A stage with a trilogy of mythical TDF climbs on a tough day that could make or break some challengers hopes, possibly for good with just four stages left. The Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraph and Col de Galibier will produce a spectacular day of action.
Wed July 19th, 183kms
This race is still incredibly close, and there's really only two chances for Froome's rivals to make time on him ahead of Saturday's TT - this stage, and Thursday's summit finish to Izoard. His rivals need to attack him today, if they wait until Izoard it will probably be too late, he will just mark the attacks and come home happy knowing he will destroy them all in the TT on Saturday.
Today’s stage could not have worked out any better from the main selections point of view, I called it pretty spot on with how it played out and we got the best result possible too with Matthews beating EBH to the line. The double came in too at 9/10, so it was a very nice 22pt profit day.Contenders and Favourites
This is a little like a longer version of Stage 13 to Foix, the 100km stage with three tough climbs along the way. But this is that stage turned up to 11... Instead of 100kms, it's 185kms, almost twice its length. And instead of three Cat 1s, we have two HCs, one Cat 1 and one Cat 2. And it's a 28km descent to the finish.. quite a long way to hang on if you're off the front solo.
Warren Barguil can make it mathematically certain today that he will become the first Frenchman since Richard Virenque to take the KOM. He's sure to be involved, he'll take the Cat 2, maybe the HC Croix de Fer and it may be job done by that stage. And that's why I'm a bit reluctant to back him to win the stage, we saw on Sunday that he was exhausted when he got to the finish after working for KOM points all day and couldn't muster the strong sprint that landed a victory for him just a few days prior. At 8/1 on the betting odds boards, I'm not sure I want to be on him.
Likely candidates for the break will be the likely lads that we have seen a bit of lately, the stronger men come to the fore in the last week of a Grand Tour and if the combination is right, and the GC men let them have some rope, then they might just get a big enough lead that they are not reeled in.
Alessandro De Marchi was working for Caruso last Sunday and faded towards the end, if he's left do his own thing tomorrow he might have a chance at 125/1. Serge Pauwels tried valiantly to go after Bauke Mollema on Sunday, he was looking one of the strongest of the break, but just couldn't get there, didn't have the legs to close it. He might try again, he's only 33/1 though. But what about Bauke Mollema? He is looking super strong at the moment and you almost forget that he was hammering up Ventoux with Porte and Froome last year when they smashed into the back of the motorbike.
Mollema is a class act, who has been a GC contender in the past. But now with the freedom to attack and the pressure of GC off his shoulders, he showed Sunday why he should never be underestimated and forgotten.
He's superb at sneaking away at the right moment, is a solid, powerful climber, and can descend/TT to the finish like he did on Sunday. He was looking strong again today too, working for Contador, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were to send him up the road in anticipation for the inevitable Contador attack... But the Contador attack may not work, and he'll be free to keep riding. I want to be on him, he's one of my favourite riders after good wins on him in the past, I don't want to miss out if he wins again!
I think a stage at altitude like this will rule out the likes of Roglic, Ulissi, Gallopin, and Benoot. Thibaut Pinot might be worth a small investment, he seems to be coming around, he was in the break on Sunday too but didn't really get involved in the later skirmishes.. maybe he was keeping something in reserve for a day like this ... I'm going to have a small win bet on him at 33/1 too. Liliane Calmejane rode well on Sunday, but couldn't go with the Mollema move, he did stay on to take 7th though, leading home a small group 1'04" after Mollema, so he's going well still. He might have another go tomorrow, he's 66/1 with 365. Daniel Navarro finished in 13th place on Sunday, he's big looking at 150/1 with Ladbrokes for our cycling sports picks.
So that’s the break hopefuls, what about the GC men? If it is a case that the others start attacking Froome behind and he's struggling, then they have Landa up the road and he could take yellow and hang on to it, none of the others behind him are particularly good TTers. And of course Froome could finally turn on the power and blow them all away - but he hasn't looked like doing so yet in this race, in fact, he has looked under more pressure than I have seen him in the Tour in many years. His rivals will need to test him, they need to go on the Telegraphe and try to get rid of as many of his support riders as possible, a lot of the weight of that will probably rest with AG2R, and if they ride as well as they did on Sunday, Froome could be in for a rough afternoon.
But I have a feeling that we will see punch and counter punch, but Froome, Landa, Bardet, Uran, Martin, and Yates will be in a group that comes to the finish together. That is, unless someone like Dan Martin or Simon Yates tries to do something to break up that group. Dan Martin has revenge in mind again, and we know he's probably going to attack. And what's good from his point of view is that he tweeted tonight that he can finally stand up straight, he clearly hasn't given up.
He may be given some leeway what with his time-loss today and while the others look at each other, but it will be a big ask to stay clear over the final 28kms.. what he needs is for a few remnants of the break to be about a minute ahead of him on the Galibier, he attacks, bridges and then rides with them to the finish. Then he'd have a chance from the sprint.
Fabio Aru might attack, but I'm not sure he's going to be able to get away, Froome and Bardet will chase him and they are two of the strongest men in the group, plus, they could have team-mates with them like Landa or Vuillermoz to help with the chasing.
But if it comes to a GC group finish, I'd like to be on Uran, he has the best sprint as far as I can see out of this lot and he might just land the sprint. A 10" bonus could lift him on to a podium place ahead of Bardet.
So the break might make it, we'll try to have a few in that, but if it looks like coming back, maybe look for in-play bets and let's have Uran onside as well just in case.Recommended Tour De France Sports Picks
0.3pts win on Thibaut Pinot at 44 on Betfair or 40/1 with Ladbrokes
0.4pts win on Bauke Mollema at 36 on Betfair
0.2pts win on Alessandro de Marchi at 130s on Betfair
1pt win on Rigo Uran at 12/1 with Betfair or 10/1 with 365Matchbets
Landa to beat Meintjes and Vuillermoz to beat Latour - 2pts at 5/4