After disappointing on Stage 1, writes Jack Houghton, Caleb Ewan once again looks the dominant sprinter in the Tour.
"I was negative about the chances of Caleb Ewan after his Stage 1 downing of tools, but he rode Stage 3 with a tactical nous that seemed lacking amongst his rivals..."
What's the stage like?
A 183km gentle descent from Gap to Privas, with only a couple of Category 4 climbs to break the rhythm of the sprinters. The last of those climbs is 15km out from the finish and possibly presents the opportunity for a swashbuckling late breakaway attack, but few riders would be able to repel the peloton that would come barrelling at them thereafter, so it's a day to stick to the obvious sprint contenders.
Provided the wind doesn't get involved, that is. This part of France is renowned for the Mistral that blows north-to-south, and there's a chance that things could be smashed asunder if it makes an appearance as the peloton turns west into the finish. At the time of writing, forecasts suggest riders will be spared, but if betting in-play it's worth being alive to.
The finish itself is like that on Stage 3, with a rising false flat in the last half-kilometre, with 100m of height gain in the last kilometre alone. Adding complication are a couple of sharp turns and roundabouts in the closing stages. The best sprinters should have no excuses, but there will be some bad-luck stories, and anyone hitting the front too early will not win.
Who are the favourites?
I was negative about the chances of Caleb Ewan after his Stage 1 downing of tools, but he rode Stage 3 with a tactical nous that seemed lacking amongst his rivals, and it's hard not to consider him the dominant sprinting force in this year's Tour de France on the back of that performance. Assuming the weather stays kind and his Lotto-Soudal team can deliver him safely when required, it's hard to look past him, and odds of around [3.50] are value.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
There are several sprinters who are likely to be prominent in the closing stages, including Sam Bennett ([4.50]), Giacomo Nizzolo ([10.00]), Elia Viviani ([40.00]), Cees Bol ([13.00]) and Mads Pedersen ([21.00]). Alexander Kristoff - the winner of Stage 1 - will also be suited by this stage and is probably the best value of the out-and-out fastmen to challenge Ewan at around [26.00].
However, better value can be found by supporting puncheurs like Peter Sagan ([13.00]) and Matteo Trentin (30.00). Of the two, Sagan is the choice: despite a muted ride for the intermediate sprint on Stage 4 and the uncharacteristic mess-up he made in his positioning on the Stage 3 finish, he can make amends here.
Backing Ewan and saving on Sagan is the call.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
Quite why Peter Sagan was so happy to unnecessarily let points slip away in the Green Jersey Classification on Stage 4 is unclear. Perhaps he simply recognises that the likes of Sam Bennett are no real danger to his interests as the race progresses through more mountains. Whatever the reason, it's a big day for the Points Classification pecking order.
As for the Yellow Jersey, contenders will be hoping for a quiet day at work, praying the Mistral doesn't blow.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Caleb Ewan @ [3.50]
Back Peter Sagan @ [13.00]