The Tour de France comes to a conclusion this weekend. Chris Froome has led the way since the first weekend. Can he hold on and take the title in Paris on Sunday?
The 100th Tour de France has been an utterly absorbing contest on all fronts and, if anything, the excitement is ramping up as the riders approach Paris. Team Sky’s Chris Froome has managed to retain the yellow jersey as the riders approach the final days in the Alps, beginning with Thursday’s gruelling double ascent to the ski stations of Alpe d’Huez.
It is no exaggeration to say that Froome has been the superior rider on this Tour. He took an early lead when no-one was expecting him to and has held it without much anguish, resisting attack after attack and only on a couple of occasions dropping even seconds to his rivals.
Yesterday was perhaps the most remarkable day of all. The individual time trial, twenty miles over undulating ground, including two climbs so steep that they qualified as point-scorers for the King of the Mountains competition. Froome, as race leader, went off last. At the final checkpoint, eight miles from home, he was 11 seconds behind third placed Alberto Contador - not a significant deficit in terms of the overall race, in which he held an advantage of over four minutes, but an important psychological one. To compound the problem, it had just started to rain, whereas Contador had just finished in the dry. By the finish line, Froome was nine seconds ahead of the entire field.
It now appears that only an accident can deny Froome not one, but two victories. You see, not only is the British rider the overall leader, he also leads that King of the Mountains contest. That is a massive disappointment to Pierre Rolland, the long time leader, and to the French nation, who might now finish the centenary Tour with no category winner and indeed no stage winner either.
You simply can’t make money on a Froome tour win anymore, at least not in any meaningful way. Bet365 have the most generous betting odds at 1/14, which will win you pennies but nothing more. If you are going to do that, though, you’d make more backing Contador to finish second, at 4/9 in most markets.
Froome is also short odds to be the King of the Mountains, at 6/4 at most sportsbooks. Whether he can hang on to that polka-dotted jersey depends upon how much Wednesday’s demonstration of power took out of his legs, bearing in mind that tough Alpe d’Huez stage to come with all of the points on offer there. Rolland has dropped back to 7/1 with Bet365 and now would be a good time to back him, because the French really are desperate to take something away from this Tour.
The most open category appears to be the white jersey for best young rider. Nairo Quintana is the man in possession and he is a best price of 1/20 with Ladbrokes. However, Michal Kwiatkowski, his nearest rival, is only four minutes behind him and whilst that is a big gap at the very head of the race, further down it becomes easier to make up and a good ride in the mountains could bring the Pole back into contention from right out at 16/1 with BetVictor. Paddy Power will also give you 6/1 on him finishing in the top 10 overall, which seems rather generous given that he is currently in 9th place.
There is not much point in placing your sports picks on the green jersey points race. Cannondale’s Slovakian rider Peter Sagan has had that wrapped up for days. But the pre-race favorite, Mark Cavendish of Omega-Pharma/Quickstep, could still make you some money with a stage win at the weekend. He’s currently joint third in all time stage wins on the Tour - behind legends Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault - and there’s a good chance of a win for him, especially in the final stage, as the race becomes flatter again. He’s 5/6 with Paddy Power to win there.