With positive Covid-19 tests hanging over the Giro and a paucity of sprinting talent, writes Jack Houghton, it's hard to oppose dominant Demare
"A bigger question looms: with the bubble clearly infiltrated by Covid-19, will the race survive the three weeks?"
What's the stage like?
Although not quite as featureless as Stage 7, this stage comes close. With the exception of a Category 4 climb 111km in, and a couple of other minor lumps and bumps, there is little this stage does other than efficiently transfer the peloton up a decent chunk of the Adriatic coast to get them closer to where the action really begins.
Provided the peloton - and indeed the race - reaches those final stages of the Giro, of course. With the withdrawal of Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma, along with Sunweb's asymptomatic Michael Matthews, the hardest job for punters going forward may be working out who is left riding. And a bigger question looms, of course: with the bubble clearly infiltrated by Covid-19, will the race survive the three weeks?
Who are the favourites?
It's a flat stage and it will almost certainly come down to a bunch sprint.
For this reason, it's hard to look past Arnaud Demare (6/52.20). He has already won on Stage 4, Stage 6 and Stage 7, and has seemed a long way ahead of his rivals. This was seen most starkly on Stage 6, where he was unsuited by the route and should have struggled to compete, but yet appeared on cue to take the win.
Fernando Gaviria (9/25.60) is second favourite in most lists, but this prominence is more based on past glory than current form. He's been conspicuous by his absence so far on this year's Giro, and I would want to see more from him before committing.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Winner of Stage 10, Peter Sagan (7/18.00) is having a superb Giro, even if it has taken him this long to record that maiden win. Indicative of his good form has been his proximity to Demare. Admittedly, as is so often the case with Sagan when facing the out-and-out speedsters, he's a little short of that top-end explosivity, but he remains the rider most likely to capitalise if Demare gets it wrong.
Sagan certainly has a better chance of recording a minor upset than a host of other wannabee sprinters. The likes of Elia Viviani (15/116.00) and Alvaro Hodeg (8/19.00) might have a theoretical chance, but it's hard to envisage a scenario where they are able to outpoint the form men of this year's Giro.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
Another day where General Classification hopefuls will want to dodge trouble like they've tried to dodge Covid-19, with the spectacle provided here again by Sagan and Demare facing off in the Points Classification.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Arnaud Demare @ 6/52.20