Valverde and Rodriguez will do battle on home roads in this week long race, generic while Wiggins seeks to repeat his Paris Nice exploits of later year. We will see riders take on some of the biggest climbs in Spain as riders seek to hone their form for the Giro just two months away or for the spring classics.
This week sees the return of the Garmin 3, mind the riders who got token 6 month bans as part of the coming out process of their past doping in the sport of cycling. Bradley Wiggins comes out of training camp with a strong supporting squad including Uran, Lopez and Cataldo. SKy will look to control the race in their usual way why will the Spaniards look to spring some attacks. Rujano who has also had some mixed form turns out for this race his first of season now he is with Vacansoleil.
Without a time trial for Wiggins to put time into rivals the defensive tactics will not work here and that makes this an interesting week, with so many stage races often decided in the race of truth, this one is decided in the hills. Many will be asking if Sam Sanchez can return to some sort of form he was pipped to this race last year by Albasini after stage 3 was null and voided.
Profiles can be found here. Stage 3 and 4 will be the key days in the saddle but other days could provide gaps. Carlos Betancur who now rides with Ag2r also turns up for this. Dan Martin could get help from a strong Garmin line up this time of year suits him and he is based around here. Rodriguez who showed good form again in Tirreno pulling away on the steep finish has the help of a strong support squad including his right hand man Moreno. Machado can play a card for Radioshack but this is a step up with the big boys.
Weather may affect the high stages as this time of year can see many peaks covered in Snow so we would need a bit more luck than we have been having of late to avoid any detours.
Outright Betting: (prices 365 for guide)
J.Rodriguez 7/4 – The tlaented puncheur has been let down by a mixture of one bad days and a poor time trial in grand tours but their is no doubting his talent in being able to handle the hardest of climbs and put in the hardest of digs and breaking others. He won this back in 2010 but did not race it in the two years since. Hes been extremely good over past 3 years and last year was a huge season winning a classic and podium on two grand tours. This year he has taken a stage in Oman and Tirreno over cyclings best talents. he was 4th and 5th in the overall of both those races.
A.Valverde 11/4 – A winner of the race back in 2009. He pulled out with health issues last year so did not finish the race But had a 3rd from Paris Nice coming into it. This year he has 3 stage wins to his name and won an overall too in Spain already. He also 3rd in Murcia. He even returned to racing in Italy to maintain his level for this.
R.Uran 6/1 – Looks like Wiggins will let the team focus on Uran as the profile suits the columbian better than it does the tour de france champion. Uran was 5th in this last year he can have his off days his support rider Cataldo got himself a 9th here so should offer some good support.
Other Contenders: Scarponi (12/1) has one off day last week in Tirreno having an issue and getting gapped, he rode a very strong time trial and hes won here before too. But despite that showing their is still a lack of cutting edge to his riding so far this season. Quintana (11/1) missed a gap and it lost him a key minute on gc. Put in a pretty strong time trial and otherwise looked strong all week. Has a big win in coming soon. Last years 3rd Van Den Broeck has been scarcely seen this so far this year. In the smaller races he had a 5th overall and a 2nd in Andalucia just off Valverde, but it woudl be no suprise to see him going strong again. Chris Horner (16/1) was 3rd here two years back and despite his age does not seem to be getting any less keen to keep racing. After a great 2010 his level has dropped off and Tirreno was his first race in which he got a 6th overall.
Anton (22/1) 11th in 2010, was only 25th in 2011 and he tends be one who does not hold his form for too long its very early yet for him, he was 6th in select group in Murica but will need show more. Dan Martin (40/1) has twice came second here in 2011 and 2009 but well done in tirreno buidling up to this but that did not stop him before from doing well. Nocentini at 125/1 must not be discounted but he had one bad bad day in Italy last week when looking like he might be on form. Niemiec at 250/1 while he might not win could push here for a top 10.
The level of talent this week is great and im hoping for a good week of racing with the big climbs left in.
Bets:Valverde has the winning bug as he looks to regain this race.
1pt Valverde 11/4 bet365
.1pts Quintana 11/1 bet365
.1pt J.Van Den Broeck 14/1 bet365 (16/1 betvictor)
Valverde is a strong fancy to take overall for me here.
Main matchbets:Van Den Broeck will want to improve on 3rd last year
3pt J.Van Den Broeck to beat C.Horner 21/10 hills
3pts Niemiec to beat Kiserlovski 9/10 bet365
4pts D.Navarro to beat Roche 17/20 bet365
5pts T.Machado to beat D.Cataldo evens bet365
1pt Valverde to beat J.Rodriguez 7/5 bet365
1pt Scarponi to beat Uran 5/4 hills
2pts D.Moreno to beat Menchov 2.37 pinnacle
1pt Wiggins to beat Hesjedal 7/10 bet365
2pt D.Martin to beat Pozzoviov 2.13 pinnacle
Other matchbets: (added 10.30am)
2pts Navarro to beat Jeannesson 3/4 betvictor
1pt Van Den Broeck to beat Menchov 4/7 betvictor
4pts Martin to beat Roche 10/11 betvictor
3pts Machado to beat Fugslang 4/5 betvictor
1pt Nocentini to beat Kiserlovski 17/20 betvictor