Tour de France 2018: Stage 6: Chaotic finish perfect for Valverde and Nibali
Peter Sagan will be the one to watch again, writes Jack Houghton, but history may provide the best guide for likely winners...
"Vincenzo Nibali ([25.00]) has proved himself entrepreneurial on stages like this in the past and is a candidate to make an early - and decisive - break for the victory..."
What's the stage like?
181km through Brittany that, on first glance, doesn't look especially interesting. Until you notice that it ends in the quickly-becoming-iconic Mur de Bretagne, and before you then realise that they summit that little beast of a hill twice within the last 20km. Closer inspection still reveals a climb up to the village of Saint-Mayeux after the first descent of Mur de Bretagne. It's at this point that you recognise that the stage will likely be very different to its previous two appearances in the Tour: where most of the peloton made it to the foot of the final climb and several riders were in contention. The likelihood is that the peloton will be severely trimmed by the time the line approaches.
Who are the favourites?
At the time of writing, England are playing in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia, and the markets haven't yet become liquid - punting minds are presumably elsewhere. When things do crystallise, it's likely that Peter Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe will be joint favourites. The challenges facing Sagan here are the same as outlined on Stage 5 - he's a rider with a target on his back - but then he overcame those in Quimper, and has every chance of doing so again. Alaphilippe looked to have the legs on Stage 5, but made some poor tactical decisions and will likely leave his challenge until later this time around.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
The top three finishers in 2015 on this climb were Alexis Vuillermoz, Dan Martin, and Alejandro Valverde. And although the stage is not the same, a case can be made for all three to ride well again, along with other puncheurs like Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet.
Out of those riders I would select Alejandro Valverde ([6.00]). He has been riding well and the tough finish in the last 20km will suit him. I'll be splitting my stake between him and another rider typically associated with the General Classification, Vincenzo Nibali ([25.00]). He's proved himself entrepreneurial on stages like this in the past and is a candidate to make an early - and decisive - break for the victory.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
Gaviria again went full-throttle for the intermediate sprint on Stage 5 and, although Sagan extended his lead in the Points Competition for winning the stage, it's still the most exciting Green Jersey competition we've seen for a few years. Given the finish, Sagan should again pick up more points, but the next three stages all have sprint points up for grabs for them both, so it's an interesting sub-plot to the story of the stage.
As for the General Classification guys, this finish is tricky. The roads narrow on the climbs and descents, and it's almost certain that there will be hard-luck stories.
*Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing.
Back Alejandro Valverde @ [6.00]
Back Vincenzo Nibali @ [25.00]