Betting odds are already trading for the 2015 Tour de France Time Trial. There's hardly a kilometre without a number of bends during the 16 minutes or so it'll take to complete the course.
Utrecht to Utrecht, 13.8km Time Trial: Saturday July 4th
The 2015 Tour de France kicks off with a 13.8km Time Trial around the city of Utrecht, a return to an opening Time Trial after a two-year absence. Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin will lock horns in what should be a brilliant battle to start the race.
Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands and it's population of 330,000 is sure to more than double for the opening weekend of the Tour. The stage starts in the Jaarbeurs and finishes alongside Utrecht Central Station.
The last time there was a time trial as the opening stage was in 2012 when Fabian Cancellara won on the 6.4km spin around Liege at an average speed of 53.2kmph, beating Wiggins and Chavanel by 7" with Tejay Van Garderen in 4th place, just 3" further back. And in 2010 in Rotterdam over 8.9kms, Cancellara also won by 10" from Tony Martin, with David Millar and Lance Armstrong just behind. Cancellara averaged 53.4kmph in that race too, but it may be a bit hard to maintain an average speed of over 53kpmh over this longer 14kms, but with Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin in the field then they might just go close!
Not much to say about the route, at least in terms of profile, it's dead flat! It's quite a twisty course though with close to twenty sharp bends along the way.
Contenders and Favourites
Of course, given it's a time trial Tony Martin heads the betting odds at even money, a generous price given how short he has been for Time Trials in 2014, he was regularly 1/2 or shorter. After smashing the opposition in the German national TT again for the third year running he shortened a little in to 4/5 but in the last two days has settled around evens. Martin is in great form again this year, winning two out the four ITT that he has entered, with the two that he didn't win being the very hilly course in Pais Vasco and the Col d'Eze TT in Paris-Nice.
He has been going very well this year, either pulling hard at the front in various races or going on the attack as is his style. This TT is one of his big goals for the year though and he'll be going flat out to win it. But is he value at evens? It's quite tight, but he has a very strong chance of going in to stage 2 wearing the first yellow jersey.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin will be keen to win this on home roads, roads he knows well. When he opened in the earliest 2015 Tour de France Betting Market in December he was available at 5/1 briefly and then 4/1 for a bit longer. Since then he has shown that he is fast becoming one of the best TT'ers in the world with three TT victories. First, he landed a stunning victory in the hilly TT to Aia in Pais Vasco, and in his first week back after a six-week break he won the 5.1km prologue in the Tour de Suisse by 3" from Cancellara and 4" from Brandle.
He also took the final TT in Pais Vasco over 38.4kms from Spilak, Cancellara and Malori but the efforts put in by him in the Tour de Suisse took its toll in the national TT championships last week and he was left disappointed with 4th place. He said that he was very tired but hoped that 95% would have been enough, it wasn't as Kelderman led a LottoNL-Jumbo 1-2-3. He says it doesn't change things for the TDF time trial though, he's just going to rest now and be 100% again for the Tour. He has been backed this week and is now 11/4 general.
There is a big jump then to the next contenders - Cancellara, Kwiatkowski, Malori and Brandle. Cancellara has been backed this week in to 10/1 best price from 14/1, as short as 13/2. He has won only one TT this year though, in Tirreno-Adriatico, beating Malori by 4" and Kiryienka by 9". He was beaten by Dumoulin though in both TTs in Tour de Suisse and it could well be that he is behind him again on Saturday. But will that be good enough for a top 3 place? He is 8/1 with Skybet who are offering 3 places (1/4 odds), most of the rest are offering only 2 places. I think he can make the podium.
Adriano Malori is in great TT form this year too, winning his first TT of the year in San Luis in January, then a month later in the Algarve he was beaten by hundreths of a second by Tony Martin. In Tirreno he beat Cancellara in the 5km Prologue, but lost to him in the 10km TT at the end of it. He won again in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, beating Dowsett but only finished 9th in the short 5km Prologue and 4th in the longer 38km TT in the TDS just last week, two disappointing results for him. He did go and crush the opposition in the Nationals just last weekend though, but the TT competition isn't the strongest it has to be said. He is 14/1, as short as 9/1.
Matthias Brandle was 20/1 to win the prologue in the TDS and although I didn't back him with my sports picks but I did point him out on Twitter as being good value. He wasn't far off either, only 2" behind Cancellara when he replaced him in the hot seat, but then Dumoulin blasted through 2" faster again, but he did hold on to 3rd. He hasn't been great otherwise this year, he was way off the pace in the longer TT at the end of the TDS. I'm passing over him I think.
The only other rider that caught my eye was Peter Sagan at 66/1 after he won the Slovakian TT championships, but I think he'd have beaten the opposition there if he done the whole TT doing a wheelie. He's not a bad TT'er at all and could do a big ride on a twisty course like this.
Overall though, I think Martin should get us off to a good start and is taken to beat Tom Dumoulin. I think Fabian Cancellara could well be good enough for a podium spot too.
2.5pts win on Tony Martin at evens with Ladbrokes
1pt each-way on Fabian Cancellara at 8/1 with Skybet paying 3 places.
Matchbets to come once open.