Tim Merlier is the rightful favourite, writes Jack Houghton, but his odds represent a typical Grand Tour overreaction to his earlier win
What's the stage like?
Breathtakingly featureless. It's 177km, entirely flat and, following an old Roman road from Modena to Rimini, has hardly a kink to mention. Even the weather - such a big factor on Stage 4 - looks to be content with uneventfulness: there's a small chance of rain, but winds are forecast to be slight, meaning there isn't even a chance of some crosswind calamity.
The only hope for some drama will come at the end. It's a bunch-sprint stage for sure, and a motoring peloton will need to deal with five sharp turns inside the last 3km. Lulled into a false sense of security by what precedes the finish, it's prime pile-up territory.
Who are the favourites?
Sprint markets in Grand Tours have a tendency to overreact to early stage form, and Tim Merlier being priced up at 3.002/1 seems like one such overreaction. Yes, he has performed well in the early season. And yes, he was rightly hyped prior to Stage 2. But that was one stage, and one where he arguably out-thought - rather than out-rode - his competitors. Making an early effort in the sprint he was able to bag the rail on a right-handed finish, making it virtually impossible for anyone to generate the power needed to come the long way round. It was savvy racing, backed up by an impressive surge, and whilst it would be no surprise to see Merlier winning another stage here, those odds are ridiculously short when the relative form of the sprinters is not fully known.
Caleb Ewan (4.507/2), for one, is notoriously slow off the blocks in any stage race, often seeming to take a few days to refamiliarise himself with the hubbub of bunch sprints. He was disappointing on Stage 2, but it would be no surprise to see him winning this on an ideal parcours. His odds still look too short, though.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Dylan Groenewegen (7.006/1) acquitted himself well on Stage 2 after so long away from the professional peloton and his odds look about right; I would neither want to back nor lay him.
Groenewegen is certainly a better prospect than Fernando Gaviria (10.009/1), though. The Columbian has looked outclassed so far on this Giro and, given his lacklustre form in recent seasons, it's hard to see him taking a stage at this Giro.
Aside from Merlier, the best sprinting form so far has been seen from Giacomo Nizzolo (10.009/1), who was second on Stage 2. He will prefer the course here, and looks value to convert a victory after a string of second places.
Lots of other riders might cause a surprise. Peter Sagan (18.0017/1) will be close up at the finish, but probably not quick enough to win. And the same can be said of David Dekker (30.0029/1). Nizzolo is the best bet.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Very little for the General Classification guys and, by definition, there will be no moves in the Mountains Classification. In terms of the overall markets, this stage is all about the Points Classification: watch the competition for the intermediate sprints to know who is most serious about winning it.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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