The stage screams Julian Alaphilippe, writes Jack Houghton, but the market will likely overreact to his chances, meaning the value is elsewhere.
"There is talk that this year's Tour is not going to reach Paris, with suggestions that a worsening Covid-19 infection-rate could see the race aborted, with whoever is wearing the Yellow Jersey at the time declared the winner..."
What's the stage like?
At 186km and with three categorised climbs, it's a proper mountain stage, although not of the magnitude of what is to come later in the Tour. Nonetheless, it's clear that the sprinters who dominated the finish of the rain-soaked Stage 1 won't be in contention, despite Stage 2 again finishing on the seafront of Nice.
With the recently more militant, riders' pseudo-union objecting to the rain on Stage 1, much of the day was neutralised, and with forecasts predicting an 80% chance of showers on Stage 2, it's uncertain how competitive the stage will be.
But then there is also talk that this year's Tour is not going to reach Paris, with suggestions that a worsening Covid-19 infection-rate could see the race aborted, with whoever is wearing the Yellow Jersey at the time declared the winner. Will this encourage some swashbuckling hopefuls to make an early bid for glory, then?
With bonus seconds available at the top of an unclassified climb 9km from the finish, and more bonus seconds at the finish, a resourceful rider could find themselves with a healthy, early General Classification lead. All they need after that is for the race to be abandoned, and we may find ourselves with an unlikely Tour de France winner.
Whether wild conjecture or distinct possibility, the rumours will certainly add spice to the stage.
Who are the favourites?
Given his exploits in 2019, Julian Alaphilippe, at around [5.00] in the early market exchanges, is the obvious candidate to exhibit the derring-do spirit required in such a bid for Yellow. After the peloton has been thinned out by the harder, early climbs, it's easy to envisage him making a play for the bonus seconds at the top of the Col des Quatre Chemins, before descending fast and alone to take the stage 9km later.
Whether those early odds are value or not is questionable, though, especially as others in the race are equally well-equipped to pull off a similar win.
For example, wunderkind Tadej Podacar ([19.00]) rides with a similar aggressiveness to Alaphallippe and looks better value. He won three stages at last year's Vuelta, demonstrating the kind of tactical nous required for this stage.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Assuming the high-profile contenders for the General Classification will prefer to ride conservatively, ignoring the possibility of race abandonments and saving their efforts until the more straightforward summit finishes to come, the most interesting outsiders, then, are Thomas De Gendt ([41.00]), Adam Yates (71.00) and Alejandro Valverde ([26.00]), and I would certainly rate their chances as higher than those of Wout Van Aert (10.00), who is prominent in several lists but will surely struggle to remain with the leaders over the categorised climbs.
On a stage that demands a cautious approach, a small bet, split between Podacar and Valverde looks value. It's worth remembering that at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, Valverde was second, showing that his age is no impediment to his competitiveness.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
It is likely we will see a breakaway including riders motivated by the Polka-dot Jersey, offering early clues as to rider intention in that classification.
Otherwise, assuming the Tour does go the distance, it's unlikely that Stage 2 will be decisive in the final destination of the Yellow Jersey; however, it would be no surprise to see a leading contender lose time. It's another day for the leading contenders to survive.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Tadej Podacar @ [19.00]
Back Alejandro Valverde @ [26.00]