Audax – Cotswold Challenge 160km – 16th May 2015

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Audax UK

Audax UK

The next of my training rides for the Norwich 100 at the end of May saw me complete the Cotswold Challenge Audax this weekend.

I was originally planning to do another 100km one similar to the Bell Tolls one in Evesham the week before, but decided to ramp things up and complete a proper 100 miles before doing the main deal.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Route

Cotswold Challenge Audax Route

The route left Meriden, centre of England, bright and early Saturday morning (I’d cheated and got the train to a village nearby). I managed to join up with a couple of Beacon CC guys that I’ve ridden with before on a Wednesday night and we set off much quicker than the usual CTC/Audax lot – this is becoming a trend…but I like to set off fast and crawl over the finish line than go steady all the way around.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Elevation

Cotswold Challenge Audax Elevation

By the time we’d gone through a few villages a decent group of around a dozen had formed – I took my turn on the front as we’d singled out on a busier road, then it went quiet and when I turned my head at the next roundabout it turned out I’d broken away. Apparently someone’s tyre had pretty much exploded in the group and it lost half a minute trying to sort itself out. I sat up and let the group join back up to me.

We eventually came to some roads that I knew from the Shakespeare 100 sportive (and the worst bout of road rage I’ve been on the receiving end of, though that was partly Adam’s fault) which then led onto a long stretch of the Stratford CC Saturday morning route. Knowing the roads and being on the front I may have accidentially upped the pace, especially with a Cat 3 racer on my shoulder egging me on.

Campden Road

By the time we reached the main road climb to Chipping Campden, the climbers shot off the front and were consistently ahead up to the top with me gamely hanging on 10-20 seconds behind, followed by a big gap. I was surprised to find at the end that on Strava I was now the 60th fastest out of over 1200 riders – in the top 5%.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Great Western Arms Blockley

Our first control in Blockley

Things settled down as we made the first control in Blockley, added a sticker to our brevet cards and moved on. This section was the hardest with solid climbs such as going up Edgehill via Tysoe and heading over to Burton Dassett which I hadn’t visited since completing the Rapha Festive 500 back in December. By this point my earlier exuberance was just starting to pay its price as hills were harder and harder to keep pace on. A brief touch of wheels after the top showed how quickly a crash can potentially happen but because of the low speed I managed to keep the bike upright.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Burton Dassett Climb

The Burton Dassett Climb

Our second audax stop and our second control sticker was at Harbury as we started our ride back northwards to the start at Meriden. Back on unfamiliar roads and beginning to flag, I was happy sitting within the shelter of the group and whenever I felt like I wanted to stop then the thought of then having to attack the headwind on my own made me tell the legs to shut up.

With a couple of miles to go, the racier and fresher members of the still 8 strong group started to go quicker on the rolling bumps just outside Meriden, dropping a few of us wearier riders. Attacking the downhill into the village we all ended up coming in together and were confirmed as the first group of 100-milers to finish the audax.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Meriden Cyclists War Memorial

Meriden is also home of the Cyclists War Memorial.

Whilst an Audax is strictly not a race and ultimately noone is that fussed by what time you completed the route in, so long as you complete it, there’s still a nice satisfaction in ‘winning’ – especially two weeks in a row!

Strava

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Audax – Cotswold Challenge 160km – 16th May 2015 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Giro d’Italia Week 1 Review

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2015 Giro d'Italia Logo

So far we’ve had a varied week of racing with the shorter hilly stages proving to be exciting. A full run through is below.

Giro d’Italia Stage 1

Stage 1 was the 17.6km Team Time Trial which was won by one of the favourites and gave Orica-Greenedge the Pink Jersey at this stage for the second year running. Simon Gerrans had the honour of wearing the first one.

In the GC race, Contador gained 6 seconds over Fabio Aru and 20 over Richie Porte.

2015GiroStage1Greenedge

Orica Greenedge smashed the opening team time trial

Giro d’Italia Stage 2

Here was the first sprint stage and it was marred with crashes on the Genoese sea front – a peculiar one being when someone on a fixie attempted to join the peloton and wiped it out.

Sky’s Elia Viviani won the sprint after Andre Greipel went too early, Sacha Modolo nearly got punted into the barriers and Moreno Hofland just faded at the last.

The pink jersey swapped hands to Michael Matthews.

2015GiroStage2Viviani

Elia Viviani seemed happy to win

Giro d’Italia Stage 3

A huge breakaway went off on this stage and nearly made it but it ended up being a sprint for the powerful. Michael Matthews won the stage whilst in the Pink Jersey and held onto it for another day. Philippe Gilbert’s attempts to take Pink were thwarted as he took third.

One of the pre-race favourites Domenico Pozzovivo crashed out heavily, landing on his face, and had to abandon.

Pavel Kotchetkov took the Mountains Jersey that he’d hold onto for a few days.

2015GiroStage3Matthews

Matthews sprints to the win

Giro d’Italia Stage 4

Stage 4 again saw a large breakaway and was a very hard stage to predict on paper. The strongest of the breakaway kept ahead with Cannondale’s Davide Formolo taking a breakthrough solo win.

Some decent pacework by Astana’s Mikel Landa meant that only the strongest GC contenders stayed on the same with with Jurgen Van den Broeck and Rioberto Uran losing 40 seconds and Ryder Hesjedal, Franco Pellizotti and Benat Intxausti all lost minutes.

The Pink Jersey changed hands again to Greenedge’s Simon Clarke.

2015GiroStage4Formolo

Formolo solos to the win

Giro d’Italia Stage 5

Another day, another solo breakthrough win. Jan Polanc finished 1 minute 22 seconds ahead of the field after losing his breakaway companions on the final climb and proving the strongest rider.

Aru, Contador and Porte all finished together again with Uran losing another 30 seconds and everyone else upwards of two minutes. A three horse race is definitely developing. Alberto Contador moved into the race lead, 2 seconds ahead of Fabio Aru and 20 ahead of Richie Porte.

Viviani keeps his lead in the Sprinters Jersey and stage winner Jan Polanc received the Mountains Jersey for his efforts.

2015GiroStage5Polanc

Polanc wins Stage 5

Giro d’Italia Stage 6

Pre-Stage favourite Andre Greipel won the sprint finish but the real drama took place behind the sprinters.

Nippo – Vini Fantini ride Daniele Colli hit a spectator’s camera at full speed and crashed breaking his arm in horrendous fashion. Involved in the crash was Alberto Contador who dislocated his shoulder twice but entered the overall lead.

Unable to wear the pink jersey on the podium, Contador still maintained he would carry on and race.
Andre Greipel’s win saw him take over the lead of the Sprinters Jersey.

2015GiroStage6Contador

Contador couldn’t put on the jersey and he dislocated his collar bone shortly before standing on the podium

Giro d’Italia Stage 7

The longest stage since 1989 saw all the GC contenders reach the finish on the same time so no change in the classification. The finish was preceeded by a decent hill that allowed the power sprinters and genuine hill riders to attack the finish.

Diego Ulissi won the stage ahead of Movistar’s Lobato and Simon Gerrans. A stage for the non-usual contenders was marked out as one for a breakaway win but the length ultimately put pay to their plans.

2015GiroStage7Ulissi

Ulissi beats Lobato and Gerrans

Giro d’Italia Stage 8

A large breakaway with strong riders such as Pellizotti, Betancur, Niemiec and Intxausti escaped and a couple managed to stay away until the finish.

Benat Intxausti won the stage, 20 seconds ahead of an attacking Mikel Landa and fellow breakee Sebastien Reichenbach.

The more important battle was seen behind where Fabio Aru tested out Contador’s shoulder with repeated attacks. Ultimately the big three and Uran managed to finish on the same time as Contador managed to keep with Aru throughout.

By taking the stage win Benat Intxausti also took the lead in the Mountains jersey.

2015GiroStage8Intxausti

Intxausti puts on the Mountains Jersey

Giro d’Italia Stage 9

In many ways a similar day as the one before it. A strong breakway of Betancur, Slagter, Geschke, Tiralongo, Hesjedal and Kruijswijk stayed away until the finish with Paolo Tiralongo finishing 20 seconds ahead of second place (sound familiar?) Steven Kruijswijk and Simon Geschke.

Aru again repeatedly attacked Contador who had the answers again, however Aru managed to gain 1 second on Contador and Porte by sprinting to the finish. Rigoberto Uran’s overall hopes took another bash by losing 50 seconds to the contenders and it’s hard to see how he will pull it all back.

Simon Geschke mopped up the KoM Points and we had another new leader.

2015GiroStage9Tiralongo

Tiralongo Wins

Current state of predictions:
1 – Contador (1st, wore Pink stage 5)
2 – Uran (8th)
3 – Porte (3rd)
4 – Aru (2nd)
5 – Pozzovivo (Crashed – DNF)
6 – Hesjedal (21st)
7 – Van den Broeck (16th)
8 – Intxausti (28th – 1 stage win)
9 – Pellizotti (58th)
10- Ulissi (44th – 1 stage win)
KoM – Franco Pellizotti (16th)
Sprint – Michael Matthews (23rd, won stage 3)

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Giro d’Italia Week 1 Review was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Audax – Every Time A Bell Rings 2015 – 112 km

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Audax UK

Audax time!

Every Time a Bell Rings… 112km Audax

After falling off back in January, I’ve not actually done another Audax until now. In an effort to get back on the wagon and prepare for the Norwich 100 at the end of May, it was time to do some longer rides again!

The ride was planned as 112km and contained nothing too scary routewise.

Audax Route

Every Time a Bell Rings Audax

Didn’t realise until I’d finished, that this was actually in the shape of a bell.

The Audax

The route started from Evesham and I cycled from an overnight stay, at my mum’s nearby, to the start. It turned out that I hadn’t actually uploaded the route to my Garmin but in good Audax practice I’d printed off a copy of the route sheet so no dramas.

Meon Hill

Meon Hill

I was given the go ahead to start at 8:55am and seemed to leave before most of the other riders who were waiting for 9am – this meant I didn’t see anyone else for over an hour.
The route went back the way I’d just come through the villages of Badsey, Bretforton and Honeybourne before tackling the Meon Hill climb outside of Mickleton – it’s nothing too taxing but a good leg warmer. Heading on the route was largely flat until a bit of a rise by Pillerton Priors where two guys going at a decent speed came past, I jumped onto the back and ended up going 20mph+ to the first stop in Kineton 37km from the start. It turned out only one of the guys was actually on the Audax and I ended up doing the rest of the route with him.

More and more Audaxers arrived as we sat and had good coffee and bakewell slice, but after 20 minutes we were off, now as a pair. After the steep climb of Spring Hill, we flew through Wellesbourne and into Charlecote where it followed the Stratford CC Saturday morning route for a stint. Familiarity definitely helps as you know exactly where you can push the speed up without having to worry about an unexpected serious climb just around the corner.

Honeybourne Village

Honeybourne Village

We had a brief stop in Norton Lindsay to take down the numbers on a fire hydrant – an information control to prove that we had taken a certain line between Kineton and our next stop at Earlwood. It’s a simple solution from the pre-GPS days to weed out any potential foul play.
There were parts I knew and parts I didn’t in this middle part before eventually using the exact same run-in to Earlwood that I’d done on a ride on Wednesday evening. Using local knowledge I took the high road next to the lakes and went flying past on the hill on the other side. Time for another coffee stop!

The wind had been very kind up to this point with a tailwind blasting us along, it turned out we’d gone fast enough to actually get to this stop too early by a single minute. There are windows where these controls are ‘open’ in order to slow fast riders down at the top end and to provide a minimum speed at the other. The window was about 3 hours wide so plenty of time for all but the least able – the minimum average speed expected by an Audaxer is a very generous 9.37mph, which encourages more leisure time or the naps in the sun that I’ve done on a previous Audax.

Earlwood Lakes

Earlwood Lakes

The final third was distinctly difficult with a very strong headwind gradually wearing us down as well as the route being on main roads the entire way back to the finish. The windy descent on the dual carriageway to the outskirts of Redditch wasn’t particularly pleasant, nor the queue jumping at the roundabout at the bottom. With a steady taking of turns at the front, we still made good progress and it was certainly easier than if I’d have been on my own.

We both collectively hit a physical wall a few miles outside of Evesham and began struggling to the finish, one final climb over Greenhill and it was a nice descent into Evesham town for the finish.

Predictably we were the first ones back, which although not a race and receives no recognition is still an achievement.

Bell Ring Audax Fly By Strava

The extent of the damage – two of us had finished and others were still North of Alcester. Also interesting to note where people went the wrong way…

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Audax – Every Time A Bell Rings 2015 – 112 km was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Giro d’Italia 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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2015 Giro d'Italia Logo

It’s Giro d’Italia time again! Some of the world’s best riders will fight it out over the next three weeks to see who will win overall and who will become a hero for a day. The Giro has a long history and expect to become acquainted with the smaller Italian teams like Bardiani and Androni over its course.
A mixed first week followed by an easier second week leads into a third week showdown between the key contenders and we will see who wins the pink jersey.

Giro d'Italia 2015 Route

Giro d’Italia Stages

Stage 1 – San Lorenzo › Mare Sanremo (17.6k)
Stage 2 – Albenga › Genova (177k)
Stage 3 – Rapallo › Sestri Levante (136k)
Stage 4 – Chiavari › La Spezia (150k)
Stage 5 – La Spezia › Abetone (152k)
Stage 6 – Montecatini Terme › Castiglione della Pescaia (183k)
Stage 7 – Grosseto › Fiuggi (264k)
Stage 8 – Fiuggi › Campitello Matese (186k)
Stage 9 – Benevento › San Giorgio del Sannio (215k)
Rest day
Stage 10 – Civitanova Marche › Forlì (200k)
Stage 11 – Forlì › Imola (153k)
Stage 12 – Imola › Vicenza (Monte Berico) (190k)
Stage 13 – Montecchio Maggiore › Lido di Jesolo (147k)
Stage 14 – Treviso › Valdobbiadene (59.4k) Time Trial
Stage 15 – Marostica › Madonna di Campiglio (165k)
Rest day
Stage 16 – Pinzolo › Aprica (177k)
Stage 17 – Tirano › Lugano (134k)
Stage 18 – Melide › Verbania (170k)
Stage 19 – Gravellona Toce › Cervinia (236k)
Stage 20 – Sint Vincent › Sestriere (196k)
Stage 21 – Torino › Milano (185k)

Giro d'Italia 2015 Poster

Giro d’Italia Contenders

GC
Lets be honest, there’s only three genuine GC contenders from the off. Previous winner Alberto Contador is looking to do a Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double this year and has a strong team to back him up here with Basso, Kreuziger and Rogers to look after him.
Team Sky have decided to back Australian Richie Porte and again it is a strong lineup. Konig and Nieve are the mountain stage lieutenants with Kiryienka and Eisel the powerful flat stage guardians. The issue is whether or not he can limit losses on the one bad day he seems to have in a grand tour.
Rigoberto Uran is the other option, in good form during the Tour de Romandie he can climb well and time trial well. The team behind him isn’t as strong with less big hitters to look after him and it’s this that may make him lose time at the worst moments.

Honourable mentions go to Domenico Pozzovivo, Fabio Aru, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Ryder Hesjedal and Benat Intxausti. I would expect these riders to make up the rest of the top ten (barring injury/crashes) but there should be some daylight between them and the top 3.

Giro d'Italia 2015 Cavendish

Stage Wins

There is an interesting mix of sprinters at this year’s Giro d’Italia, with many being powerful hill stage sprinters capable of winning Stages 3 and 7 in particular.

Michael Matthews has previous at the Giro with his breakout performance and spell in the pink jersey last year. I’d expect at least one stage win and potentially a repeat with Orica-Greenedge looking well set up for the team time trial.
Andre Greipel is always in the mix with the flatter sprints but is capable of getting over some of the hills – He’s not been at the Giro d’Italia since 2010 but does have two stage wins.
Sky’s Elia Viviani won’t have much of a sprint train around him but will be relishing the chance to go for stage wins. His track pedigree means he generates a lot of power and will be in contention.
The combination of Gianni Meersman and Tom Boonen will be looking for stage wins for Etixx-Quickstep. I’d expect Meersman to focus on the hillier stages such as possibly stages 4 and 9 with Boonen maybe going on his own on the pure sprint stages. With Boonen coming back from injury a lot is in the air.
Giacomo Nizzolo‘s first Giro d’Italia will hopefully act as a breakthrough. He has a few good results this season from Paris – Nice but has a habit of going missing in big sprints.

Riders such as Sonny Colbrelli, Roberto Ferrari, Heinrich Haussler, Alessandro Petacchi, Moreno Hofland, and Juan Jose Lobato will also be fighting it out in the sprints. I don’t expect all of them to be up there each day but any of them stand a chance of a stage win if they get everything right on the day.

Giro d'Italia 2015 Coast

Giro d’Italia Outsiders

FDJ’s Jussi Veikkanen is potentially a highlight of an otherwise weak team. I’m expecting a breakaway attempt or a decent TT result, a definite wildcard on a stage during the three weeks.
Bardiani normally light up the race and I expect 2013 Giro d’Italia KoM winner Stefano Pirazzi to go on the attack on a few stages and if the leaders let him go, could get a stage win.
On the same theme, Enrico Battaglin will attack on the smaller hill finishes.
Cannondale’s David Formolo is a decent shout for the Youth Jersey with good performances over the season so far. He’s definitely capable of a top 25 overall.

Giro d’Italia Prediction

1 – Contador
2 – Uran
3 – Porte
4 – Aru
5 – Pozzovivo
6 – Hesjedal
7 – Van den Broeck
8 – Intxausti
9 – Pellizotti
10- Ulissi
KoM – Franco Pellizotti
Sprint – Michael Matthews

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Giro d’Italia 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Preview – Contenders/Outsiders

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Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Logo

The first ever Tour de Yorkshire takes place this weekend aiming to refocus some of the attention it received during the Tour de France. The three days cover most of the major Yorkshire towns with start/finishes in the Tour destinations of Leeds and York. With a number of big names racing it should capture of the imagination of a British public wanting to see more of their favourite riders.

Tour de Yorkshire Stages

Stage 1 – Bridlington › Scarborough (174km) – Flat
Stage 2 – Selby › York (174km) – Flat
Stage 3 – Wakefield › Leeds (167km) – Medium Hills

Marcel Kittel Tour de France Yorkshire Sprint Win Leeds

Tour de Yorkshire Contenders

The nature of the race dictates that a powerful sprinter will probably win the race as all three stages have the potential to be bunch sprints.
If it does come down to sprints, it’s hard to see anyone beating Marcel Kittel – stage 2 looks like it was tailor made for him and it’ll be up to everyone else to drop him before the finish.
British rider Ben Swift has been doing well at this 2.1 level of races this year and managed 13th in Milan – San Remo. He is the sort of powerful sprinter that shouldn’t have a problem on any of the 3 stages.
Greg Van Avermaet falls into the same type of rider, he should play a part in all 3 sprint finishes with the third stage in particular offering him a chance to do something different for the overall.

In the next rung down of sprinter quality are names such as Matteo Pelucchi, Moreno Hofland, Gerald Ciolek, Ben Hermans, Julien Simon and Steele Von Hoff. Any of these are capable of winning sprints on their day but the jury is out as to whether they will be in the mix on each of the 3 stages.

2015 Tour de France Yorkshire Sheep

Von Hoff won the Rutland Classic earlier this week which shows decent form. Julien Simon has a number of top 20 finishes at WorldTour level this season which means he should have the capability to get top 10s here.
Hofland had three good results during Paris – Nice and Ciolek has a 2nd place on a Tirreno – Adriatico stage this year.

The final group are big names that will be racing but have limited chance of winning the overall race. Thomas Voeckler, Bradley Wiggins and Samuel Sanchez will all be racing but apart from maybe a do or die breakaway from Vockler, none of them have a realistic chance of winning due to the lack of a proper summit finish.

2015 Tour de Yorkshire will revisit York after 2014 Tour de France

Tour de Yorkshire Outsiders

Jean-Pierre Drucker performed well at the Driedaagse West Vlaanderen race being consistently well placed over the race. Stage 3 could be his.
Brits Owain Doull & Chris Opie are in contention – Doull in particular has done very well in 2015 with lots of top tens at the 2.2/2.1 level that the Tour of Yorkshire is pitched at. He’ll also have Bradley Wiggins as a teammate.
Chris Opie finished second in the Rutland Classic earlier in the week against not quite the same level of a field – a sign of form and could well perform this weekend.

2015 Tour de Yorkshire aims to reach heights of 2014 Tour de France

Not France…Yorkshire

Tour de Yorkshire Prediction

1 – Marcel Kittel
2 – Ben Swift
3 – Greg Van Avermaet

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Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Preview – Contenders/Outsiders was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Tour de Romandie 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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2015 Tour de Romandie Logo

The Tour de Romandie is set amongst Switzerland’s western region and in recent years, thanks to Team Sky, has become part of the practice run for the Tour de France. With a team time trial as well as an individual time trial, it favours those GC riders that do well against the clock as well as strong teams that can keep their leaders out of trouble on the hurdles throughout the week.
The queen stage coming just before the final time trial will see who has the early season legs amongst the elite GC riders and notch up the first psychological win.

Tour de Romandie Stages

Stage 1 – Vallée de Joux › Juraparc (19.2k) – Team Time Trial
Stage 2 – Apples › Saint-Imier (166.1km) – Medium Hills
Stage 3 – Moutier › Porrentruy (173.2km) – Medium Hills
Stage 4 – La Neuveville › Fribourg (169.8km) – Medium Hills
Stage 5 – Fribourg › Champex-Lac (166.1km) – Summit Finish
Stage 6 – Lausanne › Lausanne (17.3km) – Time Trial

Tour de Romandie Podium

Tour de Romandie Contenders

Chris Froome is the clear favourite here having won the previous two years and more or less dominating proceedings. A strong Sky team consisting of most the usual Sky Tour de France riders should keep him well protected.
Following the Tour theme, Vicenzo Nibali will be trying to show his form, although a 5th place here last year didn’t hamper him too much as he went on to win the Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana is also here in preparation for another Grand Tour bid, he’s the best climber of the elite GC guys and his time trialling is surprisingly decent but not quite on Froome’s level. A definite contender.

There are plenty of other contenders who will also feature in this race as well as in a couple of months time during the Tour de France.
Rigoberto Uran isn’t quite in that top bracket of GC contender but isn’t far off either. With the likes of Tony Martin powering along the Etixx-Quickstep team time trial train, he won’t lose much time there but may do in the final time trial.
Rui Costa did well at Paris – Nice earlier this season, coming in 4th. In this similar one week race, he can repeat this but his time trialling skills and those of his team will probably leave him too much time to make up in the mountains.

Tour de Romandie Hills

Tinkoff-Saxo will be relying on Rafal Majka for a good GC result – his 6th at least year’s Giro and the KoM jersey at the Tour de France marked him out for greater things but so far this year he’s not had the results to back this up.
After his third place in the Tour de France last year, FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot will be bidding to repeat that performance and can show his early form here. More of a climber than an all-round GC contender – he will aim to do well on the queen stage summit finish.

Ag2r’s Carlos Betancur will find himself in a similar position but as a most explosive climber, at his best, could threaten the overall podium. After a mixed 2014, it will be interesting to see which version of him turns up.
On the next rung down of quality we have Ryder Hesjedal who hasn’t had too many strong results since winning the Giro d’Italia but it’s still hard to discount him. A powerful support team will keep him out of trouble.

Tour de Romandie Mountains

Jurgen Van den Broeck has always been there or thereabouts without really getting that elite GC result. Expect to see him on the fringes of the top ten.
Frenchman Pierre Rolland will look to do well on the summit finish queen stage but his time trialling skills will hamper his bid for a very high overall position.

Former Tour de Romandie winner Simon Spilak cannot be ruled out, it’s been five years since he won here but finishing second to Chris Froome two years in a row is a sign he takes this race seriously.

Tour de Romandie Team Sky Train

Tour de Romandie Outsiders

Reto Hollenstein – The Swiss rider’s home race, he’s being groomed as IAM’s potential GC leader and the right combination of having the team behind him and riding through home may lead to a solid result overall.
Ramunas Navardauskas – Definitely one with a chance of a stage win, the powerful Lithuanian excels on uphill sprints after tough rolling profiles.
Simon Yates – I keep tipping him to do something great…5th overall in the recent Tour of the Basque Country shows he’s on the cusp.

Tour de Romandie Prediction

1 – Chris Froome
2 – Nairo Quintana
3 – Vicenzo Nibali
4 – Rigoberto Uran
5 – Rui Costa

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Tour de Romandie 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Logo

Liege Bastogne Liege Profile

Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Profile

Liege Bastogne Liege is the finale of the Spring Classics and is somewhat similar to the previous classic at Fleche Wallonne in that it has a hilly parcours with a climb at the end. The key difference however is that this climb can be won by those more punchy powerful climbers rather than lighter guys on the steeper Muy de Huy.

Liege Bastogne Liege

Liege Bastogne Liege Contenders

A similar list of contenders means that one of Valverde or Kwiatkowski must be considered the favourite after recent results. Both have won important races recently and can surely repeat that in this race too.

Other riders however have targeted this race specifically – Philippe Gilbert is one, who despite dropping out of Fleche Wallonne after a crash stands a good chance here.
Dan Martin is another good shout having won here in 2013, he came very close to winning here again last year but crashed on what was pretty much the final corner. He can repeat his win if he can cast aside the bad luck.
Joaquim Rodriguez is always a contender in this sort of race, often teaming up well with Dani Moreno in a powerful one two attack. After two second places, he will be gunning for the win.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2013 Dan Martin distances Joaquim Rodriguez

Last year’s winner Simon Gerrans will be racing, but after being seemingly injured ever since Mark Cavendish took him down in the 2014 Tour de France it’s probable his condition will prevent a genuine attempt for another victory.

The young Dutch pairing of Bauke Mollema and Tom-Jelle Slagter remain on the cusp of that one career defining result. They finished 5th and 6th last year and provided they come through unscathed should find themselves in the top ten without too much trouble.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2013 Dan Martin wins

2014 World Champion Rui Costa will be racing, a solid Paris-Nice and Amstel Gold Race means he has the form to challenge for a podium spot.

The punchy finish will suit French rider Tony Gallopin who has been in exceptional form with top ten finishes Paris – Nice, Milan – San Remo, Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold. Built in a similar mould to Phillipe Gilbert, he can also finish highly placed.

The Tour de France warmups will continue with Vicenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana in attendance, it doesn’t look like Chris Froome will be racing after coming off on Wednesday.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2014 Dan Martin crashes

Liege Bastogne Liege Outsiders

I’m still backing Simon Yates, the finish suits him and with duo-leader status with Michael Albasini he will have the free reign to get a result.
Benoit Vaugrenard will almost certainly not be mentioned in pre-race previews but does have four top-15 placings here. A decent outsider as FDJ don’t feature too much this time of year.
It’s hard to work out which of Sky’s riders will be given the full backing, especially as their line-up hasn’t been full confirmed as yet but I would love to see Nicolas Roche attacking up the final climb with Dan Martin as they distance all others.

Liege Bastogne Liege Prediction

1 – Kwiatkowski
2 – Valverde
3 – Gilbert

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Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling