Before sharing our sports picks for the 2015 Tour de France, we review the betting odds on offer for top contenders including Van Garderen, Froome, Quintana, Contador, Nibali and Pinot.
2015 Tour de France Betting Market
There hasn’t been a line-up like it in many a year – I can’t recall where there have been four or more riders who could all win the Tour who have arrived at the start line together. Usually, there are just one or two guys who are head and shoulders above everyone else and they are clear favorites with lots of longer price opportunities below them. This year, we have four guys who make up 93% probability of winning the race, with the ‘outsider’ of the four just a 6/1 shot.
And it’s not just the Fab Four either, there are a number of other very capable riders waiting in the wings for their opportunity. Last year for example, Vincenzo Nibali was 16/1 to win, runner-up Jean-Cristophe Peraud was 150/1 and 3rd place man, Thibaut Pinot was 200/1 (I’ll not forget that as I had backed him each way at that price!). The race is notoriously difficult and anything can happen. It’s not just the distance covered and the altitude scaled that can decide the outcome of the race, but everything from punctures, crashes, splits from cross-winds, sickness and over-enthusiastic fans could put an end to your race.
Last year, the two big pre-race favorites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador crashed out of the race, Froome as early as the 5th stage after crashing twice on the same stage (and once in a previous stage) and Contador crashed out on stage 8 on a descent. He broke his leg but still got up on his bike and rode another 10kms before finally getting off and in to the car. Let’s hope that no such bad fortune befalls any of the favorites this year and we get a battle royale over the last 3 mountain stages.
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Chris Froome ( 2/1 at JustBet)
Chris Froome is just about shading favoritism, his price shortening in to around 7/4 after an impressive conclusion to his final prep race at the Critérium du Dauphiné at the second week in June. Second to his team leader, Bradley Wiggins, in 2012, when he was clearly the stronger of the two but had to obey team orders. Winner in 2013 when given the leader’s role and runner-up twice in the Tour of Spain, Froome knows how to ride a Grand Tour. He has one of the strongest squads in the race, ably assisted by Richie Porte, Peter Kennaugh and Sergio Hennao and he is one of the best climbers in the world. He’d have liked to have had a long individual time trial too, but he won’t be too disappointed as they have the Team Time Trial on stage 10 that they should do well in.
Froome can suffer like few others in the peloton and will sit on his team-mates wheels as they put everyone else to the sword, riding a furious tempo for mile after mile on the very steep climbs. Then when everyone is on the limit, he pulls out and attacks at a devastating pace, a pace that few can handle, as we saw in the Dauphiné. If Froome has come on a level again since the Dauphiné, following his recon rides in the Pyrenées with his team-mates, then the rest better watch out – he is going to be very hard to beat.
Negatives? He is a nervous and accident-prone rider who will not enjoy the opening week with its narrow roads, street furniture, cross-winds, nervous and excitable riders and of course the dreaded cobbles on stage 4. It is possible that he suffers a race-ending accident, but let’s hope he gets through it ok so we can see a true battle in the Pyrennées and the Alps. Also, he seemed a little more one-paced this year when he did his attacks, he didn’t seem to be able to sustain them for as long as in the past. It was enough to win him the race though.
Nairo Quintana ( 51/20 at 5Dimes)
Nairo Quintana carries the hopes of a cycling mad nation, he is bidding to be the first Colombian, in fact the first South American, to win the Tour de France. Runner-up in his first TDF at just 23 years of age (behind Froome) and winner of the 2014 Giro d’Italia, he is probably the most gifted climber in the race. Stoic, quietly spoken, but very smart – Quintana just glides up climbs, making the others look pretty ordinary.
This year he followed a similar pattern to his build-up with the addition of a couple of cobbled races to prepare ahead of stage 4 in the TDF15. He won Tirreno-Adriatico with a power-packed attack on the climb to Terminillo, with Contador and Nibali behind him. He then rode ok, but not great in the Tour of Romandie, before heading back to Colombia for nearly 6 weeks to prepare at altitude. On coming back he rode in the Route du Sud, and although he lost the decisive stage and the overall victory to Contador, Quintana looked far more impressive to me on the climbs and it looks to me like he has come back to Europe in great shape.
He’ll have to get through the first week, like the rest of them, but he seems to be a pretty skilled bike-handler and should do ok. He has a strong team of climbers with him and he will love the final week of this race where he should be fresher than the likes of Contador who had a hard Giro. He looks the likely winner of the Young Riders jersey, possibly the King of the Mountains jersey, and at 11/4 he is far more interesting to me than Froome to win the overall also.
Alberto Contador ( 9/2 from WagerWeb)
Alberto Contador broke his leg in this race last year and went on to win the Tour of Spain just six weeks later. Winner of the Tour de France in ’07 and ’09 (and ’10 but was stripped from him), winner of the Giro d’Italia in ’15 and ’08 (and ’11 but was stripped from him) and winner of the Tour of Spain in ’14, ’12 and ’08, ‘El Pistolero’ knows how to win Grand Tours.
He warmed up for this with victory in the Route du Sud in France last week, when he beat rival Nairo Quintana, and just before that, he of course won the Giro d’Italia in fine style, despite not winning a stage. A world-class climber and a master tactician, he has a pretty good squad to look after him over the three weeks of the race. He too will be dreading the first week, but should hopefully be able to come out the other end of it in ok shape.
Contador is trading around the 4/1 mark and to some that will look like a good bet, but I’m not so sure. I think he could start to feel the effects of a hard Giro towards the end of the third week. He ‘cracked’ a little on the final climbing stage of the Giro and lost some time to his rivals, and in the Route du Sud, although he won the decisive stage from Quintana, he looked the most uncomfortable of the two. It was on the downhill descent that he pulled out his advantage as Quintana didn’t want to take as many risks. I think he will be well up there, but not win it, and at that price there’s no point in backing him each way and exposing ourselves to the dangers of a crash on the cobbles etc.
Vincenzo Nibali ( 6/1 from Heritage Sports)
Vincenzo Nibali is being offered at 6/1, the biggest price of the four favorites, a bit disrespectful to the reigning champion. But I have to go along with the pricing of him as 4th best, he hasn’t done enough for me this year to justify him being any shorter. He rode a great race last year, starting it brilliantly with a surprise win on the second stage to Sheffield, then rode superbly over the cobbles to steal time on his rivals on stage 5 and once Froome and Contador were out of the race he took control and never really looked in trouble.
He looked very strong in the mountains, but of course it’s hard to say how he’d have gone if Froome, Contador or even Quintana were in that race (he had skipped it to do the Giro instead) but the record books show a comfortable enough victory.
He hasn’t done anything this year though to suggest he is going to be able to produce a performance to beat the other three above. A pretty average performance in Tirreno-Adriatico was followed by another mediocre result in Romandie, and then he went to the Dauphiné where on the first mountain stage, on the final climb to Pra-Loup, he just pulled out of the lead group and almost came to a stop and rolled home a minute behind the rest. There may have been an element of mind games, such was the dramatic way it was done, because the next day he went on a day long attack that almost landed him a stage victory. It was a far better performance, but still a long way off what’s required to win this race against this opposition at the peak of their fitness.
Having said that though, Nibali has a very deliberate and structured preparation plan and it worked perfectly for him last year. He may be coming right at just the right time again and he has a squad with him that could be very strong. On paper they don’t look the best squad here, but you could say that about the Astana team that tore the Giro to pieces. I think he’ll have a battle to just get on the podium though.
There are 198 riders in the race and although most commentators, and the bookies prices, seem to think only four men can win this race, there are some top quality riders sitting just below them in the betting that might cause a surprise. Thibaut Pinot and Tejay Van Garderen probably don’t mind in a sense to be classed as outsiders, it’s taking a little bit of the attention and pressure off them.
Thibaut Pinot ( 33/1 at 5Dimes)
Thibaut Pinot is maturing in to a top quality Grand Tour rider, something that he suggested might be the case when he finished 20th in the Dauphiné when he was just 20 in 2010, taking a 3rd place on a hard stage to Grenoble on the way. Since then he has just got better and better. In 2012 he finished 10th in the Tour at just 22 years of age, winning a brilliant stage where he beat a select group including Evans, Nibali, Froome and Wiggins by 26”. He didn’t finish the Tour in 2013 but finished a superb 7th in the Tour of Spain, further highlighting his abilities on all sorts of courses. And then of course last year he produced the performance of his life to finish 3rd in the Tour, with two 2nds, a 4th and two 5th places in stages along the way.
This year has been pretty good for him so far, he has been getting better as the season has approached the Tour and his performance in the Tour de Suisse was good, taking a fantastic stage win and leading the GC going in to the last time trial stage. Unfortunately, he’s not the best against the clock and he eventually finished 4th. Luckily for him, there aren’t a lot of time trial miles in this year’s TDF, but his team are poor in TTTs and he will lose time to all his rivals here. It’s going to be very hard for him to beat the four top favorites, but he’s capable of a top 6 finish, and maybe a stage win along the way.
Tejay Van Garderen (+75/1 at 5Dimes)
Finally for now, a word about the great American hope, Tejay Van Garderen. My top sports pick for the Critérium du Dauphiné this year at 10/1, he led it right up until the last 2kms of the race when Froome left him behind. Ever since he had to wait for Cadel Evans in the Tour in 2012, Van Garderen has been moving up the ranks as a GC rider with some good wins in the USA Pro Challenge and the Tour of California. He has finished 5th twice in the Tour de France, notably last year when on reflection you’d think he really should have done better with no Froome or Contador, but he knows himself it didn’t go as smooth as he’d have liked, he got a hunger knock on one stage which cost him a lot of time.
He is definitely looking more mature this year, his stage win in Catalunya was shrewd and well taken, leaving Porte and Contador behind him. His performance in the Dauphiné was far more mature from him too, he had a tendency in the past to go too hard too soon and blow up on the climbs when trying to chase. This year he paced himself and rode a very steady tempo back up to Froome, keeping control of the situation very well. It was only on the last day that he finally cracked, but there were only a handful of seconds in it.
TVG has probably the best team for the Team Time Trial with him and will gain 30” plus on some of his rivals in that stage and should go well in the opening prologue also. Being the 5th or even 6th man might also give him the advantage of not being watched as closely and he could get away on a stage or two. He has a team that should look after him well in the opening week, with a number of Classics men like Van Avermaet and Quinziato. He could be the dark horse in this field and offers a small bit of value at betting odds of 33/1.
Outsiders to Consider
There are a number of other riders who will be sitting just below these guys, who could, if things don’t exactly go to script, cause an upset. Joaquim Rodriguez (55/1 from 5Dimes) is a brilliant Grand Tour rider who has finished on the podium of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, and has won multiple stages in Grand Tours along the way. He’ll have to really step it up to reach podium this year though. Alejandro Valverde and Richie Porte are similar in that they are both high quality riders but will be playing support in their teams to their leaders Nairo Quitana and Chris Froome respectively. Valverde could go very well in the first week and could take a few stages on the ‘Murs’ (he won Fleche-Wallone on the Mur du Huy’ this year) but I don’t think he’ll be good enough to challenge for the GC. Richie Porte (135/1 at 5Dimes) is an interesting one though - one of the favorites to win the Giro d’Italia after a brilliant start to the year he was looking in good shape until a crash ended his race. He was support to Froome last year but I backed him at 66/1 in case anything happened to Froome, as he would assume leadership of the team. As it turned out Froome crashed out, Porte was in 2nd place and traded to around 5/2. Then he got sick and his race challenge faded away unfortunately. He is as big as 135/1 this year again as everyone expects Froome to do well, but at 135/1 he could be an outsider that could go well at a big price, should anything happen to Froome.
2015 Tour de France Betting Verdict
In sum, it should be a brilliant and fascinating Tour but one that’s almost impossible to pick a winner from. I have a feeling though that we will see the emergence of a superstar this year in Nairo Quintana, who is capable of riding away from the entire field and on to victory. Froome should chase him home but there’s a real battle on for 4th place between Contador, Nibali, Van Garderen and Pinot. But watch out for Porte at a big price, should anything happen to Froome.
Tour de France Betting Recommendations:
2pts win on Nairo Quintana at 11/4
0.5pts each way on Tejay Van Garderen at 33/1
0.25pts each way on Richie Porte at 80/1
Full previews and Tour de France betting guides will follow in the coming weeks. Check back for our predictions on the outright winner, Green Jersey winner, King of the Mountains winner and more from the experts at cyclingbetting.co.uk.