These late-Tour flat stages are notoriously tricky, writes Jack Houghton, but given the absence of much competition, Cavendish should still be able to take the honours...
"Mark Cavendish is the standout favourite at around 3.002/1 and, on all known form, should win this comfortably..."
What's the stage like?
Amidst police investigations into doping allegations in one of the Tour teams, this run-of-the-mill stage is unlikely to make many headlines for its interest. It's 207km long, and except for a short, Category Four climb in the opening kilometres, there is little that will trouble riders.
Except for a bridge crossing at 2km to go, even the finish is featureless, with no obstacles to cause the peloton worry.
Even the weather is unlikely to play a role: much of the stage proceeds on wide, straight roads through thick forest coverage, meaning the dreaded crosswinds are unlikely to strike.
Who are the favourites?
Mark Cavendish is the standout favourite at around 3.002/1 and, on all known form, should win this comfortably. His dominance of the market is partly a reflection of his return to form, but there's also an element of an ever-depleted sprinters' field meaning he increasingly faces little in the way of viable competition.
Japser Philipsen (10.009/1) might finish close to Cavendish, as he has on Stage 4, Stage 6, Stage 10 and Stage 13, but unless Cavendish makes some kind of error, or experiences ill-luck, it's hard to see how Philipsen can turn the tables.
Part of the danger for Cavendish here, though, is the breakaway. History tells us that these post-mountain flat stages towards the end of a Tour can often throw up a surprise, as the sprint teams struggle to recover, and winless teams desperately throw riders into breakaways. Mark Cavendish's team remained strong as they shepherded him through the Pyrenees, though, and will likely be able to control things here. Provided Cavendish has recovered, he should win.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
If it does end in a bunch sprint, there are a host of riders who might play a role. Wout Van Aert (20.0019/1), Cees Bol (25.0024/1), Mads Pedersen (30.0029/1), Sonny Colbrelli (40.0039/1), and Andre Greipel (50.0049/1) all have the form to be prominent, although they are unlikely to better Cavendish and Philipsen in a straight shoot-out.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
This is all about the Points Classification. After taking points at the intermediate sprint on Stage 18, Cavendish takes a 38-point advantage into this, and will likely be further ahead by the day's end.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Jack Houghton's Tour de France 2021 P&L: