The Tour moves on to it's penultimate day in the Alps with a stage that finishes on Mont Blanc, so you know it's going to be tough. Beside the adversity riders will face we have found the best value picks to profit from this stage.
Friday 22th July, 146kms
Tour de France Stage 19 Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
It's a short stage at just 146kms so it's sure to be explosive and starts with a bang with the climb of the Collet de Tamie, which although is uncategorised, is 8.1kms at 7%.
Some riders are getting very, very tired, others are starting to find their legs. Nairo Quintana was supposed to mount his charge over these closing stages in the Alps, he has fallen dramatically short of delivering on expectations and promises. Fabio Aru has a history of getting stronger as races go on, as per when he came late to take 2nd place in the 2015 Giro and win the Vuelta a Espana. He's too far off to win this race, but he clearly is getting stronger, looking at his 3rd place in the TT today, and he is sure to try to break things up in the coming two stages. A stage win isn't out of the question either, he's too far down on the GC to be worrying about that.
Froome is supposed to tire towards the end of a three-week Tour, but I don't think it's going to happen this year, he just hasn't been tested enough to be feeling major fatigue. The punches he encountered were glancing blows and soft tummy punches - no knockout blows yet. Mollema has a history of fading in the final week of the Tour, having fallen from 2nd to 6th in the final week in 2013. He admitted that he didn't have good legs on stage 17, but he didn't crack until very late on a very hard climb and limited his losses pretty well. He did a pretty good TT today to not really lose any time to young Yates.
And Porte - everyone says that "Porte always has a bad day" - well he has been the best rider in this race bar Froome I think and it's a real shame that he had that puncture as he'd have definitely been on the final podium here, he would be clear in 2nd place.
A zig-zag route that starts in Albertville and 400m in they start climbing straight away with the Collet de Tamie, which is uncategorised, but is still a very hard start to the day with an 8.1km climb at 7%, a perfect launch pad for the break of the day. After the Tamie they turn north and after 32kms they start climbing the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, a Cat 1 climb of 9.8kms, averaging 6.9%.
They continue heading south-west and after 68kms take on the Cat 2 Col de la Forclaz de Quelge (5.6kms at 7.8%) and after a very short 3km descent they start on the main event of the day, the HC Montée de Bisanne. The MDB is 12.4kms long at an average of 8.2%, but it gets steeper near the top with the last 6.4kms averaging 9.2%. They then descend for nearly 40kms to the base of the final climb of the day.
The climb of Le Bettex is 9.8kms long at an average of 8%, but the opening kilometres are very steep, with the first kilometre averaging 12.9%, with parts hitting up to 16% for something like 200m. The next kilometre averages 10.8% and the third kilometre 9%. It eases off a little for the next 3.5kms or so, but the last 4kms are steep again, averaging over 8%. The last 800m averages 7.8% and rises all the way to the finish line at a steady gradient.
Contenders and Favorites
With a profile like this and Froome comfortably clear it sure does look like a day for the break again. Who's going to do the chasing? Who's going to push? Sky will just do like they did on stage 17 to Finhaut Emosson and ride a steady tempo, suffocating all attacks, which will probably see the break's lead push up towards 10 minutes.
Something to note though is that this stage is almost a replica of a stage in the Dauphiné last year, with the final climb up to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc as well. A stage won by Froome from Tejay and Meintjes, with Rodriguez in 5th, Bardet in 6th, Vuillermoz in 7th, Costa in 9th and Navarro in 10th.
The break didn't make it that day, but I think it has a big chance of winning tomorrow - but you need to be a good climber, and be feeling strong late in this race in order to go well today. The stage starts with a bang with 8kms at 7%, it's going to be difficult to get in the break of the day and you need to have good climbing legs right from the start - look out for tweets of guys warming up on rollers before the start to get an idea of who might be looking to get in the break. But I still think there will be a big break of some 10-20 riders will go, like we got on stage 17.
Of course, the usual suspects are going to be there - Zakarin, Majka, Navarro, Plaza, Pantano, Cummings, Costa, de Gendt, and we could see the winner come from one of this lot again. Zakarin looks the best bet of that lot again and at +1100 with Paddy Power when they opened it was a decent enough bet, he's been clipped since into as short as +550, but is still +800 with Ladbrokes.
Rui Costa has disappointed so many times for us, I was almost willing to not give him another try, even though he has said he will keep attacking. He was unable to stay with the Majka/Zakarin group very early on in stage 17, and that's a bad sign to me, but the only positive is that the weather is potentially going to be bad, with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon, so that will be in his favour, he's a man that doesn't mind the wet.
Other riders who did very good TTs today, showing they have great legs were Jerome Coppell, Romain Sicard, Stef Clement and Nicholas Edet. France are desperately in need of a stage win so watch out for the French lads trying to get in the break.
Another rider who I want to give another go to is Alexis Vuillermoz, he was very good on the climb to Mont Blanc in the Dauphiné last year, attacking, bridging to the leaders and attacking again, only to be reeled in by the GC men. He was caught by Froome and Tejay with 3.6kms to go and then went working for Bardet but still finished 7th. He came close for us on stage 15, and with betting odds at +8000 with Paddy Power he's worth an each-way.
As for the GC men, it's hard to see past Froome and Porte again, they are clearly the strongest guys in the race. Will Froome help his old mate to get on to the podium? Will they attack away from the pack again in the last few kilometres and time trial to the finish putting as much time as they can in to everyone else? It's very possible. And if they are happening to be fighting it out for the stage win he might just give it to Porte too - the 10" bonus are worth a lot more to Porte than Froome.
Fabio Aru is clearly starting to fly through again, as he did in the past in the last few days of the Giro and the Vuelta, and he could fancy an attack late on the final climb, and I wouldn't even be surprised to see him attack early and bridge to someone like Rosa or Kangert who might have been in the break of the day. Dan Martin looks to have really good legs still too, he did an excellent TT for a guy who can't TT. He should like this finish and he may just get away this time if he tries a little later, maybe with just 1km to go (if he's still in there!).
But I think it's one to shoot some bets at the breakaway candidates and watch the gaps to back the GC men in play. If it does look like the break will be caught by the peloton then I will probably grab Porte and Aru in play as my free picks.
1pt win on Ilnur Zakarin at +800 with Ladbrokes
0.2pts win on Stef Clement at +15000 with Skybet (paying four places)
0.2pts win on Nicholas Edet at +30000 among SBR's Top Rated Sportsbooks
0.2pts win on Ruben Plaza at +25000 with Paddy Power
0.4pts each-way on Alexis Vuillermoz at +8000 with PaddyPower
Watch the time gaps to see if the break will be caught and back Porte and Aru in play
Porte to beat Froome - 2pts at +150 with Paddy Power
Martin to beat Rodriguez - 1pt at +125 with Bet365