Tour De France preview by Roy The Boy
Tour de France or Tour de Froome?
The 2018 Tour de France will get underway on Saturday 7th July. A total of 176 riders from 22 teams will participate in the 21-stage race which will finish, as usual, on Paris’ Champs-Élysées in Paris, on the 29th July.
New rules introduced by the sport’s governing body, the UCI, means teams now consist of eight riders instead of the traditional nine. So any team that loses just one or two of its soldiers during the race is sure to be severely effected.
And the biggest news is Chris Froome’s clearance to participate in the 2,069 mile marathon and attempt to win ‘Le Tour’ for a fifth time. An abnormal test reading for an asthma drug – taken in last August’s Tour of Spain – had seen the Brit under a cloud of suspicion throughout the year but days before the big race the UCI announced it had closed its case against him.
Froome has been allowed to compete in the interim and his form has been excellent. He landed the 2,220 mile Giro d’Italia in May by 46sec with nearly five minutes back to the third placed finisher. It was an incredible ride as he looked a beaten man for the first two weeks of the race and had drifted out to 16/1 but two breath-taking rides in mountainous terrain saw him claim the title.
The Team SKY rider has also seen his odds for the Tour de France see-saw in recent months. While seemingly struggling in the Giro he went out to 8/1 for the Tour de France and just a week before the French classic he slid out again (to 6/1 this time) due to false newspaper reports of an immediate ban.
Chris Froome is set to go off top-priced 7/4 (Paddy Power and Betfred) for the Tour which could be a bargain given he has won this race for the past three years. He also landed it in 2013 and would have taken it in 2012 if not presenting the race to teammate Bradley Wiggins. But then there was 2014 when Froome crashed numerous times and was forced to retire with hand and wrist fractures.
7/4 is certainly a fair price but those that bet big will have their heart in their mouth for three full weeks and there are some viable alternatives where handsome rewards can be gained for smaller stakes.
Getting the value
With each-way terms of ¼ odds places 1-2-3 an each-way play on Columbian Nairo Quintana at Boylesport's 10/1 makes a lot of sense. The 28-year-old has contested the Tour de France four times and has claimed three podium finishes.
Last year he may have only finished twelfth but he did contest the Giro d’Italia earlier in the season (finishing second) and winning both races in the same season has not been achieved since 1998. Chris Froome supporters take note, he has to buck a serious trend to claim this year’s Tour de France.
If the Jersey fits
Of course there is more than one race within the Tour de France. Coloured jerseys are awarded the ‘points winner’ (green jersey), ‘king of the mountains’ (polka dot jersey) and ‘youth’ (white jersey).
We have a strong fancy in the ‘young rider’ classification in the shape of second favourite Pierre-Roger Latour. French cycling hacks are raving about Latour who they consider to be their next superstar. He is only 24 and won a stage of 2016’s Vuelta a Espana (a three-week Grand Tour AKA the Tour of Spain). It was not any old stage either, it was stage 20 which was exceptionally long and mountainous.
This year he has won the ‘young rider’ classification in the Critérium du Dauphiné (where he finished seventh overall) and Volta a Catalunya (third overall).
Sagan in Green
Peter Sagan was sent home from last year’s Tour de France for getting his elbows out in a sprint finish. On that basis backing him at 4/9 for the ‘green jersey’ (points classification) looks fraught with danger but the three-time World Race Champion from Slovakia is a machine on a bike.
He has won this jersey in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and baring disqualification or injury it looks inevitable he will claim it again this year.
Race winner: Nairo Quintana (each way) 10/1 Boylesports
White Jersey: Pierre-Roger Latour 10/3 Coral
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan 1/2 William Hill