Another day for the fastmen, writes Jack Houghton, but the rising finish makes the out-and-out speedsters poor value...
"Sagan has already had an intense Tour in pursuit of the Green Jersey but has shown his ability in the past to cope with such travails..."
What's the stage like?
With the Tour having paid - using the currency of tourism advertorial - whatever debt it clearly owed Nice, we finally leave the French Riviera and head inland, through the foothills of the Alps, for a stage finish 198km away in Sisteron.
Although the route contains four categorised climbs, ascending to an altitude of 1,150m, there's nothing especially brutal about any of them and, whilst a breakaway will dutifully form, it is likely that a fresh peloton, driven on by the sprint teams, will ensure a bunch finish - especially as opportunities for the fastmen are so limited in this year's race.
The last 50km is downhill, but the finish ascends faintly in the last 5km, including a rising false flat in the final 500m. So, although all the sprint teams will target this stage, it might not favour the out-and-out speedsters as much as a rider with more versatility.
A further complicating factor may be the weather. At the time of writing, no rain or wind is forecast, but should that change, the long, straight procession along the Route Napoleon would make the peloton vulnerable to echelons.
Who are the favourites?
As the pre-eminent sprinters on form coming into the Tour, Caleb Ewan ([4.0]) and Sam Bennett ([5.00]) head most betting lists. Both luckless on Stage 1, it would be no surprise to see either making amends here; however, the parcours is ideal for neither. Ewan will struggle over the early categorised climbs and both would prefer it flatter at the finish. At the odds, better value lays elsewhere.
And although at longer odds, similar doubts surround Giacomo Nizzolo ([13.0]) and Elia Viviani ([17.0]). Although they both have the sprint pedigree to win on a day like this, they looked short of the best on Stage 1, a stage to which they were more suited.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Most impressive on the opening day were the trio Cees Bol ([9.0]), Peter Sagan (11.00), Mads Pedersen ([15.0]), and the first holder of this year's Yellow Jersey, Alexander Kristoff ([9.0]).
It looks like Cees Bol will need to be delivered as late as possible by teammates if he is going to win a stage this year, and this finish is unlikely ideal for those tactics to be employed. And whilst Kristoff is clearly on form, his punishing day on Stage 2 - where he honoured the tradition of the Yellow Jersey by riding prominently - throws some doubt on his ability to repeat.
Which leaves Sagan - who has already had an intense Tour in pursuit of the Green Jersey but has shown his ability in the past to cope with such travails - and Pedersen, who would have challenged Kristoff for a Stage 1 win had he not been hampered in the final stages.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
We are likely to see more competition between Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Perez as early pretenders for the Polka-dot Jersey of the Mountains Classification, and see Peter Sagan claim the Green Jersey by rights, for which he is now a [1.60]-shot.
As for the General Classification, it is unlikely we'll see any action of note unless those high winds come, so Julian Alaphilippe should be able to secure another day in Yellow.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Peter Sagan @ [11.00]
Back Max Pedersen @ [15.00]