On a stage steeped in historical significance, Mark Cavendish is the obvious choice, writes Jack Houghton, in a Tour that Pogacar might have already sealed
"Stage 6's finish town, Chateauroux, was where Mark Cavendish recorded his first Tour win in 2008..."
What's the stage like?
Another short sprint stage - like we had on Stage 4 - but this time with one small, categorised climb just before halfway.
There are other parallels to be drawn between the two stages, revolving around Mark Cavendish. Just as Fougeres, the finish town on Stage 4, was the last place Cavendish recorded a stage win at the Tour in 2015, Stage 6's finish town, Chateauroux, was where he recorded his first in 2008. Cavendish fans will be hoping the result is another similarity between the stages.
The finish looks straightforward enough, although there is plenty of road furniture for riders to contend with in the closing kilometres, along with two sharp turns just inside 2km to go. A bigger factor may be the weather, though, as this is crosswinds territory. At the time of writing, the forecast suggests little of note, but should the winds start gusting, the Yellow Jersey hopefuls will be twitchy.
Who are the favourites?
Unsurprisingly, given recent form and the historical significance, Mark Cavendish is the 3.6013/5 favourite. In a Tour where there has been so much drama and associated disappointment, it's hard to back any rider at those odds. But then the strength of the team that delivered Cavendish at the right moment, and the ease with which he brushed past his competitors approaching the line, suggest that if in contention at the finish, he'll be hard to beat.
He's certainly better value in my book than Tim Merlier at around 4.507/2. The winner of Stage 3 might have looked impressive, but there were no competitors of note left to contest that finish, and so we can probably read too much into the form. Head-to-head, Cavendish looks to have the measure of Merlier.
Which leaves Wout Van Aert (8.007/1) to complete the list of favourites. For all his form has seemed solid during the race so far, he still has the look of a man not quite at his best, with his pre-Tour appendix removal perhaps having interrupted his final preparations.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Jasper Philipsen (13.0012/1) has been consistent in the Tour so far, and it would be no huge surprise to see him pop up and take a stage at some point, but you get the impression that he'll need others to meet misfortune if he is to pick up a stage victory. And the same can be said for a host of close-but-not-quites: Mads Pedersen (18.0017/1), Nacer Bouhanni (20.0019/1), Cees Bol (20.0019/1), and Peter Sagan (30.0029/1).
Which leaves Arnaud Demare (9.008/1). Plagued by misfortune so far this Tour, it's hard to know whether he brings excellent form to the race, but has just not had things fall his way, or whether something more fundamental is amiss. I'm inclined to give him another chance at those odds.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Expect Ide Schelling to be in an early breakaway as he looks to secure more points in the Mountains Classification, but this is largely a day to focus on the fascinating sprinters' battle for a stage victory and the Points Classification. Which is just as well, because - calamity aside - it's becoming increasingly hard to envisage scenarios where Tadej Pogacar doesn't win the General Classification, for which he is now the 1.491/2 favourite.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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