Cycling’s greatest show is upon us as the 105th edition of the Tour de France gets underway on Saturday.
Chris Froome’s clearance to ride ended months of hearsay and the Brit looks hard to beat heading into what could be a classic Tour.
Froome to win Tour @ 6/4
Froome has found himself under the spotlight in recent months for his use of asthma medication, but the case has been closed and, even so, he only appears to have become more determined as demonstrated by winning the Giro d’Italia.
Balancing his form in pursuit of a record-equalling fifth Maillot Jaune will be crucial to ensure he peaks for the third week, with his rivals trying to exploit any weaknesses.
The onus at times could fall on the likes of Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels and Michal Kwiatkowski to protect him from attack, with Movistar the best placed to launch a collective offensive.
Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is expected to be their main man although Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde are also contenders, with all three likely to be used to pull the race apart at some point.
Such tactics could play into the hands of BMC’s in-form Richie Porte and AG2R-La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet although the late time-trial could stump the latter, while Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin is the world champion against the clock and could mount a late offensive.
Barguil for King of the Mountains @ 33/10
It is not all about the yellow as the Polka Dot jersey is also always exciting. Defending champion Warren Barguil leads the betting and his team Fortuneo-Samsic will want him to go on the attack to get some TV time.
Other serious contenders are Bora-Hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka, a two-time King of the Mountains winner, while the Movistar boys could also have a say.
LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic is also a contender, having won both in the Basque Country and Romandie this year, and showing his pedigree by winning Stage 17 to Serre Chevalier 12 months ago.
Sagan for Points Classification @ 4/9
Peter Sagan is back after his disqualification last year and will feel he has something to prove in the Points Classification.
The Slovak is a five-time winner of the Green Jersey and the opening week’s combination of sprints, rolling stages and cobbles look perfect for his strategy of competing in the finals before striking when opportunities arise.
Sunweb’s Michael Matthews took advantage of Sagan’s misfortune last year and with him likely to adopt a similar approach to the three-time world champion, both should outmanoeuvre the pure pacemen, many of whom are still to prove their consistency.
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