Stage 18 sees the Tour take on a 17km uphill TT which could see a big shake-up amongst the top 10. We review the odds inside while we share our betting predictions and a free cycling pick.
Thursday 21rd July, 17kms
Tour de France Stage 18 - Sallanches to Megève
This should have been the stage maybe that decided the Tour de France. It was maybe going to all come down to who can climb the 10kms of this 17km stage the quickest. But that was based on the hope that Nairo Quintana was still close to Froome and not nearly three minutes behind him.
A good day today - Ilnur did the business for us and makes up for his contact lens debacle on stage 15 when he probably would have won based on the way he rode away from Pantano and Majka today. Nice to get a +2200 winner.
Stage 18 then and a 17km TT. The first 4kms are flat and the last 2kms are downhill, so it's not quite a 17km uphill TT as you'd think when just looking first. The climb itself starts really steeply, with gradients over 10%, but then eases off to alternate between flattish sections and sections at around 4.7%. It will be a really challenging TT and different riders will do better, and worse on different parts of it.
The flat intro will see the strong TT'ers gain an advantage over the lighter climbers, but there is no time check there (officially anyway) to compare how the GC favourites have done compared to their rivals. The pure climbers will have to measure their efforts, as the first climbing part is really steep, with 2kms at over 10%. They can't go too much in to the red though as they will need to push on when the road levels out again.
The middle part of the stage, the 5kms between the top of the Cote de Domancy and Demi-Quartier could be where this stage is won and lost though. They will be hurting after that 10%+ section and will then need to push really hard to keep the pace up through the undulating parts. The roads are mainly wide open highways though so the climb is suited to the really powerful guys, it will be a fascinating battle between the big power men like Froome and the sprightly little climbers like Quintana. Can Tom Dum hold his own with the climbers to take his second TT of the race?
The riders are going off in two minute intervals again like in the first TT, except for the top GC men who go three minutes apart. The forecast is for showers during the day, with the highest chance of rain being in the morning, so the GC men might have a slight advantage over those going earlier.
Contenders and Favorites
There are probably only about 5 or 6 guys who can win this stage.- some of the GC guys who will obviously be going all out to gain time, the strong TT'ers who can hold a decent pace through the steep parts, and the surprise outsiders that have been hiding away waiting for a crack at this.. Think Roglic in the Giro...
Starting with the GC men, and, of course you have to start with Froome - he is an excellent time triallist, and is in good time trialling condition as we saw in the first TT where he destroyed his GC rivals and was the closest anyone got to Dumoulin. The course will suit him - he goes well on the flat, he obviously goes well on the hills and he may even try his new descending skills on the run-in to Megeve!
Nairo Quintana won a similar TT in the Giro in 2014 on his way to overall victory, that was slightly longer at 26kms, but had a 7km flat run in to it. It was also a lot steeper average (19kms at 8%), which suited him more. After seeing his performance today though, I can't see him even finishing in the first 6 here.
Tom Dumoulin is the 2nd favourite and is being backed tonight, having opened at +250 with PaddyPower, he's as short as +175 in places. If he can pull off a performance like he did in the first TT he should come very close to beating Froome again. And don't worry about his chances on a hilly TT, just cast your mind back to the Pais Vasco TT in Aia last year, he won that 18km hilly TT by 4" from Joaquim Rodriguez, with Ion Izagirre, Nairo Quintana and Sergio Henao behind him. And of course he has won a mountain stage in this race already.
Richie Porte looks the strongest climber at the moment amongst the GC men, and he's a master of uphill TTs. Multiple winner of the uphill TT in Paris-Nice, I expect a big ride from him tomorrow. I think he can podium tomorrow and should move up another few places in the GC, he should take time out of Bardet, Quintana and Yates. The +550 with William Hill looks like a great value pick, he should be in the top 3 I think, and if he has a really good day, he could easily win this.
I don't think Mollema will have the legs to reach thepodium, which is a shame, but he will do a good enough TT to extend his lead over his followers, he should do much better than some of those behind him. Adam Yates is riding really well though and did an excellent TT in the first TT of the race. This is a different ball game altogether though and I would be surprised to see him top 3 it here, but he amazes me more and more every day.
The only other riders I think would have a chance here would be Ilnur Zakarin, Woet Poels, Ion Izagirre and Nelson Oliveira. Zakarin had a hard day today though and left it all on the road to win the stage. If he hadn't had that sort of day today I'd have fancied him to go well, but as it is, I think he'll have a rest day tomorrow and go again in the break Friday and Saturday.
Poels is absolutely flying, will they let him off the leash to try to go for stage glory? It's possible, but with two big stages still to come, I'm not sure about that. Ion Izagirre should like this mountain TT and did a very good first TT to finish 8th. He finished ahead of Tony Martin, Steve Cummings and Maciej Bodnar that day. At betting odds near the +4000 he could be worth a small e/w bet. Nelson Oliveira, of course led for a long time in the first TT, eventually finishing 3rd behind two of the best TTers in the world. Movistar will be pushing hard to get as many guys in the top 10 as possible because of how tight the Team Classification is now - Quintana, Izagirre, Oliveira, Valverde - they will all be going full gas.
Fabio Aru, Maciej Bodnar and Geraint Thomas could go well too but 5th to 10th at best I think. This looks a stage that should see an excellent battle between Dumoulin and Froome though, but at that price I can't back either of them. Porte interests me though at +550 with William Hill, if you dont have a Hills account, take the +500 with Bet365.
1pt each-way on Richie Porte at +550 with Will Hill
0.3pts each-way on Ion Izagirre at +4000 among SBR's Top Rated Sportsbooks