The Tour de France starts tomorrow – naturally in Germany.
Kenyan/Brit Chris Froome has bagged 3 of the last 4, failing only after a cobbles-induced crash 3 years ago. He starts as the favourite again here, but his position is not as dominant as in previous years. His traditional warm-up in the Criterium du Dauphine lacked the authority of past both personally and with the Sky team, and he ended up fairly well held.
We can expect Froome to improve, but he doesn’t appeal at short odds. The course this year has less miles of individual time trial, and less of the monstrous gruelling multi-mountain stages where the strength-in-depth of the Sky and Movistar teams has controlled the racing. More short, sharp finishes are harder to control and there is more scope for surprise than in the past.
The bookies think Froome’s former-teammate Aussie Richie Porte is the main danger, and he did look good in the Dauphine. His talents match Froome’s and he has arguably been in better form – but that has been more than captured in the odds.
Nairo Quintana could find the steep climbs more suitable than the monster climbs of previous tours, but his time-trialling is always a weakness, and he needs to defy the impact of riding the Giro D’Italia, traditionally a huge drain on physical resources.
Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde both need to defy the years, and last year’s runner up Romain Bardet looks a more viable challenger.
If we are to see a surprise it could pay to look to the younger generation and some decent climbers. Whilst Bardet heads that list, both Dan Martin of Ireland and Louis Meintjes of South Africa could ride well above their odds. Meintjes is of particular interest having come a decent 8th here last year at just 24, and having performed with promise in the Dauphine. He looks a big price to gate-crash the podium.
The King of the Mountains has an open feel to it. There is a chance it could go to a main race contender if things get heated in the mountains, but the dominant recent trend has been for riders specifically targeting the polka dot jersey. Thibault Pinot has openly stated this is his target, whilst Pole Rafa Majka has won 2 of the last 3.
That said, there could be value in the form of Spain’s Ion Izagirra. He has ridden as a chief lieutenant to yellow jersey contenders in previous tours – always looking very capable in his own right, but sacrificing individual glory for team objectives. This year he gets to ride as a lead rider, and given that the yellow jersey is an unlikely goal, it could well be the polka dots that becomes his focus. At huge odds he is very worth an each way look.
We aren’t into taking 6/4 in a Tour de France, but that is the price of Movistar winning the team competition for a 3rd consecutive year, and certainly looks generously priced for those who like to play at the finer margins.
Louis Meintjes, Winner Tour de France, 0.5pts each way, 80/1 Bet365, Boylesports
Ion Izagirre, Winner King of the Mountains, 0.5pts each way, 80/1 Bet365, Betfair
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