It's not easy to judge whether a breakaway can win this, writes Jack Houghton, but an angered Julian Alaphilippe will probably ensure they won't...
"Breakaway artists like Alessandro De Marchi ([20.00]) and Thomas De Gendt (24.00) might fancy their chances on this stage, but it's questionable whether they'll be given the opportunity with General Classification teams eyeing those bonus seconds."
What's the stage like?
It's a strange profile, looking more like ECG of a flat-lining patient who is shocked back to life at the end of a hospital-drama episode than it does a Tour de France stage.
145km of near-nothingness soon turns into something of interest and import, with the remaining 45km including the Category 1 climb of Col de la Lusette, which averages a gradient of 7.3% but includes ramps as steep as 13%, and where bonus seconds are again available to riders. A plateau follows, before riders climb again, albeit at a much shallower average of 4%.
For all its strangeness, though, the stage is fascinating. On the one hand it looks ripe for a breakaway attempt; on the other, events from after Stage 5 might see an explosive finish from some Yellow Jersey hopefuls.
Who are the favourites?
After Stage 5, race commissars penalised Julian Alaphilippe 20 seconds for taking a bottle from an aid too close to the finish, thus removing the Yellow Jersey from his shoulders and handing it to Adam Yates. This adds spice to a stage where the two riders would have been likely to contest the finish anyway, much as they did on Stage 2.
Adam Yates, at around [26.00], perhaps looks value, but then, already leading the General Classification, he might ride more conservatively than expected. After all, it might no longer be necessary for him to win the stage to still be in Yellow at day's end.
More likely is that anger and perceived injustice will light-up Julian Alaphilippe, a rider who runs on high emotion even during the calmest of times. At around [12.00], he looks value.
Primoz Roglic ([5.00]), the winner on Stage 4, tops most lists, and current White Jersey leader Tadej Podacar, who finished second on the same stage, is also prominent at around [13.00]. However, the finish here is different, and although neither would be a surprise winner, it makes sense to look for riders like Alaphilippe who will be prepared to go earlier.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Breakaway artists like Alessandro De Marchi ([20.00]) and Thomas De Gendt (24.00) might fancy their chances on this stage, but it's questionable whether they'll be given the opportunity with General Classification teams eyeing those bonus seconds.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
The Sagan saga continues. Now out to [2.10] in the Points Classification, it's unclear whether his disinterest during intermediate sprints has been a lack of form, or a tactical decision to save his energies for bunch finishes. We'll know more here, as the intermediate sprint is all that is on offer for sprinters on this stage.
More fireworks are likely in the competition for the Yellow Jersey, especially after the actions of officials after Stage 5. It will be seconds traded, though, not minutes, and it's not until Stage 8 that we'll really start to understand who the strongest General Classification contenders are.
*Odds correct at the time of writing.
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Back Julian Alaphilippe @ [12.00]