So Stage 11 pretty much defined the Tour, with Sky exerting maximum pressure, cracking the challengers, and leaving Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome in an internal battle for yellow.
Today, the riders face a truly brutal stage 12 featuring three Hors Category climbs – the toughest graded ascents. The Madeleine for starters, the interminable Croix de Fer at midway, and the awesome and legendary Alpe D’Huez at the finish.
This is the stage all fans will have been waiting for. For the battle for Yellow it is hard to see any meaningful attacks on the day’s longest climbs when the infamous hairpins of the Alpe await at the finish. Those steep slopes packed with fans will probably see the Tour determined and on yesterday’s evidence it is hard to see past a surging Chris Froome, although we’ll be hoping to see Romain Bardet leap up the standings.
The stage win however looks less predictable. The all powerful Sky team will control the race for sure, but it is very much in their interests to let an early break go.
They will not want to expend early energy on the Madeleine where GC attacks are unlikely. That should be a peleton dawdle. They need to be sure they can up the tempo on the Croix de Fer and as far up the Alpe as possible to defend against later attack. Additionally, the lack of potential stage win can further dampen late attacks.
If it is to be a break then it could be a day for Rafal Majka whose hopes of Yellow have now gone, or a “released” domestique like Omar Fraile now that Fulgsang’s GC hopes are in tatters. However we can be certain of two names in the break.
Julian Alaphilippe will be trying to protect his King Of The Mountains lead, at least on the early climbs, whilst last year’s polka dot winner Warren Barguil will be looking to take it from him.
Barguil is the more proficient climber and is capable of going deeper in the stage. He’ll know a break could work, and he’ll know that aside from the prestige of Alpe D’Huez it also carries maximum mountain points, doubled for being a hilltop finish.
This is a big chance for glory and a huge stride to polka dot defence. He will be in the break, the break should stay away, and unless he finds a Majka or equivalent in the break then he should be the best climber on the toughest climbs.
He’s a massive price given the narrative and the best value stage bet yet in this Tour.
We’ll go win only, it’s all or nothing, but it’s encouraging to see Paddy Power and Betfair go each way to 4 places at last, which should tempt Fraile or Calmejane backers.
Recommendation: Warren Barguil to win Stage 12 of the Tour De France, 2pts win, 20/1 generally available
Please subscribe for latest tips and news, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook