Tour de France 2018: Stage 7: A day for the breakaway?

Andre Greipel Tour de France
Andre Greipel showed he was coming back into top form on Stage 4 and can go close again
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Gaviria and Sagan are the most likely winners, writes Jack Houghton, but on a day that will suit the breakaway, and with other sprinters waiting in the wings, it might not be a straightforward day for either of them...

"The problem for punters is that Stage 7 comes after a full-on week, when teams - now reduced to eight riders - are tired, and when the horrors of the cobbles on Stage 9 await them..."

What's the stage like?

The longest on this year's Tour at a whopping 231km, Stage 7, were it to occur at the start of the race, would appear straightforward enough. It's largely flat, with only one unspectacular categorised climb and the finish - although having a 4% kick-up for half-a-kilometre towards the end - is flat for the last 200m. It's not without its interest, but it's the kind of stage reasonably targeted by the big sprint teams.

The problem for punters is that it doesn't come at the start of the Tour, it comes after a full-on week, when teams - now reduced to eight riders - are tired, and when the horrors of the cobbles on Stage 9 await them. It is likely that several teams won't be prepared to commit riders to chasing down a breakaway, so it might be a day where an entrepreneurial rider can stay away from the peloton long enough to claim an unlikely victory.

Helping any breakaway might be the famed winds of the Beuce plains. At the time of writing, scattered showers are forecast, and although high winds are not expected, we saw echelons on Stage 6 and it's not out-of-the-question that we'll see the same here. A shattered peloton will be less effective at chasing down a breakaway.

Who are the favourites?

Although not a completely flat and straight run-in, there isn't much to worry the sprinters, and given that Fernando Gaviria ([2.40]) has looked the fastest when the finishes are about out-and-out power, he's a worthy favourite. Peter Sagan looks a fair price, too, at around [4.80]. He might be able to use the short incline that approaches the final climb to stretch Gaviria, but given the strength of Gaviria's lead-out train, Sagan's options may be limited. They are the two most likely winners, but neither represent value.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

Andre Greipel ([23.00]) showed that he might be approaching his best form again on Stage 4. Arguably, had he not committed so early in the headwind (he obviously didn't read our preview: "anyone who is in front too early will likely be swamped late") he would have won that stage.

Another rider who has been close to bettering Sagan and Gaviria is Sonny Colbrelli, available at around [30.00]. Elsewhere, Arnaud Demare ([15.00]) seems like a rider who just keeps getting the tactics wrong but whose time will come.

Gaviria and Sagan have been rightfully grabbing the headlines in this year's Tour, but they are not as far ahead of their rivals as the market seems to be suggesting, and I'll be dividing my stake between the lesser fancied trio mentioned here.

I'm nervous, though, of a breakaway staying away. Check out our preview to explore how to calculate its chances and keep a close eye as the stage unfolds.

What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?

We predicted there might be hard luck stories on Stage 6 for the General Classification contenders, but perhaps wouldn't have predicted that it would have been Tom Dumoulin who suffered, and that the cause would be an ill-timed puncture. It was a reminder, though - not that we don't get reminded every day on this Tour - that hope can very quickly be extinguished by a bit of bad luck. The Yellow Jersey crew will want and expect an uneventful day, but they might not get it.

*Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing

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