This will be a stage that favours two types of rider, writes Jack Houghton, those that know the roads, and those that are used to the thin air
"Expect Ineos Grenadiers to be on the front, pushing the pace, and attacking where the air is thinnest..."
What's the stage like?
It's back loaded, and probably the hardest of the Tour so far.
The Alpine Stage 8 and Stage 9 had more categorised climbs, but the four on offer here see riders ascend to the highest point in the race (at over 2,400km metres) on the Port d'Envalira as the race passes into Andorra, before tackling the difficult Category One Col de Beixalis.
That altitude may prove significant - riders who are not acclimated can struggle on any stage that goes above 2,000m - so expect the last 5km of the headline climb to be hard fought, and potentially crucial in determining who wins the stage.
Historically, whenever the Tour has visited Andorra, lone riders have tended to succeed, and with the stage ending on a descent into the capital, some buccaneering sort will be hopeful of attacking on the final climb and maintaining their advantage to the end.
Who are the favourites?
Tadej Pogacar (9.008/1) heads the market and, given the form he has shown in the Tour so far, that's not surprising. As in previous stages, though, he has little to gain from pushing for the stage win, and we are likely to see him riding defensively. This is especially likely as, on Stage 11, the double ascent of Ventoux, he showed the first glimmers of weakness, and presumably won't want to risk anything with the altitude climbing this high.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
On the back of his Stage 11 win, there is understandable interest in Wout Van Aert (20.0019/1). Given his propensity to make commentators' proclamations about his limits look ridiculous - including mine in the past - it's risky to say that this will likely be beyond him, but the higher altitude on this stage will surely put it out of his reach.
At similar odds, Miguel Angel Lopez (24.0023/1) looks a better bet. He has been especially quiet during this Tour and, unless he is simply out of form, is likely to show his cards in one of the next four stages. He might wait for a summit finish, though.
An interesting angle here is to consider those riders who are riding towards their homes. Several in the peloton live in Andorra - for its proximity to the mountains, and not its favourable tax regime, you understand - and will know these roads - and especially the descents - better than others. Expect Julian Alaphilippe (22.0021/1), Dan Martin (50.0049/1) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (60.0059/1) to be active.
Of the trio, Martin looks the best-value bet, but it is also worth supporting Richard Carapaz (28.0027/1), who lives at high altitude for most of the year and will be supported by teammate Geoghegan Hart in his bid to claim second spot overall, and perhaps even begin to make Pogacar nervous.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
As well as crucial in determining the stage winner, the high altitude could see significant shifts in the General Classification as several riders realise that their preparation has not adequately prepared them to perform at over 2,000m. Expect Ineos Grenadiers to be on the front, pushing the pace, and attacking where the air is thinnest.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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