At 237.5kms this is the longest stage of the 2016 Tour de France, could we see the likes of Peter Sagan and André Greipel fighting it out again on the finish in Limoges?
Saumur to Limoges- Wednesday July 5th, 237.5kms
At 237.5kms this is the longest stage of the 2016 Tour de France and will be a real challenge for those looking to ride themselves into form in this race. This time last year they were riding to the Mur de Huy, this year it's a run from Saumur to the Limoges region in the centre of France.
Almost a straight line south-east for practically the whole lot of the 237kms and it's practically flat for the first 140kms as they head towards Montmorillon. From there the road starts to rise as they head in to the Haute Vienne. By the time they go over the top of the Bonnac la Cote they'll have been climbing gently for around 70kms, but along the way they go over the Cat 4 Cote de la Maison Neuve, a 1.2km hill at 5.6% average gradient.
The last 27kms down towards Limoges are mostly downhill so it should be an extremely fast finish to the stage. With just under 20kms to go they turn right and head south-west towards the finish, and after a short downhill run for the last 3kms the road kicks up for the last 500m at a 5% gradient, making it a punchy finish to the stage.
As it's the longest stage of the race we may have some will give the break a go, the lumpy parcours will suit some and will put some teams off a strong chase, given what they will face on the next stage to Le Lioran.
I've a few in mind for the break, first up being Sep Vanmarcke of LottoNL-Jumbo. Vanmarcke hasn't come here for the sprints, and he certainly hasn't come here for the climbing, so he'll have had stages like this marked down on his roadbook. A lumpy parcours with Tour of Flanders distance, he should be right at home here. I think he is worth a small bet at the massive price of 400/1 with Paddy Power.
What about Trek-Segafredo? Jasper Stuyven showed on Sunday what fantastic shape he's in, he almost made it. He will have had a day to recover from that, maybe he'll fancy it again? Or what about mister Classics himself, Fabian Cancellara? A tough, long day in the saddle over lumpy terrain, followed by an uphill sprint from a reduced group? Sounds right up his street. The first TT is not for a week so he might use a stage like this to get some good training in. It's likely he is trying to get some training in for the Olympics too, so a good hard day in the saddle this far out would do him good.. 200/1 he is, worth a small bet.
And finally, for the break, the ever-aggressive Thomas de Gendt - he's way down on GC now, over 10 mins down, so he might be let go on a day that he would fancy too with the lumpy finish to the stage. He is a massive 400/1, he's also worth a speculative pound or two now at that price. I think some of the break-away heroes have been biding their time for a day like this.
The bookies seem to think it will be a sprint finish though, with a fight between the stronger sprinters and the puncheurs again, with Peter Sagan the 7/2 favourite. Can't argue with that really, he looks the most likely winner and probably will win. He is just looking so strong and the 5% finish will probably suit him even more than the finish of stage 2.
André Greipel is 2nd favourite, but I'm not sure, I think this finish might be a bit hard for him, although he has done ok on uphill finishes in the past, I'm not interested in him at just 4/1. One rider who looks way over-priced to me though is Greg Van Avermaet at 66/1, he was only 11/1 on Sunday on a finish not too dissimilar to this and wasn't far off in 8th place, and again was 15th today. I think he will like this uphill finish too and 66/1 is too big, even the 40/1 with Bet365 looks ok.
Considering how close Julian Alaphilippe was to winning on Sunday, he looks big at 33/1, but I think this might be just a bit too 'easy' for him, he needs it steeper. Edward Theuns is riding really well and could be in the mix again, Alexander Kristoff is going to come good sooner or later, but I don't think it will be tomorrow, and Michael Matthews also looks like he is still lacking a little something speed-wise to challenge the fastest guys here.
One who does look like he might be starting to find top gear though is Bryan Coquard, he landed a podium today and could do well on this uphill sprint, like in Amstel Gold and Brabantjse Pijl. He needs to follow Sagan's wheel again and try to pounce late, he's short enough (no pun intended) at 6/1 but the 8/1 with Betway is interesting enough.
This is another trappy and difficult stage to try to guess - the break might make it, if it is strong enough, the peloton might let them go if they get a lead of 10 mins or more. I know they are huge long-shots, but at those prices, you never know, worth scattering a few tiny bets around. We might even see late attacks from the likes of Cancellara or Vanmarcke, seeing as it's such a long stage, they might attack when it gets lumpy in the last 50kms or so, like in the Tour of Flanders. And if it comes to a sprint, Sagan, Coquard are two likely lads, with Van Avermaet way over-priced at 40/1.
Sep Vanmarcke - 0.1pts each-way at 400/1 at PaddyPower
Greg Van Avermaet - the 66/1 is gone, but the 40/1 he is available at generally is about twice the price I think he should be. 0.2pts each-way. Peter Sagan - 2pts win at 7/2 at PaddyPower
Bryan Coquard - 0.5pts each-way at 8/1 at Betway
Sagan to beat Greipel, Coquard to beat Kristoff, Matthews to beat Degenkolb - 2pts at 2/1 at Bet365