Stage 17 showed us that only three riders have what it takes to win this, writes Jack Houghton, and the more motivated Richard Carapaz should be supported
"Richard Carapaz (13.0012/1) has yet to find a way to drop either of the market leaders, but he remains aggressive, and he will take heart from the moments of weakness shown by Vingegaard on the Col du Portet..."
What's the stage like?
Not as hard as Stage 17 on paper, but maybe harder given the cumulative effect of what has gone before, Stage 18 is only 129km, seeing riders tackle four categorised climbs, including two Super-Category climbs: the Col du Tourmalet; and the summit finish to Luz Ardiden. Both of those climbs are torturously long, with steep sections that will encourage attacks.
Who are the favourites?
Given his performance on Stage 17, where he underlined his supremacy along with his appetite for stage wins, it's hard to look beyond Tadej Pogacar (3.7011/4) here.
Jonas Vingegaard was briefly in trouble on Stage 17, but recovered well enough. His odds of around 8.007/1 look about right, but it's still hard to see why he would ride aggressively given his position on the General Classification and his advantage over Carapaz in the time trial: he only needs to ride defensively.
Richard Carapaz (13.0012/1) has yet to find a way to drop either of the market leaders, but he remains aggressive, and he will take heart from the moments of weakness shown by Vingegaard on the Col du Portet. At the odds, he's the best value.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
There are outsiders, but none of them are likely winners here. Stage 17 showed us that three riders are now dominant, and it makes little sense to look beyond them. The value call is to back Carapaz, having a saver on Pogacar.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
The intermediate sprint comes before the big climbs on this stage, so it will be interesting to see if Mark Cavendish and Michael Matthews look to claim some points in the race for the Green Jersey, or whether they instead focus on surviving the hard day in the mountains, in preparation for the sprint-friendly Stage 19. That competition might well go to the wire.
As for the Mountains Classification, that competition may effectively end here, especially if Tadej Pogacar wins again.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Jack Houghton's Tour de France 2021 P&L: