Egan Bernal is looking the strongest of the race favourites, writes Jack Houghton, but Vincenzo Nibali is value to follow in Quintana's footsteps
"Depending on what the orders are within Team Ineos, Bernal stands a strong chance of taking significant chunks of time from Julian Alaphilippe, who won't have the benefit of a descent here to recover any time lost on the climb..."
What's the stage like?
After the heights reached on Stage 18, it's hard to believe that this stage climbs yet higher still. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange - a cash prize of €5,000 given to the first rider to summit the highest point in any Tour de France - is on offer at the top of the Col de L'Iseran on this short, explosive mountain stage, which measures just 126.5km.
And after an inexorable climb of 89km to that high point, riders face a long descent before kicking up again to the ski resort of Tignes, the fifth time the race has gone above 2,000m in two days.
Who are the favourites?
After his heroics on Stage 18, attacking on the Galibier, Egan Bernal ([5.50]) is the narrow favourite to take the win on Stage 19, which is expected to go the way of one of the main Yellow Jersey contenders. He looks to be peaking at the right time, and depending on what the orders are within Team Ineos, Bernal stands a strong chance of taking significant chunks of time from Julian Alaphilippe, who won't have the benefit of a descent here to recover any time lost on the climb.
Bernal is effectively co-favourite of three, with Thibaut Pinot and Simon Yates both available at around [8.00]. Pinot owns a ski chalet in the finish town of Tignes and ends many of his summer rides on the same climb that concludes this stage. As I've written before, though, I worry that Pinot has been hard at it for too long in this Tour, and will not be able to sustain his efforts in the last two crucial stages with their summit finishes.
Yates, meanwhile, is seen as the coming force in the race, although whether this brutal stage perfectly suits his attributes is unclear. At the odds, other riders are preferred.
Of the three, Egan Bernal is the tentative choice, but it would be wise to combine the selection a rider that can ride a solo effort.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Geraint Thomas again looked strong, and can't be ignored at around [11.00], but it's hard to get stuck in heavily until it becomes clearer what his team's intentions are.
Despite talking Nairo Quintana up - albeit very hesitantly - it was always going to be hard to recommend him for a win on Stage 18, but he nonetheless provides a lesson for these last two mountain stages: look for the high-quality GC rider who is out of contention for the Yellow Jersey and support them for the stage win.
Vincenzo Nibali is a rider with a similar profile, and at around [40.00], is worth a punt alongside Bernal.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
It's likely the Overall Classification will be unrecognisable after this stage, and entirely possible that the Yellow Jersey will change hands.
With five categorised climbs, including the double-points available at the top of the Col de L'Iseran, it will be interesting to see whether Romain Bardet contests those early climbs, or whether he instead targets a stage win. Either way, the final destination of the Polka-Dot Jersey should be clearer after the stage.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
Back Egan Bernal @ [5.50]
Back Vincenzo Nibali @ [40.00]