Tour de France 2018: Stage 5: Sagan to face outsider upset
This stage is designed for Peter Sagan, writes Jack Houghton, but everyone knows it and he will have a hard time winning as a result...
"Two for a possible surprise are Michael Valgren ([150.00]) and Alexis Vuillermoz ([200.00])…"
What's the stage like?
Over 200km, the first part of which is relatively flat, before it begins a series of lumps and bumps as the course turns inland from the Brittany coast. There are five categorised climbs, none especially long or steep - 7.1% is the steepest; the longest 3km - but they come thick and fast, with lots of other uncategorised climbs to boot. The stage has the feel of a one-day Classic race, and will suit the swashbucklers and puncheurs: those best able to deal with the constant ascending, descending, and technical, narrow roads. For the first time, the extra bonus seconds, awarded on the third-to-last climb, might be contested by the Yellow Jersey hopefuls in earnest, and it all finishes with a final kilometre that averages 5% to the line in Quimper.
Who are the favourites?
Unsurprisingly, Peter Sagan, who wasn't quite able to deliver for us again on Stage 4, is favourite at around [3.30] on a stage that perfectly suits his riding style. The issue Sagan faces on stages like this, though, is that he is a targeted rider: no one will want to commit too early for fear of being his inadvertent lead-out man; and no-one will chase down attempted breakaways, viewing this as Sagan's responsibility. Sagan has ridden the one-day races well this year - winning Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix - but given his conspicuousness, he is far from unbeatable.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
A case can be made for at least a dozen or more riders that might be able to upset the favourite, Sagan. Highest in the betting markets among these are Greg Van Avermaet ([14.00]), current wearer of the Yellow Jersey, and Alejandro Valverde ([15.00]), who will be at home on the stage and has shown himself in good form in the Tour so far.
Given how open the stage is, though, I'm tempted into having a few small bets at huge odds. Two for a possible surprise are Michael Valgren ([150.00]) and Alexis Vuillermoz ([200.00]). They have both ridden well in the one-dayers earlier in the season, and will be targeting stages like this to make their mark.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
Seeing Gaviria contest - and win - the intermediate sprint on Stage 4 suggests that he has designs on wrestling the Green Jersey from Peter Sagan. Gaviria is heralded by his team-mates as someone who can climb a little, as well as sprint, so there's a chance that Sagan won't have things all his own way on hillier stages like this one.
We should get our first real sight of who intends to target the Mountains Classification, but of most interest will be the fate of the General Classification guys: some of them will get caught out and lose significant time, and even if they manage to stay with the lead bunch, the bonus time points on offer will see some shuffling in the standings. A word of caution, though: don't overreact should the likes of Froome or Dumoulin lose a bit of time here. The stage isn't designed for either of them, and as long as they are towards the front end, they will be satisfied.
*Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing
Back Michael Valgren @ 150.00
Back Alexis Vuillermoz @ 200.00