All the stages so far have been more complex than billed, writes Jack Houghton, who thinks the out-and-out speedsters will struggle again...
"Any kind of incline in a finish favours Sagan more than anyone in the peloton. Gaviria might beat him for top-end speed, but at the odds, Sagan's experience makes him the value bet..."
What's the stage like?
A successful recommendation on Stage 3 makes it two wins out of three, and gives us some money to play with as we look forward to another interesting stage: one that is being billed as a-day-for-the-sprinters, but which looks far from straightforward.
The run-in, at least, has no significant turns, offering a wide, unswerving shoot to the finish line. So as long as the riders avoid the road furniture, there shouldn't be the nervy crashes we saw on the opening stages.
As in those opening stages, though, the finish is not flat - the last kilometre sees a series of false flats, with the course slowly gaining elevation. It's not significant enough to rule any of the sprinters out, but as Arnaud Demare found to his cost on Stage 2, anyone who is in front too early will likely be swamped late. In-play punters take note.
Who are the favourites?
Colombian sensation, Fernando Gaviria, has looked the class sprinter so far on the Tour, but at around [2.62], his odds look too short again and, as on Stage 2, I'll be recommending it best to look elsewhere. He got caught too far back in that finish and will no doubt learn from the experience, but it demonstrated that he is not yet a rider we can confidently lump on at short odds.
A safer bet is Peter Sagan at around [6.00]. It might be starting to look like I intend to recommend him on every stage, but as previewed, there has been a paucity of form among the high-profile sprinters of late, meaning Sagan has been able to win where once he would have only placed. What's more, any kind of incline in a finish favours him more than anyone in the peloton. Gaviria might beat him for top-end speed, but at the odds, Sagan's experience makes him the value bet.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Arnaud Demare ([8.00]) made a right mess of Stage 2 and will hope to get his tactics right here. If he does, he is capable of bettering Sagan and Gaviria. And Demare is certainly a more attractive betting proposition than Kittel ([6.00]), Greipel ([24.00]), and Groenewegen ([7.00]): all of whom have been disappointing so far.
Mark Cavendish has had poor luck in the opening stages, and I wouldn't put anyone off an interest at around [19.00], but it's still unclear what kind of form he brings into the race. A better big-priced contender, then, might be Sonny Colbrelli ([25.00]). He got the better of Gaviria and Sagan on Stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse and was very close on Stage 2 on Sunday. At huge odds, he could cause a minor upset.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
A day to survive unscathed for the General Classification contenders, who will want to expend as little energy as possible, knowing they have a string of Classic-esque stages to come, culminating with the cobbles of Stage 9.
Elsewhere, it will be worth keeping an eye on the intermediate sprint in Derval to understand the intentions of Gaviria with regards to the Green Jersey, but we'll probably find out very little about who will be targeting the Mountains Classification, with that contest due to ignite on Stage 5, with five categorised climbs offering points.
*Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing