After a flat day that ended in a sprint finish we’re back to the mountains again with one last chance to try to wrestle the jersey off Geraint Thomas.
<p>The large break never materialized Thursdsay, which was a big disappointment. Groupama FDJ did a brilliant job of holding the race exactly where they wanted it and never let the break get a big lead, or let more riders join the initial 5 that went away.</p><p> </p><h2>The Route</h2><p>They start from Lourdes and after a relatively flat opening of 60 kilometres (it still contains two Cat 4 climbs, one that starts after just 5.2kms), the race heads south toward the Pyrenées. After 60kms they start climbing the first Cat 1 of the day, the Col d'Aspin, which is 12kms at 6.5%, then 12kms of a descent and then on to the Souvenir Jacques Godet climb of the race, the 2,115m high, Hors Category climb of the Col du Tourmalet. This is 17.1kms at 7.3%, a very long and hard climb, but in fact, if you exclude the slightly easier opening 6kms, it averages over 9% for the remaining 11kms of the climb, with parts hitting 10%.</p><p>From the valley at the bottom, it's more than 36kms to the top of the Aubisque, but along the way they first have to get over the Col des Borderes, a Cat 2 climb of 8.6kms at 5.8% (but hits 10% near the top). Then they descend briefly for 4.5kms before starting on the Col d'Aubisque. The last 3kms of the Aubisque average a steady 7%. From the top there are exactly 20kms to the finish, all downhill, but with 3kms to go the road rises up a little for about 800m before descending again to the finish line.</p><p><img alt src="https://images-production-753931602578.s3.amazonaws.com/5b5a236a4afd5b008dc955e6/original-tour-france" style="width:872px;height:493px" /></p><p> </p><h2>Analysis and Picks</h2><p>Another day for the break. you’d think. We’ll probably get two races going on at once here again, one for the stage win and one for the GC battle. Sky are the only team able to truly control the peloton, and they will be happy for the break to go and take all the bonus seconds en route.</p><p>Also, like Thursday's stage with the baroudeurs, it's last chance saloon for the climbers and breakaway artists, so expect a big break again of 30 or so riders trying to get away. It might take up to 40kms to form though. The first Cat 4 is very short, and we could see lots of attempts go and fail, before maybe it's made stick on the second Cat 4, which is a bit longer at 3.4kms.</p><p>So we're back to casting the net far and wide and hoping we'll catch a few fish. <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks/" title="Free Sports Picks">Rafal Majka has to be top of the list</a>, I think, as he's been climbing really well in the race so far, and was a little unlucky on Sunday when he was caught and dropped in the run-in after a strong display of climbing.</p><p>Julian Alaphilippe might try to go with him to seal the mountains jersey, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him dropped on the Tourmalet. That's quite a beast of a climb and he may not be able to stay with the best climbers if they put the hammer down.</p><p>Adam Yates was desperately unlucky on Tuesday, but the likelihood is that Alaphilippe would have caught him and beat him anyway, as he's such a good descender and finisher. This is another day that looks perfect for Yates, he and Majka could be two of the strongest on this stage and could ride away from the rest, even as early as the Tourmalet.</p><p>Movistar have been sending men up the road in every attack, and as a result are now leading the team classification by over 24 mins. They are sure to send someone up the road again, in case Quintana does take off on another miracle ride and tries to claw his way on to the podium, but after his crash Thursday, maybe that won’t be possible, so they’ll definitely send men in the break I think.</p><p>The man with the best chance maybe of staying the course for them would be Marc Soler. He's been working really hard for the team and maybe he'll get his reward.</p><p>Darwin Atapuma has been active in recent days, with Dan Martin sending him up the road a few times, and he looked strong Thursday when he was put to work at the front for Kristoff. Or alternatively, Kristian Durasek rode well on stage 16 in the break, finishing 20th in the end. Thursday was his birthday and he might try to get in the break again.</p><p>Bahrain are sure to have some guys in the break, with Ion and Gorka Izagirre the two most likely, but I wouldn’t rule out Domenico Pozzovivo from getting in the break either. He was up there on the attack Sunday and was with the lead group heading to the finish until the three breakers got away to fight out the stage, and he finished 6th. He looks like he might have the climbing legs, but it’s the descending that could see him lose out, but he should go close. Gorka is a better finisher maybe if they do get in the break.</p><p>Astana are are sure to have riders involved, in fact, they could have several. Omar Fraile is sure to try again, although he seemed to struggle to go with the better climbers on Tuesday after making the initial break, Tanel Kangert might be their man instead, as he was riding really well on the short stage 17 and ended up 20th.</p><p>Cofidis came so very close Thursday to winning the stage, Laporte narrowly denied. They are sure to have the usual suspects get involved, Jesus Herrada, Nicholas Edet and Daniel Navarro, with Nicholas Edet my pick from that three.</p><p>Trek have a few possibles too with Bauke Mollema in good form but possibly is tiring, Toms Skujins who could get in the break too and maybe even Julien Bernard. Damiano Caruso or Tejay Van Garderen are the likely lads for BMC, Tejay might be starting to recover from his crash on stage 9.</p><p>EF Drapac will have Pierre Rolland and Daniel Martinez going for it. <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-odds/" title="Live Sports Betting Odds">Martinez has been riding well and is a big price</a>, and he might give you a run for your money. Warren Barguil might also get involved, but he’ll be disappointed that Alaphilippe has taken his jersey off him, so maybe he’ll look to put in one massive last ride to take lots of points. There are 75pts on offer on this stage after all, and if he hoovers them all up and Alaphilippe doesn’t make the break, he could yet take the jersey..</p><p>Robert Gesink rode brilliantly on stage 16 to take 6th place, and he also came strong at the end of the Giro this year, finishing 2nd to Nieve on the tough stage 20 to Cervinia. Not only that, he won stage 14 of the Tour of Spain in 2016, which finished on the Col d’Aubisque, the final climb on this stage, so he knows the roads well.</p><p>As for the GC men, well what can we expect? We should hope that someone like Nairo Quintana attacks early on the Tourmalet and tries to blow things up, but he crashed Thursday and has a sore thumb, shoulder and ankle which could hamper him. Instead, it might be up to the Lotto Jumbo guys to try to do something, with Kruijswijk and Roglic both in the top 10 they should try to go for broke early and shake things up. With Gesink up the road maybe they could join him on the descent of the Tourmalet or early on the Borderes, and try to pull out a big gap.</p><p>Can Dumoulin try anything? It will be hard for him, but if he was to try anything it would have to be on the Col du Soulor I think, but they will have had to try to strip Sky of all their domestiques on the Tourmalet maybe to try to make their lead men exposed. Easier said than done.</p><p>Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde have looked shadows of themselves. Can they pull anything out of the bag on this final stage? I’m not sure. But if Valverde can get in the break and it stays to the finish, he’d be a big danger in the sprint.</p><p>Dan Martin has been absolutely flying on some of these climbs, and he was very impressive to keep pulling away from the other GC men and hold the gap to a rampaging Quintana on stage 17’s finish. If he can attack hard on the 8% sections of the Cote du Soulor he might pull out 30” or a minute again and hold it over the top of the Aubisque, which would give him a great chance of a stage win. He may even have Durasek or Atapuma up the road to help him.</p><p>Thomas and Froome look big prices at 25/1 and 22/1 to take the stage. Thomas was flying on the stage 16 finish and Froome, well, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a stage win as compensation for Thomas winning the race.</p><p>But I think the break have a good chance of making it, so I’m taking a few break candidates, and if it comes to a GC sort of day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dan Martin dance away to a second stage victory. He seems to be one of the best at accelerating away and getting a gap, and with the GC battle raging behind him they might just let him go.</p><p> </p><h2>Selections</h2><p>2pts win on Dan Martin at +$700<br />0.3pts e/w on Robert Gesink at +$6600<br />0.5pts e/w on Rafal Majka at +$1400<br />0.3pts e/w on Marc Soler at +$8000<br />0.3pts e/w on Gorka Izagirre at +$3300</p>