Wout van Aert blew his rivals away on a time trial last month, writes Jack Houghton, but punters would do well to remember Thomas's history in the discipline
"Wout van Aert will need to be all that his reputation promises for him to compete with Thomas..."
What's the stage like?
A 27.2km time trial through the oft-visited city of Pau in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Whilst it's not unusual to have a time trial positioned midway through the Tour, it is uncommon for it to be the only one: the general idea is that it would be followed by one later in the race, usually on the penultimate day. That day is reserved for yet another mountain stage, though.
And as if trying to underline the point that you need to be good on the ascents to thrive at this year's Tour, organisers have even made this time trial a climbing test. The first half sees three decent climbs, including the 8% gradient of the Cote d'Esquillot.
And in-play punters take note, the final few hundred metres includes a 17% ramp up to the finish.
Who are the favourites?
Wout van Aert, the Belgian national champion at the discipline, won a similar time trial stage to this at the Dauphine and is the favourite to repeat the feat at around [1.81]. He hasn't got a long history of form to interrogate at this level, but that Dauphine performance was certainly impressive: many of the GC contenders here were a minute or more behind him that day, and he'll certainly be hard to beat.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Largely bypassing the Dauphine - or not riding a full effort in the time trial there - were all of the main names from Team Ineos, and whilst van Aert is the most likely winner here, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he is overturned by a rider from the British team.
Michal Kwiatkowski ([40.00]) is capable of a decent time trial performance, as is Jonathan Castroviejo ([80.00]), but it is likely that both will bettered by joint team leader, Geraint Thomas, at around [3.50]. It's worth remembering that Thomas is a multiple Olympic gold medallist in the pursuit, and he has a number of similar road time trial victories to his name over similar courses to this.
Last year at the Tour, Thomas was third behind Dumoulin and Froome on a lumpy Stage 20 time trial into Espellette, and van Aert will need to be all that his reputation promises for him to compete with that. Thomas is the value.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
There will be significant shuffling in the overall classification after this stage. Julian Alaphilippe could conceivably maintain his hold on the Yellow Jersey, but it is more likely that Geraint Thomas will have wrestled it from him by the day's end, as well as taking time out of all his main competitors. The key question will be how much time. Will Egan Bernal be able to stay close enough to capitalise on any Thomas weakness in the mountains? Will anyone else be able to maintain a close enough hold on Thomas to make future attacks meaningful?
Perhaps, perhaps not. After this stage, we might be looking at eight subsequent stages ridden defensively, with Thomas secure in Yellow, and Bernal secure in White.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
Back Geraint Thomas @ [3.50]