Wednesday, 25 June 2014

2014 Tour de France Stages 8-10

Stage 8 Tomblaine - Gerardmer 161km

Stage 8 takes the riders into the Alps. The first 130km are flat; with the intermediate sprint coming at kilometer 100. The first climb of the day is the 2nd Category Col de la Croix des Moinates. The 7.6km climb, is the days' longest and has a gradient of 6%. The second climb of the day is the Category 2 Col de Grosse Pierre, a 3km climb at a gradient of 7.5%. The descent of the climb starts with a mere 10km to go, so it could be the perfect springboard for attacks. The final climb, La Mauseiane, is a summit finish. The 1.8km long climb will be testing for the riders as it has an average gradient of 10.3%, We will see a select group of puncheurs and GC contenders reach the finish in Gerardmer.  My pick is for Peter Sagan to win stage 8, and to take the Green jersey with it.

Stage 9 Gerardmer - Mulhouse 170km

The Action starts as soon as the flag drops as the first climb of the day starts after 3km of racing. This is the 2nd Category Col de la Schlucht, topping off at 1140m. The long descent is swiftly followed by the Category 3 Col du Wettstein, by here most of the sprinters will have been distanced by the leaders. The peloton then has to face the 3rd Category Cote des Cinq Chateaux which comes with 100km to go. After the feed station at kilometre 81, the racing then becomes tougher as the riders start the 2nd Category, 4.1km long Cote de Gruberschwir; which has an average gradient of around 8%. The race has the intermediate sprint, which is placed somewhere of a joke before the hardest climb of the race so far. Said climb is the Category 1 Le Markstein, a 10.8km climb at an average gradient of a mere 5.4%. When the riders crest the climb, there is no respite as they have to face the 3rd Category Grand Ballon, a short sharp climb which will be the highest point of the stage. The riders then face a  20km descent before a 20km flat run into the finish. My pick for the day is Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Yates to attack on the descent and take the stage.

Stage 10 Mulhouse - La Planche des Belles Filles

The second Sunday's stage sees the peloton face the hardest stage yet. The first climb is the Category 2 Col du Firstplan, an 8.3km long climb at 5.4%. This is then followed by the intermediate sprint, which will probably be won by a member of a large breakaway. The next climbs are both 1st Category. The Petit Ballon (9.3km at 8.1%) crests at kilometre 55 and the Col du Plarzereasel (7.7km at 8.4%) which crests at kilometre 72. The latter tops off at a height of 1200m. The riders then have some respite in the long descent to Kruth. Then the race starts climbing again, they meet the 2nd Category Col d'Oderen, the summit of the climb is with 57km to go. With 35km left, the riders climb the 3rd Category Col des Croix, this is where he break will most likely be caught, just before the last two big climbs of the day. The first of those is the 1st Category Col des Chevires, a short but very steep climb, that could drop some GC Contenders. The final climb is the Summit finish up the 6km (at 8.5%)  long, La Planche des Belles Filles. Fans may remember this is the stage where Bradley Wiggins took Yellow in 2012. My pick is for the same winner as the stage in 2012; for Chris Froome to win and take Yellow going into the rest day.

By Stage 10 I think the leaders of each classification will be:

General Classification: Chris Froome (GBR) - Team SKY

Points Classification: Peter Sagan (SLO) - Cannondale

King of the Mountains: Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar

Young Rider Classification: Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

2014 Tour de France Stages 4-7

Stage 4 - Le Tourquet Paris-Plage - Lille 163.5km

The Tour leaves Britain and re-enters France, only to enter Belgium, to then re-enter France. Stage 4 takes the peloton for a short stage from the port of Calais to Lille. The stage's first climb comes after 34km, the 4th Category Cote de Campagnette (1km at 6.5%) as the race enters the  Nord department of France the race has the feed station at 80km before the days intermediate sprint at kilometre 92. The last climb of the day comes 25km later, the Mont Noir (1.3km at 5.7km). The breakaway would likely make it first to both the climbs and the intermediate sprint. Then there is flatlands until the finish, where the break will be caught, as the sprinters teams' will come to the front of the peloton. This stage has the potential to fragment the field and for  if there are strong crosswinds. My pick for the day is for Mark Cavendish to win Stage 4.

Stage 5 Ypres- Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 156km

Stage 5 is when the race reaches the cobblestones of Northern France. The first of nine cobbles sections comes after 87km and lasts for 1100m. The days' intermediate sprint comes 10km later, here is where the sprinters' teams will last be at the front of the peloton. The next section of pavé comes a brief 5km after the sprint. The peloton will be a mess with sprinters' teams trying to move back and GC teams like Sky and Movistar trying to come to the front. There is then a slight rest between sections 8 and 7 as there is the feed station at 108km. The 1km stretch Section 7 comes at kilometre 110, with a 1.4km long cobbled section briefly following it. There is a 15km rest until Section 5, where some lost riders have the chance to rejoin the peloton. Section 5 may be the perfect springboard for an attack, with only 28km to go a puncher could exploit the weakness of a nervous peloton. Section 4 comes with only 24km to go but it is the second longest section of pavé at a length of 2400m. There is only a rest 1500m until section 3 where the 1400m of hell awaits what will be left of a fragmented race. The penultimate section of cobblestones comes with 15km to go and is the longest of all nine stretches of cobbles at a length of 3700m.  The final section is only a mile long but finishes with 5km to go. I can see large time gaps appearing to key General Classification riders. My pick for the day being Sep Vanmarcke.

Stage 6 Arras - Reims 194kmProfile

Stage 6 sees the peloton take the 194km journey from the department of Pal-De-Calais to the department of Marne. The Tour is in this part of France to pay respect to the Great War. The first of the days’ climbs comes at kilometre 107, the 900m long Côte de Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique at a gradient of just over 6%. The descent brings the intermediate sprint, just 12km after the climb. The final climb of the day, the Cóte de Roucy (1.5km at 6.2%), comes only 37km from the finish and could be a springboard for attacks. Then the stage has an undulating next 20km before a flat finish in Reims. I can see a breakaway winning the stage, so my pick for the day is Jens Voigt.

Stage 7 Épernay - Nancy 234.5kmProfile

The second longest stage of the race will see the riders face a very flat first 215km, before two categorised climbs in the last 17km. The days intermediate sprint comes with 86km to go and will probably be won by the days' break. The first climb of the day comes 17km from the finish; the 4th Category Cóte de Maron is 3.2km long at a gradient of 5%, topping of at a height of 399m it is the highest point of the stage. The final climb of the day could be the one that distances the sprinters from the peloton, the 1.3km long Cóte de Bofflers at 7% is also a 4th Category climb. The peloton will then have a very fast descent into Nancy with my pick for the day being Mark Cavendish to win the stage.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

World Cup Preview - Group A

Group A

My Prediction:
  1. Brazil
  2. Mexico
  3. Croatia
  4. Cameroon
Brazil to be top seems like the obvious choice. Brazil always have a very strong squad but this year Brazil are much stronger for two reason, one - they're on home soil, playing where they're accustomed to, and two - the team is better, with the likes of Neymar, Hulk and David Luiz to name a select few. It is hard to see past them in Group A.

Mexico, being a Central American team, will have a huge advantage over European sides in the world cup. The conditions (like Brazil) is what their players will be used to. Unlike Brazil, most of their squad (17 of 23) play their football in Mexico. Of the known players (to Europeans), in their squad Javier Hernandez of Manchester United will be the danger man of the Mexicans,

Croatia, on paper, are a fantastic side, with the likes if Modric, Jelavic and Mandzukic in their squad. They were as high as 4th in the world rankings in June 2013. However, I saw them play Scotland twice, and get beat twice, they were not very good in either game and Scotland deserved the victories, probably by a few more goals than they actually won by, they did not look like a side full of world-class players. That combined with the temperatures I cannot see them qualifying for the Last 16.

Cameroon, have quality in the forms of Eto'o and Alex Song but lack strength in depth. They are not the best team in Africa and are nowhere near the side of just over a decade ago. Cameroon could produce an upset but I doubt they will against the quality of the other three sides.