Given recent form, attention is naturally focused on Roglic and Pogacar, writes Jack Houghton, but expect others to show better form as we enter the third week
"It's worth remembering that Bernal ignited the race in the third week last year, and there's every chance that his star will rise as Roglic's falls..."
What's the stage like?
It's the one where the race for the Yellow Jersey begins in earnest. Although we have started to learn a lot about the relative form of the riders, this is the first proper mountain stage with a summit finish: the super-category Grand Colombier, which averages over 7% for more than 17km. That final climb is not consistent, though, with a few plateaus which are then followed by steeper sections.
The stage is about far more than the final climb, however. Two Category 1 climbs come soon after halfway on the 175km course. The first of them, the Fromentel, has a vicious second section that ramps up to 22% in places. If we see Ineos Grenadiers or Jumbo-Visma pushing the pace early, the peloton will be obliterated.
Many of the riders will be familiar with the route, as the last 90km are identical to those ridden on Stage 3 on the Tour de l'Ain. And with a rest day at its end, the best riders will want to use it to make a statement about their form.
Who are the favourites?
Primoz Roglic ([3.80]) won that stage at the Tour de l'Ain, four seconds ahead of Egan Bernal ([19.00]). If reproducing that form here, it would be hard to see Roglic being beaten. He easily responded to an attack in the final stages by Bernal that day, asserting his dominance by choosing to sprint away from Bernal, seemingly with ease.
The doubt with Roglic is how long he will be able to maintain his blistering form. He seemed to exit lockdown at a peak and, unusually, this has not diminished. But this could be the day that he is shown to be mortal, especially if Ineos Grenadiers make it hard early. The odds on Roglic look short.
For similar reasons, Tadej Pogacar ([7.00]) doesn't look like a value bet. He has been burning matches at every opportunity, and he must pay the price for this at some point.
Roglic and Pogacar might win the stage, but at the odds, it's best to look elsewhere for the value.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Several commentators are writing off Egan Bernal ([19.00]) because of a lacklustre ride on Stage 13 on the final climb to Puy Mary. That's a quite different ascent to what Bernal will face on Stage 15, though, and different as well to the climbs in the Alps to come. It's too early to think Bernal's Tour is over.
It's worth remembering that Bernal ignited the race in the third week last year, and there's every chance that his star will rise as Roglic's falls. There were certainly signs on Stage 14 that Bernal still considers himself a contender: his attack on the final punchy climb took many by surprise.
Third in the Tour de l'Ain Stage 3 was Nairo Quintana, who rode it with the same quiet anonymity that he has ridden most of this Tour. Reviewing the video from that day, Roglic looked imperiously in control, but Quintana wasn't far behind him and was riding with an injury at the time. At massive odds of [40.00], Quintana must be backed.
There are other riders who could take this stage, including Mikel Landa ([26.00]), David Gaudo ([28.00]) and Thibaut Pinot ([30.00]). All are capable, and there are a plethora of breakaway merchants who could triumph, too, if allowed the gap by the peloton.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
We are likely to see carnage in the General Classification today. We should enter the last rest day knowing with more certainty who will win this year's Tour de France.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Nairo Quintana @ [40.00]