A course designed with punchy riders in mind, writes Jack Houghton, and ignoring controversy, Sagan remains the best of those that there is.
"Amid the controversy of the past few days, it's easy to forget that Sagan is in sparkling form, and the finish looks like it's been sculpted for his personal pleasure..."
What's the stage like?
Like Stage 13, It's another day for the breakaway. At 194km and with five, small categorised climbs, there's enough difficulty to discourage the sprint teams, but not so much to interest the General Classification contenders.
The excitement comes in the last 15km, which sees riders tackle an undulating circuit around Lyon, including three sharp climbs in the last 10km.
It's a stage for any puncheurs who can get in the breakaway.
Who are the favourites?
If it's a puncheur that is needed, they come no better qualified than Wout Van Aert ([8.00]) and Peter Sagan ([8.00]), and the pair are rightful joint favourites. Even better for race organisers is the bad blood that will presumably exist between them. If they do happen to be together on that final circuit, it will be compelling viewing.
Quite who would want to be in a breakaway with them, though, is another matter, and even if they are successful in their infiltration attempts, they will be marked men: no one will want to ride for them; everyone will try to attack them.
They can get round these problems by having their own teammates in the breakaway, though, which is why Sagan is preferred. Whereas he can marshal his troops at will, Van Aert's team has the Yellow Jersey on their minds.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
There are several others who should be considered. Julian Alaphilippe ([19.00]) will be suited by the course, but he's looked lacklustre in recent stages and can't be supported.
Matteo Trentin ([15.00]) won a similar stage into Lyon in 2013 and isn't far behind the favourites in the puncheur stakes. On that same stage Simon Geschke ([100.00]) came close to the win and might be motivated to try again here. He was active on Stage 13 and is clearly in good form.
Greg van Avermaet ([19.00]) - like Trentin, Van Aert, and Sagan - can outsprint most others on a sharp incline. In that respect it might be best to wait until the stage is underway and see which, if any, of them are successful in penetrating the breakaway.
Pre-stage, though, Sagan looks the value. Amid the controversy of the past few days, it's easy to forget that he is in sparkling form, and the finish looks like it's been sculpted for his personal pleasure.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
There are no certainties with Sagan, it seems, but it's conceivable that he could be back in the Green Jersey after this stage as, just as the finish suits him, the intermediate sprint is preceded by a punchy hill, too. Sam Bennett is likely to struggle to score any points.
In the Yellow Jersey there may be small time gaps if anyone attacks on one of the last climbs, but teams will likely be happy to see things neutralised with a big day to come on Sunday.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Peter Sagan @ [8.00]