The 103rd edition of the Tour de France kicks off in Mont St-Michel on Saturday 2nd July where Britain’s Chris Froome will be starting the defence of his title, and looking to win his third TDF title in three years.
The opening stage will see the sprinters battle it out at Utah Beach, and it’s the first time since 2013 that the Tour actually starts in France, after visits to Utrecht and Yorkshire in the last two runnings. The riders still get to visit three other countries though, with Stage 9 taking them in to Andorra and Spain, and stages 16 and 17 taking them in to Switzerland.
It’s an interesting and challenging course, as you’d expect, featuring two time trials, including a 17km uphill TT quite late in the race on stage 18.
This takes on even more significance following the battle between Froome and Contador in the prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné, with the gaps back to the likes of Thibaut Pinot who lost 52” in just 4kms.
Key Stages to watch out for:
Stage 8 to Bagnères-de-Luchon – Any stage that starts with the Tourmalet is going to be tough, they have three more big climbs to get over including the Col de Peyresourde 15kms from the finish.
Stage 9 to Arcalis (Andorra) – Three Category 1 climbs and a Haute Category finish will possibly see the first big time gaps between the main contenders
Stage 12 to Mont Ventoux – Ventoux is always crucial and with it being on Bastille day this year, Chris Froome may not have it all his own way and the French will be out in force.
Stage 17 to Finhaut-Emosson in Switzerland – Significant mainly as it’s a HC finish on a stage straight after the second rest day. Some riders will respond better than others after a rest day.
Stage 18 to Megeve – It’s only a 17km TT, but it’s uphill with slopes that hit up to 11%. We saw in the Criterium du Dauphine how a short uphill TT can cause big gaps amongst the favourites.
Stage 19 to Mont Blanc – a stage finish that holds happy memories for Chris Froome, he won here in the Dauphine in 2015. 10kms at 8% is a tough end to a tough day.
The Tour de France is the biggest cycling betting event of the year and although there are 198 riders start a Tour de France, there’s never really great value to be had at the top of the market, as realistically there are probably only about 10 riders who’re actually likely to win.
Chris Froome bids to become the first (official) rider since Miguel Indurain in 1995 to defend his jersey. He hasn’t had many race days on the bike this year, but that’s his customary preparation now.
Froome showed in the Dauphine that he looks ready for battle and he looks a solid favourite at 7/4.
Alberto Contador tore up the course on the opening hill TT in the Dauphine, despite saying that he was only going there to prepare for the Tour, but Froome had him in his pocket for the rest of the race. In what could be his final tilt at the TDF he’ll be looking forward to that uphill TT on stage 18 and the stages in Andorra and Spain.
Nairo Quintana hasn’t been seen much in Europe this year as he does a lot of his preparation in Colombia, but when he has raced here this year he has finished 1st (Catalunya), 3rd (Pais Vasco) and 1st (Romandie), but can he go one better than his two 2nd place finishes behind Chris Froome in the Tour? One of the best climbers in the world on his day, he has yet to consistently put Froome under pressure in the mountains.
Fabio Aru carries Astana and Italy’s big hopes for a win, but he’s not been in great form this year so far and we might see him resort to stage hunting. At around 16/1 I’d rather be on Nibali at twice his price if Nibali rides like he did in the final stages of the Giro.
After that you have a whole host of possible outsiders who could have a say – French hopes Romain Bardet who finished 2nd in the Dauphiné, Thibaut Pinot and rising star Julian Alaphilippe. Tejay Van Garderen and Richie Porte for BMC, Porte was impressive in the Dauphiné prologue, finishing 7” ahead of Froome, but lost out on a podium spot on the very last day by just 2”.
Alejandro Valverde is back-up for Nairo Quintana, and after an impressive Giro he’ll be hoping for another top 6 here. Mikel Landa at 50/1 could be a good back-up bet should anything happen to Froome, although Sky are saying that Geraint Thomas is the other supported rider for the race, he’s as big as 80/1 for those who want to support the Welshman.
Peter Sagan for the Points Jersey – a competition Sagan has made his own in the last few years, you won’t get rich at 10/11, but it looks as close to a sure thing as you’ll get, especially in light of his superb Tour de Suisse. Bryan Coquard at 18/1 could be an each-way alternative with a bit of value.
Marcel Kittel to win stage 1 at 6/4 – Kittel is back to his brilliant best and it will be very hard to beat the big German in full flight.
Chris Froome to win stage 12 to Mont Ventoux at 3/1 – winner by 29” from Nairo Quintana the last time the Tour had a stage finish here in 2013, he’s very likely to repeat the feat again.
And closer to the time, watch out for weird and wonderful bets like the ‘Lanterne Rouge’ for the last rider in the GC, the number of finishers and the ‘winning margin’.
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