Before betting on Stage 12 of the Tour de France, check our extensive preview of this route so you can learn how to profit off of our sports picks.
Plateau de Beille - another legendary climb in the Tour's history. It has been used as a stage finish five times in the past, and on the first four occasions, the winner of the stage has gone on to win the race in Paris. Pantani in '98, Armstrong in '02 and '04, Contador in '07, with Jelle Vanendert breaking the run in 2011.
When the race last finished on the PDB in 2011, it was an exciting stage with loads of attacking. One of my favourite escape artists Sandy Casar led the race as they started the climb, followed by chase groups that included LL Sanchez and Ruben Perez, followed by a group with the favourites, including Contador and Evans. With 10kms to go a move at the front saw Contador, Evans, Yellow Jersey Thomas Voeckler, Jelle Vanendert, Frank Schleck, JC Peraud, Ivan Basso and a few more separate themselves from the rest and spend the next 10kms attacking and counter attacking each other.
Of the top ten that day, there are several riders who are in this year's race - Contador, Rolland, Voeckler, Uran and JC Peraud. In 2007, there was only Contador, Valverde and Zubeldia from the current startlist who made it in to the top 50. Will experience of the climb help Contador? Who knows, he's not exactly on great form is he, and it was four years ago when they last went over it.. I can't see him rip it up like they did that year.
This stage heads almost parallel to the Spanish border for its entire distance as it heads south-east, dipping in and out of the valleys to take in a Cat 2, two Cat 1s and a HC climb over its long 195km route. The stage starts with a pretty flat opening 50kms, with the intermediate sprint coming after just 20kms, meaning the race is likely to stay together until that has been passed so the sprinters can do their thing and then fade back in to the autobus.
The first climb is the Col de Portet-d'Aspet which is short at just 4.3kms, but is the steepest climb of the day at 9.7% average. They crest that after 57kms, so we will probably will have seen the break of the day go at this stage, likely to consist of 10-20 riders maybe.
They descend for 20kms to CastillonenCouserans in the valley before starting up the Cat 1 Col de la Core, a 14.1km climb that averages 5.7%. The first 6kms are relatively easy, with 2kms around the 2.2% level, but after 6kms it kicks up at a steady gradient of around 7% for the rest of the climb. Another fast 15kms descent down to the valley to Oust and then it climbs gently for the next 20kms as they head towards the base of the Port de Lers.
The Port de Lers is a Cat 1 climb of 12.9kms at an average of 6%, but it's a more irregular climb rising and dipping all the way up, going as low as 2% 1km from the top, and as high as 8.8%. The next descent is a long one - almost 35kms before they start climbing the final climb of the day to Plateau de Beille.
This last climb is a killer - a Haute Category climb of 15.8kms at an average of 7.9%. The first 5kms are particularly hard, averaging around 9%, a brutal start to the final climb, with 180kms already in the legs. The next 4kms average around 8%, then a kilometre at 9.5%, before the final stretch of 5kms which average closer to 7.5%, easing down to 6.3% and then 2.5% for the last 800m. The first kilometres are on smooth tar surfaces, but then it becomes a much rough surface making the climb harder.
Laurent Fignon once said that you'll find out who's fit and who's not on the third day in the mountains. I think it's fair to say we had an idea of that after just the first day in the mountains when Chris Froome destroyed the field, Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana were second best, and there were lots who just looked, well, unfit. We should have seen some of these GC favourites staying with the likes of Tony Gallopin and Geraint Thomas on a climb like this, again disappointing and hard to believe. And the list goes on - Hesjedal, Costa, Nibali, Rodriguez, Contador - all had shockers.
So now we have had a second day in the mountains which didn't tell us a great deal, but Porte worked really hard and today was actually let ease back near the finish to save energy unlike the day before when he was told to chase Nairo to mug him for bonus seconds. Nibali struggled again, Pinot is having a shocker and I wouldn't be surprised to see either or both of them pull out and start thinking of a three week trip to Spain in August.
Where does that leave us in terms of trying to pick a winner of this tough, tough stage? Will we see a break make it? Will we see Froome rip things to pieces again on the Plateau de Beille? Will we see any sort of resurgence from the fallen?
I'll start by saying I think the break has a very big chance of making it again tomorrow. Who is going to chase? Sky may not, they just need to keep an eye on key rivals. If a mixture of teams get in the break, their teams won't chase. Movistar and BMC and Tinkoff may not as they might want to keep their strength for the final battle on the PDB. Something that needs to be kept in mind about tomorrow's stage, which could add to the drama, is the weather forecast, it is forecast to rain tomorrow afternoon with possible thunderstorms. If that happens we could see some GC rivals look to put Froome under pressure and try to isolate him ahead of the PDB.
First I'll name a few names for the break of the day - again, it's breakaway lottery time, as anyone could go, as we saw today with the likes of Démare, Buchmann and Simon going on the attack.
I think maybe Astana must start thinking of trying something different now that Nibali is clearly struggling. They tried today but Grivko was the wrong man, he couldn't live with Dan Martin. So how about letting far stronger climbers go, such as Tanel Kangert or Jacob Fuglsang? Maybe now that Fuglsang has lost so much time, all talk of him being the team leader has disappeared and he will be clear to attack tomorrow. He is worth a small investment at 66/1. His team-mate Kangert rode very well today and would have done better were he not having to babysit Nibali to the finish. Maybe he'll be let off the leash tomorrow to try something. At least it might make Sky chase as they won't want to give anything to Astana. I missed the 250/1 on him but there was still 150/1 and that's also worth a go.
Dan Martin did it for Cannondale-Garmin today, could it be easy-Ryder's turn tomorrow to give it a go? It's the sort of profile that he'll like and he has been taking it easy up unitl now. Ryder Hesjedal was asked a few days ago whether it's been a hard race so far and he replied 'Nah man, I've been just chillin down the back.....' I think that he will try something at some point, they vowed to light up the race and Dan certainly did that today. He's worth a shot at 40/1 or bigger.
Katusha have a stage win with Rodriguez, but their race has been pretty awful up to now, with Rodriguez getting hammered every day in the mountains. They have two possible candidates for the break tomorrow at big prices - Thiago Machado and Alberto Losado, neither of which are climbing badly, Losada came in with Purito today, 10mins after Froome's group. He's 400/1 for tomorrow, Machado is 300/1!
So there's plenty of wild shots for the break, what about the chances of the GC men if they want to win the stage? You'd think that if Froome wants the stage and wants to add a further crushing blow to his rivals he could take this stage with ease. No one can match his accelerations and constant pushes when he goes and if the break look like they won't make it I'll be all over Chris Froome's price tomorrow. For now though I'm reluctant to get stuck in at just 13/8 best price.
Who can take him on? Well maybe Movistar are going to have to try something different and say let Valverde attack from far out, say on the descent from the Port de Lers - especially if it's raining. Quintana is capable of a big ride on this climb, the long, steady, steep gradients will suit him, and he won't mind at all if it is wet and cold. If he wants to put Froome under pressure they will have to try something. Tejay Van Garderen will try to hang in there again, I don't think he is capable of trying something like a big attack, but if he can stay with Froome he will defend his podium place. Alberto Contador seemed to be riding a little better today, he's trying to get over his 'jour sans' on Monday. I think he'll just try to get through this stage and look to try to feel a bit better in the Alps.
Robert Gesink and BaukeMollema will continue to plug away and steal back time I think, they are both trying to secure top 10 places now. They may attack off the front again tomorrow, but if Froome wants the stage I can't see them leaving him behind.
So there we go, a lot of words to basically say it’s almost impossible to say what will happen tomorrow!! As I say though, if it looks like the break will be caught and Sky are looking like they are setting up another Froome attack, then take whatever price you can get on Froome. I'm going for some lottery tickets tomorrow for fun though, hopefully one or two will get in the break to give us some excitement. I'd love to see Nairo take it to Froome, but it'll be hard on the evidence we've seen so far.
0.1pts each-way on Alberto Losado at 400/1 with Ladbrokes
0.1pts each-way on Thiago Machado at 300/1 with PaddyPower
0.15pts each-way on Tanel Kangert at 150/1 with PaddyPower
0.3pts each-way on Jacob Fuglsang at 66/1 with Ladbrokes
0.5pts each-way on Ryder Hesjedal at 40/1 with Coral