What’s the stage like?
Unusual. The longest stage in this year’s Tour at a whopping 249km, it is largely flat for the first two-thirds. Then something nasty happens: five categorised climbs come one after the other, with various other uncategorised climbs to make the finish especially tough.
Of most interest is the race’s first Category Two climb, the Signal d’Uchon, coming 18km from the end. On the face of it, it’s hard to see why this new climb gets such a billing: it’s a mere 5.7km at 5.7%. Then you realise there’s a descent midway through it, before it ramps-up to gradients approaching 18%.
Any breakaway getting over the top of that climb first (where bonus seconds are on offer) will be confident of holding an advantage to the finish, but expect the puncheur teams to make sure any such breakaway is under control before then, allowing their guy to catapult themselves forward in a late attack.
Who are the favourites?
Given what he did on Stage 2, it’s hard to look beyond Mathieu van der Poel at around 8.4015/2. He has shown himself the best rider on these kinds of stages in the last few seasons and demonstrated at the Tour de Suisse that he can even handle it when it is this tough.
His most obvious challenge will come from Julian Alaphilippe (14.0013/1), who will know that – like he did on Stage 1 – the only way to beat van der Poel is to attack hard and early, turning it into more of an endurance contest. The challenge for Alaphilippe is that he will have to have distanced van der Poel by the time they reach the flat finish, as he would lose a head-to-head sprint.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
It’s hard to mention the market leaders without then adding Wout Van Aert (16.0015/1) to the list, but as I argued on Stage 6, there’s just a sense that he is short of his best form. If he can stay with a leading group to the finish, though, he would likely be the best sprinter left.
The odds on those three look generous, probably because the market predicts that a breakaway has a bigger chance than they likely do. Dutching van der Poel and Alaphilippe seems the way to go. Or should that be Frenching?
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Van der Poel will be hopeful of maintaining his grip on the Yellow Jersey as the race enters the Alps on Saturday, and presumably Tadej Pogacar will have little interest in attempting to wrestle it from him just yet. He’ll face plenty of attacks in the mountains from those rivals who need to somehow take time from him as it is, without a yellow target on his back.
*Odds correct at the time of writing