Another strong showing from Alaphilippe and Yates would be no surprise, writes Jack Houghton, but a breakaway hopeful will fancy this.
"De Gendt won a truncated Mont Ventoux stage in 2016 with a similar profile to this and must have a big chance if committing here."
What's the stage like?
The first proper mountain stage, with the first summit finish. At 161km with five categorised climbs, culminating in the 7km ascent up to Orcieres-Merlette, which has an average gradient of 6.7%, it's not a punishing day in the mountains by any means, but with the finish at an altitude of 1,825m, it's also likely there will be plenty of General Classification talking-points by day's end.
In terms of the stage win, though, the route seems perfect for a breakaway attempt. With the intermediate sprint coming early in the stage, it is likely the breakaway will form later, and with no overly difficult climbs in the remaining 100km, it will take a concerted effort by the peloton to bring them back.
Who are the favourites?
Should there be the appetite within the peloton to close the breakaway down, then Julian Alaphilippe ([5.50]) and Adam Yates (10.00), who both showed themselves at their explosive best on Stage 2, are obvious contenders for some kind of repeat here, especially as they are both adamant that wearing the Yellow Jersey in Paris isn't their ambition. Honestly, honestly it isn't.
Unfortunately for both riders, the believability of their protestations has somewhat evaporated, so they won't be allowed the freedom to go from a long way out for the stage win. They could still win it, of course, but will have to use up their teams to keep any breakaway in reach, and nearing the top of the final climb, several others will fancy their chances: Tadej Pogacar ([13.00]), Miguel Angel Lopez (30.00), and Alejandro Valverde ([40.00]) to pick out three of many. Given the number of variables on this stage, then, the odds on Alaphilippe and Yates look on the short side.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
A big-priced winner could come from the breakaway today but, as always, the difficulty is picking the right rider from the lottery to supply that win. One strategy is to look for those with proven form in the mountains who are already distanced in the General Classification. Teams with Yellow Jersey hopefuls are unconcerned by such risk-free riders and might well be happy to let them go a long way up the road, knowing that it buys them a quieter day.
Three possibles who fit the profile are Daniel Martinez ([50.00]), Ilnur Zakarin (150.00), and Thomas De Gendt ([40.00]). Martinez won the Dauphine, but has been luckless at the Tour so far, crashing twice on Stage 2, and will now be focusing entirely on searching for a stage win. Zakarin is on record as having a similar objective in this year's Tour, and won a similar day to this in 2017.
De Gendt, the ultimate breakaway artist, is a more obvious choice, and it's interesting that he's already near last in the General Classification, over 40 minutes down: a clear signal that he wants rid of any attention from the peloton when making mid-stage moves. De Gendt won a truncated Mont Ventoux stage in 2016 with a similar profile to this and must have a big chance if committing here.
Given the odds of this trio, though, splitting your stake between them may be the value call, on a day when stakes should be kept small anyway.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
It is unlikely that a decisive Yellow Jersey move will be made on this stage, but with the ever-present threat of a Tour that might not go the distance, some riders - like Alaphilippe and Yates - might feel the imperative to go for time early on. How hard the GC teams race the final climb will be an indication of how the peloton views the chances of the race getting to Paris: in a normal year most would ride this defensively.
In the other competitions, Peter Sagan will look to extend his lead in the Green Jersey that he secured on Stage 3, and we will find out more clues about who is targeting the Mountains Classification, although it's too early yet to add to our portfolio that we started to build pre-race with De Gendt.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Thomas De Gendt @ [40.00]
Back Daniel Martinez @ [50.00]
Back Ilnur Zakarin @ 150.00