Tour de France Stage 2 Tips: Tactical nous needed from van der Poel

Matthieu van der Poel at Tour de France
Despite what happen on Stage 1, Matthieu van der Poel remains the dominant force on these kinds of stages

It's tempting to rewrite the form book on the back of Stage 1, writes Jack Houghton, but so much carnage preceded the final climb that it's probably wise to re-set

"In case we'd forgotten, the Tour reminded us on Stage 1 how nervy things can be in the opening days..."

What's the stage like?

It is not dissimilar to Stage 1, with six categorised climbs over 184km. Although it is not as tough, having significantly less elevation overall, and whilst it will still favour the punchier riders - especially the final climb to the finish - the peloton will have more chance of staying together for it all. Assuming it avoids the chaotic crashes it courted on Stage 1, of course.

The finish sits atop a Tour favourite, the Mur-De-Bretagne, a 2km climb, averaging 7% gradient, with some steeper ramps in the opening section. Organisers have chosen a different approach to that climb than in previous years, seeing riders take a sharp turn to begin it. If the peloton is together at this stage, expect to see the main contenders with their teams on the front pushing the pace: no one will be want to be shuffled to the rear.

With three climbs in the last 20km, there is the possibility of an early bid for glory, but it is most likely that honours will be decided on that final hill.

Who are the favourites?

Given his performance on Stage 1, where an early attack on the final climb did for the faster men, it is no surprise to see Julian Allaphilippe as the 3.309/4 favourite. This is a different stage, though, with a shorter, punchier climb at the finish, and whilst Allaphilippe has already smeared egg in my face for dismissing his chances on Stage 1, I'm willing to risk him doing so again at what look like skinny odds.

There was something all-too-familiar about the way Primoz Roglic (7.006/1) snuck into third place on the opening stage to steal some bonus seconds, and he looked ominously comfortable throughout the final climb for a rider who chose to spend longer in a high-altitude training camp, rather than sharpening his race-craft at one of the traditional Tour warm-up events. Backing Roglic, though, involves risking some in-built apathy on his part: his goal is the Yellow Jersey, and he's not going to bury himself for a win on Stage 2.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

Another rider I dismissed on Stage 1, Michael Matthews (14.0013/1) showed stronger form than most to claim second, but those odds aren't especially attractive. It would be easy to get carried away with how riders fared on the opening day, but given how much chaos preceded the final climb, it's probably worth re-setting our view of the form, looking at a wider range of evidence to assess likely winners. With that in mind, Matthews tends to always find a rider or two too good on these hilly finishes, and we can expect him to do so again.

With the same mindset, that's also why we should consider Wout Van Aert (18.0017/1) and Matthieu van der Poel (8.007/1) the most likely stage winners here. They've been dominant on these kinds of parcours in the last two seasons and will be kicking themselves for being out-thought by Allaphilippe on Stage 1. Of the two, van der Poel is the choice.

Dan Martin (50.0049/1) won here in 2018, albeit arriving at the final climb from a different direction. Given that his team was obliterated on Stage 1, it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him trying to go for a repeat here. At the time of writing, though, it's hard to know whether he emerged from the day unscathed.

What effect will it have on the overall markets?

In case we'd forgotten, the Tour reminded us on Stage 1 how nervy things can be in the opening days. The Yellow Jersey contenders will be intent on survival.

*Odds correct at the time of writing

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