Take a look at our extensive Tour de France Stage 7 preview before placing your bets, as we discuss which riders will lead the pack, and how can this translate for your sports picks.
Well, after a dramatic day that saw our man Peter Sagan denied a victory by the late attack of ZdenekSybar and the race leader, Tony Martin crash out, we are back for another sprint finish up a hill in Fougères. Fougères was the finish city for a Team Time Trial of a ridiculously long 73kms in 1985, when the La Vie Claire team with Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault destroyed the opposition and put 8 of their men in the top 10 of the GC. We're not far off the TTT on stage 9 here which could see another shake-up in the GC.
We continue to head west towards Brittany and head south west for a longish stage of 190.5kms from Livarot to Fougeres. Not much to say about the route, it's pretty flat and straight forward and we should just see a bunch come to the finish ready to contest a sprint finish.
The finish could get a bit interesting though as they go through a roundabout more or less every kilometre for the last four, the second last of which is passed on both sides, which could see a bit of excitement as they come back together again. They go down the right hand side of the last roundabout with 900m to go and with 600m to go it kinks left a little on a little mini roundabout. The road curves round to the right until 90m to go, making it a pretty short sprint to the line.
Also, the road rises up for the last 600m, and it's very narrow, only one half of a split road, making it a pretty challenging finish to the stage, you can see the last 400m or so in the screenshots below in order from left to right, the final 90m or so is on the right. It rises at around a 3.2% gradient for the last 500m, easing a little near the line, but they will need to watch out for the roundabout which is just after the finish!
Another sprint, another chance for Mark Cavendish to finally get it right? It's almost certainly going to end in a sprint, but who's going to come out on top in this final sprint opportunity for quite a few stages? Well I'm going to change tact and hope that this isn't going to come back to bite me on the ass - I'm going against Cavendish in this one. I have not been impressed at all by him or his team and he has left us down twice already. The leadout just isn't functioning and they have had a pretty hectic week, and now they have lost Tony Martin as well they will have their work cut out for them on this finish.
Cav has been mis-timing his jumps and just hasn't got the powerful kick he is, or was famous for. I think the finish will catch him out again . The uphill finish on the tight road could see him struggle to get out and ahead and he could well be swamped by faster finishers again.
André Greipel has been superb, all power and speed and intelligent sprinting. His team have been good, better than Etixx, and he has finished the job brilliantly, unlike Cav. This could be another opportunity for Greipel to extend his lead in the Green Jersey again after Sagan closed the gap to just 3pts today (which I still think Sagan will win). This finish is going to be all about power and positioning and it could well need to be a very long sprint that wins it - you'll have to get in front and just try to stay in front, it's going to be very hard to come around on the tight, uphill finish. Greipel can often screw up his positioning, but he has got it pretty much spot on so far in this race.
The uphill finish brings other sprinters very much in to play, while ruling out lots of others, but I actually think it's only about 5 guys really that could win - Greipel is the 5/2 favourite, Cavendish is not favourite for the first time in a sprint stage, he's as big as 3/1.
The first of the other guys who should like this finish is John Degenkolb for Giant-Alpecin. He was very strong on the uphill finish at the end of the long 223km stage to Cambrai, leading from a long way out and holding off the rest of the pack. This is another long stage at 190kms and I think the Giant-Alpecin squad will swarm to the front on this stage and set up Degenkolb for a long run at the line again and he has a big chance of winning his first Tour stage. At 12/1 he looks a far better bet to me than Cav or Greipel.
Another rider who should have liked this finish is Alexander Kristoff, but he is clearly not 100% yet. He had been saying this to the media on Monday and Tuesday that he feels he does not have his spring classics form, but that was obvious to see when he kicked for home on stage 5 but was swamped by Greipel, Sagan and Cavendish on the run-in. Again today he kicked, after getting a short lead-out by Purito, but just didn't have the power to challenge Greipel or Sagan and faded away to 11th. He may have to settle for a 5th to 10th place again.
Arnaud Démare came close to winning the stage for us on Wednesday but faded at the finish to not even land the place money, he might find this finish a little too hard for him though. Bryan Coquard looks like he is finally starting to click, he sprinted to a very good 3rd place today up the hill. He also took a good 2nd place on an uphill finish won by Matthews in Paris Nice, but I worry about his positioning tomorrow on a narrow finish like this. Julian Simon was the man for Cofidis today like I predicted, but it may be that we see Soupe get a turn at sprinting tomorrow, it's not as hard a finish as today. So I think it's going to be between Greipel, Degenkolb, Sagan, Cav and maybe Démare and Coquard again tomorrow. Greipel certainly looks the strongest, but it may be that Degenkolb gets the jump on him this time and head-bangs his way up that hill to victory, or at least a good place at a decent 12/1. Sagan can land a podium spot again at a backable 5/1 each-way. Who knows, maybe he'll finally break his sequence of 2nd place finishes.
1pt each-way on John Degenkolb at 12/1 with Coral
1pt each-way on Peter Sagan at 5/1 with Ladbrokes