Tour de France Stage 21 Tips: Sagan on salvage mission

Peter Sagan at Tour de France
Peter Sagan will be hoping he has the legs to rescue something from this Tour

He might have had an unsuccessful Tour de France by his standards, writes Jack Houghton, but Sagan is in form and can cause a minor shock here

"Stage 11 demonstrated a theme in this year's Tour: there is no single standout sprinter, and any of these four are capable of taking a victory, with the winner likely decided more by opportunity and chance than by outright rider form..."

What's the stage like?

As usual, a short final stage at 122km, starting in the outskirts of Paris, before making its way towards the Champs-Elysees, where riders complete eight circuits up-and-down, starting from around 4.30pm (BST).

There is a Category 4 climb in the first 15km of the stage, which will formally end the competition for the Mountains Classification, already confirmed as belonging to Tadej Pogacar, who will also be pretending that drinking champagne - a traditional task of the Yellow Jersey holder on the final day - is a normal Sunday bike-riding ritual for him.

The stage proper gets underway when the peloton reaches the Champs-Elysees. More challenging than it appears on television, the cobbles make for a punishing time and explain why break-away attempts will dive for the few centimetres of smooth guttering on the road's edge, preferring the jeopardy of hitting the curb than experiencing a skeletal-shaking solo attempt.

Those breakaways may get a handful of seconds' advantage, but this stage is the dominion of the sprinters, with many viewing it as their unofficial world championship and so - if this follows the pattern of most other years - any breakaways will be swept up in time for the last lap, when the sprint trains will take over.

Who are the favourites?

On Stage 11, there was a blanket finish between Caleb Ewan (7/24.50), Peter Sagan (21/122.00), Sam Bennett (7/24.50), and Wout Van Aert (5/16.00), with Caleb Ewan just getting the nod on the line. The focus of debate after that stage was the clash between Sagan and Van Aert, which saw Sagan demoted from second, penalised for his behaviour, and - as it has turned out - effectively disqualified from the Green Jersey competition.

Aside from those shenanigans, though, that stage also demonstrated an emerging theme in this year's Tour: that there is no single standout sprinter, and that any of these four are capable of taking a victory, with the winner likely decided more by opportunity and chance than by outright rider form.

So, although he is yet to win a stage and has seemed out of sorts, it's worth remembering that Sagan has been consistently close. Assuming he has endured the punishing mountain stages in recent weeks better than most, he might not top the market, but he is the value bet.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

There would be a pleasing circularity to this year's Tour if Alexander Kristoff (15/116.00) were to win the last stage like he won the first. It's not an impossibility, but looking back on his first-day triumph, it's clear that his ability to handle adverse conditions was a factor there that is unlikely to be so here (forecasts suggest only a small chance of rain).

Cees Bol (10/111.00) has promised much on this year's Tour - especially on Stage 1 behind Kristoff - but he seems a fragile betting prospect, who needs everything to fall perfectly for him in order to win a bunch sprint. The simplicity of Stage 21 might suit him in this regard, and a victory wouldn't be a surprise, but he's far more likely to fall short.

Mads Pedersen (8/19.00) - another one who was impressive on Stage 1 - might come close, but the stage is likely not difficult enough for him to be seen at his best.

What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?

Presumably, none. If Sam Bennett does not finish, Sagan could still win the Points Classification, but it's hard to see a scenario where Sagan can take the required 56 points out of Bennett - especially as Bennett is one of the main contenders for overall stage honours. Having said that, Stage 20 showed us that miracles can happen on this year's Tour, so we perhaps shouldn't predict anything with too much certainty.

As for the Yellow Jersey and White Jersey, it has become convention that this last stage is purely ceremonial, so unless Tadej Pogacar loses time whilst the Gendarmerie ID-check him to see if he's old enough to drink champagne, there will be no General Classification action. This is the sprinters' day.

*Odds correct at the time of writing

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