The indifference towards stage wins from the main contenders has made this a tough betting Giro, writes Jack Houghton
"Bernal's form will have to disappear soon, and quickly, for him to be vulnerable..."
What's the stage like?
It's Cima Coppi time: the day the Giro summits the race's highest peak. That comes at the 2,239 metres of Passo Pordoi, after 12km of climbing at around 7% gradient. The day is about more than that one summit, though. In all, riders tackle four Category One climbs (the hardest rating in the Giro), and most interest will come on the final Passo Giau, which is only 6m lower than the Passo Pordoi, but gets riders there on a much steeper gradient, seeing them ascend for 10km at over 9%.
The reward for that final climb is a 16km descent to the finish town of Cortina D'Ampezzo on a road whose name translates as "snake road". If the weather is as changeable as it has been on the Giro so far - and local weather bureaus are suggesting a near 100% chance of rain during mid-afternoon - that descent could see calamity strike.
Who are the favourites?
With over half the stages in this Giro so far going to the breakaway, and 11 riders claiming their maiden Grand Tour stage victories as well, it's been a difficult punting experience. That tip of Bernal on Stage 9 has put me slightly in profit for the race so far, but only by pennies, and yet again yesterday it felt like playing a lottery rather than betting on a bike race.
Whether we'll see a familiar pattern on this stage, then, with a breakaway being allowed an early, uncatchable lead, remains to be seen. If not, then yet again it is hard to look past Egan Bernal (8.007/1). Even the renaissance of Simon Yates (16.0015/1) on Stage 14 was anti-climactic, with Bernal briefly looking like he might be challenged for the Pink Jersey before effortlessly riding away and gaining more time.
How long Bernal's form can last is a hot topic on social media, with a belief growing that he might have peaked too soon, using up energy with his aggressive tactics that will see him struggle in the final week. That view might be borne out, but it's worth remembering that a rest day follows this Stage 16, and then there are only three mountain stages to navigate for Bernal before that final time trial in Milan. His form will have to disappear soon, and quickly, for him to be vulnerable.
Bernal, therefore, is the most likely winner, and the generous odds are only a reflection of whether Ineos Grenadiers will be bothered enough to go for the stage win. If we knew that they intended to keep the breakaway in reach, those odds would be 2.506/4.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Along with Yates, Damiano Caruso (50.0049/1) must be considered as the main opposition to Bernal. He rode well up the Zoncolan and seems to be peaking at the right time.
Outside of the General Classification contenders, though, any number of breakaway possibilities emerge. Koen Bouwman - who I tipped on Stage 12 - looks interesting at around 20.0019/1, but if wanting a bet in the breakaway, it's probably worth waiting for the in-play market to see who is in it first.
Vincenzo Nibali (40.0039/1) is also interesting at a big price. If he is able to stay with the front guys on the early climbs, he will be able to outpace them on the descents, as he showed to devastating effect on Stage 11. There's just a feeling, though, that his climbing prowess isn't what it once was.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
The abandonment of Emmanuel Buchmann on Stage 15 serves as a reminder that no stage is without risk for the Pink Jersey hopefuls, and with the descents that await them here - not to mention the weather - it is almost certain that the General Classification will see more time gaps by the time the riders - hopefully safely - reach the rest day.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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