What’s the stage like?
In a year in which the route gives very little for sprinters to savour, organisers have been keen to give the fast men the chance to claim the Yellow Jersey on the opening stage.
Starting from Nice, though, which is surrounded by mountains, makes an out-and-out flat stage difficult to arrange. We are left, then, with a Tour de France route oddity: a three-loop course heading out to the north and back again, crossing the seafront finish-line three times. The third loop is longer than the first two, but in a year which emphasises shorter stages, this is no different: a mere 156km.
Despite organiser’s best efforts, however, there is still some ascending to be done, with two Category 3 climbs. The last 30km is flat, though, so sprint teams should be able to keep tabs on any breakaway, ensuring a bunch finish on the wide, straight, Promenade des Anglais.
Who are the favourites?
Caleb Ewan ([3.60]) delivered on his early-career promise to become the best sprinter in the world last season, winning three stages at last year’s Tour, and has shown solid post-lockdown form marginally better than second-favourite for the stage, Sam Bennett ([4.10]).
Of the two at the odds, Ewan is the best bet, and given the absence from the race of the likes of Groenewegen, Gaviria and Demare, he’s the most-likely winner.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Some are promoting Thomas De Gendt – our tip for the Polka-dot Jersey – as a possible stage winner at around [50.00], but this doesn’t look hard enough for a breakaway win in his style.
A better prospect instead comes from within the depleted sprinting ranks. Giacomo Nizzolo has looked lacking against the best in recent seasons, but his win this week in the European Continental Championships was impressive, and at around [13.00] he’s the recommended value bet.
If the sprint teams are unable to keep their hopes in contention on the climbs, then there is a chance we will see an early tussle between Peter Sagan ([14.00]) and Wout Van Aert ([12.00]) at the finish. It’s unlikely, though.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
Not much. We might find out more about who is interested in the Mountains Classification, and Peter Sagan will presumably stake a strong early claim to the Green Jersey by placing highly in the intermediate and final sprint.
*Odds correct at the time of writing