We preview the Tour de France betting markets and discuss how the course layout is likely to play into certain rider's hands. Currently, betting odds are favoring Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana, but can cycling bettors cash in by backing another rider to cross the finish line in the yellow jersey?
The 2015 Tour de France starts in Utrecht on Saturday the 4th July, with a short prologue time trial. It kicks off three weeks of spectacular racing and high drama. 21 stages, 3,360kms, 7 mountain stages with 5 summit finishes, 2 rest days, 1 team time trial and 198 riders.
Chris Froome of Team Sky is the 7/4 favourite, he is looking to take back his title after winning it in 2013 (and was 2nd in 2012), he crashed several times last year before eventually abandoning in a lot of pain. He comes here fresh from winning the Critérium du Dauphiné with a top display of climbing in the final stages. The diminutive figure of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) bids to become the first South American to ever win the Tour, he has a big chance and he currently sits just down the Tour de France odds boards at 5/2.
Reigning champion from the Astana team, Vincenzo Nibali is back to defend his title but he faces some seriously strong competition to defend his ‘Maillot Jaune’, or Yellow Jersey. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is a multiple Grand Tour winner and has just won the Giro d’Italia in May. He bids to become only the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to do the Giro/Tour double. He is 9/2 to pull it off. But there are several other riders besides the so-called Fab Four who will be looking to creep on to the podium like 200/1 shot Thibaut Pinot did last year.
The 102nd running of the Tour starts in Utrecht in the Netherlands, the 21st time that the Tour has started abroad. The first stage is a ‘Prologue’, a short individual time trial over 13.7kms which has the purpose of establishing the first Yellow Jersey wearer of the race and putting all the riders in chronological order on the General Classification for the first road stage the next day.
The race will then pass through Belgium for two stages, including stage 3 which finishes on the iconic Mur de Huy, the hill used at the finish of the Spring Classic ‘La Fleche-Wallone’, won this year by Alejandro Valverde. The climb averages 9.6% for 1.3kms, getting steeper as it gets near the top, hitting a maximum gradient of 19%!
As they head in to northern France there should be some opportunities for the sprinters, but watch out for the windy stretches of roads along the coast that could cause splits. Like the spectacular stage 5 last year, the race returns to a stage over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix on stage 4 to Cambrai, a stage that could be pivotal to the GC – last year Vincenzo Nibali gained time on all his rivals, while pre-race favourite Chris Froome crashed out.
At the end of the first week, as they head to Brittany there is another spectacular finish on another iconic ‘Mur’ – the Mur de Bretagne, a tough 2kms at 6.9%, a climb that hits 15% in parts. Sunday the 12th July will see the teams tackle the tough 28km Team Time Trial, a fascinating discipline in pro cycling, as all nine riders in the team set off together with the aim of completing the course in the fastest time possible. The time is only measured when the fifth rider crosses the line so it’s not too much of a problem if some riders can’t stand the pace and drop out along the way.. as long as 5 finish close together. There could be reasonably big time gaps between some of the General Classification favourites after this stage, some teams are very good at this, others not so!
They transfer down to the south-west corner of France during the first rest day to start three extremely tough stages in the Pyrenees, including summit finishes at La Pierre-Saint-Martin and Plateau de Beille and a brutally hard stage 11 which takes them over the Col d’Aspin and the highest point in the race, the Col du Tourmalet, at 2115m.
After a transition period across the Massif Central over some lumpy and challenging looking stages they head towards the Alps for the final week. The race could still hopefully be between a number of riders, so we could be in for a treat of attacking racing on the final mountain stages as the riders give it their all in an effort to be wearing the coveted ‘Maillot Jaune’ on the final procession stage to Paris.
Stage 16 could be one for the breakaway riders or the stronger sprinters if they can get over the Col de Manse near the finish in Gap, but after the second rest day on the 21st July the race really explodes with some epic looking stages.
Stage 17 is a replica of the stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné won in superb fashion by Romain Bardet. He attacked near the top of the penultimate climb of the day and descended like a madman down a treacherously dangerous road, but it gave him over a minute head start hitting the bottom of the final climb of the day to Pra-Loup, a lead he never relinquished.
Stage 18 is a monster – 186kms and 7 categorised climbs, including the ‘Haute Category’ Col du Glandon and the spectacular Lacets de Montvernier. Stage 19 is another beast, but at least it’s only 138kms long – four categorised climbs including the HC climb to Col de la Croix de Fer and the summit finish to La Toussuire.
But the penultimate stage should be one to savour – a short and explosive stage that takes them over the Col de Telegraphe, the Col de Galibier and finishes on probably the most famous climb in cycling, Alpe-d’Huez. 21 hairpin bends lifts them 1128m in 15kms on a climb that is famous for its crowds as much as the epic battles that have been waged there over the years. The stage is only 110kms long, but it is sure to be full of action and drama right from the first kilometre.
It is a route with everything, although some like Chris Froome would have probably liked to have had more individual time trial kilometres. It has stages for the specialists against the clock, fast sprinters, sprinters who can climb a little, break-away specialists, punchy climbers, high climbing specialists and Classic specialists!
The opening week could be fascinating, dangerous, chaotic, the final week could be dramatic, epic and exhausting. We’re in for a treat, now the only problem is trying to pick the winner!
Full previews and Tour de France betting guides will follow in the coming weeks. Check back for our predictions on the outright winner, Green Jersey winner, King of the Mountains winner and more from the experts at cyclingbetting.co.uk.