An odd stage, writes Jack Houghton, which looks designed to encourage a breakaway or solo win. Can Steven Cummings justify his Tour place?
"It's the kind of stage that has been designed to encourage a breakaway win: too hilly to interest the sprint teams, but not hilly enough to seriously interest the GC contenders..."
What's the stage like?
The last transition stage on route to the Alps, covering 200km, with plenty of Roman remains meeting the organiser's tourist advertisement quota for the day.
It's the kind of stage that has been designed to encourage a breakaway win: too hilly to interest the sprint teams, but not hilly enough to seriously interest the GC contenders. There's a chance a few riders will be allowed to build a big lead early on and won't be seen again.
The first half of the stage is effectively a long steady climb up to 900m, with the peloton moving across a plateau for the remainder. Then, 10km out from the finish is a Category Three climb up the Col de la Sentinelle, which will encourage soloists to make a bid for glory as they summit the final climb and face a fast descent into the finish in Gap.
Who are the favourites?
If the peloton stays together, this should go the way of the puncheurs. They will be able to build a lead on the final climb and outsprint any of the climbers at the finish who have tried to go with them. And when it comes to puncheurs, Peter Sagan reigns supreme. His odds of around [5.20] are about right, though, as there's a chance that, with half a mind on surviving the Alpine stages that are to come (so that he can go on to claim his Green Jersey in Paris), he may pass on this one.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Any of the other puncheurs are valid bets - Michael Matthews ([13.00]), Matteo Trentin ([17.00]) and Greg van Avermaet ([25.00]) - but with so many capable riders now out of contention in the overall classification, there's a chance this will be won by a big-priced outsider.
It's a stage on which to keep stakes really small, but the tentative selection is Steven Cummings. He's a master of the breakaway win, was a surprise inclusion in the Dimension Data squad - getting a place at the expense of Mark Cavendish - and this might be his last chance at claiming a stage on this Tour. At around [150.00], he's the speculative selection.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
In an ordinary year, not much would happen on this stage that would affect the Yellow Jersey competition, but there's a chance that the likes of Thibaut Pinot will be keen to use every opportunity possible to reduce the time gap to Julian Alaphilippe. So, don't be surprised if that final climb close to the finish sees the GC guys attacking each other. Time gaps are unlikely to be significant, but it's possible that someone could get a few seconds back if they are able to build a lead on the climb before plummeting down into Gap. Alaphilippe may even try it himself.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
Back Steven Cummings @ [150.00]