Fernando Gaviria may be in the ascendancy after his Stage 1 victory, writes Jack Houghton, but that doesn't mean he's value at short odds...
"The riders will be constantly yo-yoing on Stage 2, with the forecast 32-degree heat making this a draining day for the peloton..."
What's the stage like?
A rolling 182.5km through the agricultural continuity of the Vendee. Like Stage 1, the ride into La Roche-Sur-Yon will almost certainly end in a bunch sprint, but the stage, again, has its complexities - and perhaps even more so. Although there are few hills of note - the 200m Cote de Pouzauges offering the only categorised climb - the riders will be constantly yo-yoing, with the forecast 32-degree heat making this a draining day for the peloton.
The run-in will be complicated by the slightly rising profile in the last 4km, a narrowing road, and a sharp right-hand turn inside the last kilometre too. After that turn, the road climbs 2% to the finish, meaning that any sprinter who mounts their challenge too soon will struggle to last.
Who are the favourites?
After his assured victory on Stage 1, Fernando Gaviria ([2.66]) is the deserved favourite to make it two Tour stages out of two, especially as we know that the slightly rising profile doesn't seem to disadvantage him overly against Peter Sagan ([9.00]). This stage is more technical again, though, and although it was first blood to the young Columbian, I'm not sure I'd want to be taking such short odds just yet.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Marcel Kittel ([5.10]) was able to get placed on Stage 1, but given he was in an ideal position when the sprint-proper started, it was illuminating that he didn't have the legs to go with Gaviria and Sagan. He might ride himself into form on this year's Tour, but with only a week or so of targetable stages for sprinters before the high mountains beckon, it wouldn't be surprising if Kittel leaves this Tour empty handed. He's certainly one to avoid on Stage 2.
On a different day and with more luck in riding, Arnaud Demare ([9.60]) and Mark Cavendish ([21.00]) shouldn't be written off yet; and two riders who will both like the tricky, rising run-in are Michael Matthews ([65.00]) and John Degenkolb ([65.00]), who finished 7th and 8th respectively on the first day.
A split stake between Demare and Sagan is the recommendation.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
We can expect the new initiative of offering bonus seconds in the General Classification a few kilometres from the end to be a damp-squib again and claimed by the breakaway, but that doesn't mean the closing stages will be any less incident-packed for the Yellow Jersey hopefuls than on Stage 1. Given that so many managed to find calamity amidst the relative simplicity of that run-in, the race will be on tenterhooks as La-Roche-sur-Yon comes into view with all its twists-and-turns and narrowings.
Elsewhere, we will see whether Kevin Ledanois fancies holding on to his polka-dot jersey, and whether Gaviria is up for a full assault on the Points Classification, or if his objective will only be to seek stage wins.
*Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing