Quick Picks: Volta ao Algarve

With both the Ruta Del Sol and Volta ao Algarve kicking off tomorrow, it looks as though I’ll fall one short of an Oman/Andalucia/Algarve preview hat-trick. Whilst Ruta Del Sol boasts a week of hard racing in Spain’s most southern region, the Volta ao Algarve will be the more open race.

Both races tackle some steep ramps of southern Europe and are successful at attracting leading riders for a February showdown. The Ruta Del Sol (much like La Fleche) has been suffering from a case of ‘The Valverdes’ over the last five years with El Bala taking four outright victories. The Algarve is kinder on non-climbers and has a roll of honour including Tony Martin and Michal Kwiatkowski. Here are my quick picks for Portugal’s most popular race.

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(Not So) Quick Picks: The Tour of Oman

There are a handful of times throughout each year where cycling fans are treated to two great races a day. This season we’ll see Scheldeprijs clash with Pais Vasco, the Tour of Britain boldly take on the Vuelta Espana and, of course, a World Tour battle between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. These are usually enjoyable occasions with deliberately spaced out start times allowing for maximum enjoyment and the potential for double viewing. I turn to March 10th 2016 for an example; Zdenek Stybar bounced up a finale in Pomarance and a short while after Nacer Bouhanni took out a stage of Paris-Nice. I had picked out both riders hours before and landed by far the luckiest bet of my life off a meagre £0.75 stake (see bottom of this post).

Steering this preview back on track, next week we’ll be refreshing live feeds for not one, nor two, but three races peppered with top World Tour talent. Both the Vuelta Andalucia and Volta ao Algarve kick off on Wednesday, one day after Arabian racing continues with the Tour of Oman. Here’s my picks for the race.

green-mountain-oman

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Dubai Tour: (Hatta) Damn it!

If it wasn’t obvious enough from my Just Pro Cycling Twitter feed – I find the Dubai Tour a pretty enjoyable race. As a result, this is the third straight year I’ve posted about it. Considering I’ve never dedicated a post to great races such as Etoile de Bessèges, Vuelta a Burgos or the Baloise Belgium Tour, it’s fair to say there’s some preferential treatment going on. Dubai is a stage race balanced between the hordes of genuine fastmen and a handful of chancers who believe they can turn the tables on the race’s one hill.

kittel-dubai

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Porte and Ewan: The Only Way Is Down?

Let’s take another minute to celebrate the brilliant performances of Richie Porte and Caleb Ewan at last week’s Tour Down Under. The pair picked off all six stages and took home the ochre and red jerseys respectively. Porte was the master of the hilly terrain choosing moments to attack with rehearsed precision. The Tasmanian’s well-versed in tactical warfare but his victories were reduced to simple displays of strength and power. On Stage 2’s Paracombe climb few thought the short uphill finale would suit the diesel-like Porte but he ended up completing the 2km climb with a 19 second advantage. Ewan experienced similar dominance in the bunch sprints. Orica would take him to within striking distance before the diminutive sprinter would transform into his unique shape and motor clear of his rivals. The two were, without doubt, a class apart in the first race of the season. But have they both just taken their biggest wins of 2017? Is the only way down?

porte-winner

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Quick Picks: Tour Down Under

I haven’t been able to figure out if I love the Tour Down Under because it’s the glorious curtain raiser for the pro cycling season or if the race itself is one of the best. I’m leaning towards the latter with intriguing startlists and a distinctly non-European feel making the race a must watch at the start of the season. This year I’m reserving mammoth race previews for the Grand Tours so here’s my Tour Down Under quick picks.

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Ten riders for 2017

Last year I picked ten riders who I thought would have big seasons; a mixture of breakthrough talent and top level performers. It didn’t all go to plan but I’m back again with ten more. I’m not picking who I think will be the top ten riders at the end of the year but rather a bunch who I expect to have some fun in 2017. This year’s crop are pretty young and there’s a fair chance some won’t hit the headlines anytime soon. Nevertheless, I’ve got faith…

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10 things we’ll all do at the start of the 2017 season

1. Realise the new World Tour calendar is seriously mental

Abu Dhabi in February? We’ve only just left there! And what’s the Tour of Turkey doing between Amstel and Liege?

2. Refuse to call ‘Giant-Alpecin’, ‘Sunweb’

Tom Dumoulin will always ride for Giant-Alpecin, okay?

3. Watch every minute of Tour Down Under coverage, setting an unrealistic standard

Wake up a 6 a.m. and watch Willunga Hill live or absorb it all after work? Both?

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The World Champion, sponsored by Bora-Hansgrohe.

Before Peter Sagan won in Richmond, three of the previous six World Champions had signed out with a Road Race win before joining new teams; Cadel Evans moved from Lotto to BMC, Mark Cavendish went to Sky and Rui Costa switched from Movistar to Lampre. This was entirely coincidental. After all, transfers are decided long before the Championships and riders don’t even compete for their teams on the day. Nevertheless, following his second World title, Peter Sagan is set to join this club of rainbow hoppers and his destination has a raised a few eyebrows; Bora.

sagan-talking

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