speed, Jakub Mareczko is definitely one of the very best. He dominated the sprints in China last autumn and earlier this year he beat no less of a figure than Elia Viviani in San Luis. He also likes this kind of easy stage and he has Andrea Dal Col for the lead-out. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to get a good position for the sprint.


Tinkoff have one of the best lead-outs as they have two sprinters: Erik Baska and Michael Kolar. They will probably both get their chance during the race but we think that Kolar will be the man for the first stage. If Baska and Kolar can be the first two riders through the turn, this could be a win for Tinkoff.


The strongest lead-out train could very well be Androni. They have a team made up of fast riders and they have two potential sprinters. Francesco Chicchi and Luca Pacioni will have to distribute the roles but as the latter is a neo-pro this should be a stage for Chicchi. He is not as fast as he once was but still has a decent turn of speed. In the past, positioning has been his big problem but with this kind of lead-out, it could finally be time for him to make use of his speed.


Andrea Palini has proved that he is able to match the very best as he has been one of the most consistent sprinters in the Middle East. He has shown that he is excellent at positioning himself. However, he probably needs a better lead-out to win such a technical sprint.


Nicola Ruffoni is definitely one of the fastest here but he has not been at his best for more than a year. Furthermore, he doesn’t have the best lead-out. Reinardt van Rensburg will be up there for Dimension Data but he is not fast enough to win this kind of pure sprint.


Dylan Page proved his potential in Mallorca but will miss team support. Finally, John Murphy showed great form by beating Caleb Ewan in Australia. However, that win was mostly based on a great train that he doesn’t have at his disposal here.


For more sprinters, keep an eye on Matthew Goss, Francisco Chamorro, Anuar Manan and Harrif Saleh.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Andrea Guardini

Other winner candidates: Brenton Jones, Jakub Mareczko

Outsiders: Michael Kolar, Francesco Chicchi, Andrea Palini

Jokers: Nicola Ruffoni, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Dylan Page, John Murphy, Luca Pacioni, Erik Baska



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