Stage 11: Carcassonne – Montpellier
162.5km – Suited to sprinters
It was a fill up overnight for followers of The Wolf as Michael Matthews sprinted to victory on Stage 10, with Edvald Boasson Hagen finishing on the podium. That’s 3 wins from 10 stages so far in the Tour, with a number of podium finishes for the each way punters.
It was a masterclass of breakaway riding from the Orica BikeExchange team as they managed to get 3 riders, Matthews, Impey & Durbridge, into the early 14 man breakaway. The Wolf predicted that the breakaway group should consist of some good riders but what eventuated was a group that was made up of some of the best one day classics riders in the world, maybe with the exception of Alaphilippe & Gerrans. This meant that the breakaway was never going to be caught and once it had built up a lead of over 6 minutes on the peloton, the winner was always going to come from the breakaway.
Orica BikeExchange must have specifically targeted this stage for a win as the calibre of riders that got into the breakaway was very high. The 3 riders, Impey, Durbridge & Matthews, rode perfectly in trying to isolate Sagan as the race neared the finish. Durbridge & Impey were both very impressive in the way that they constantly attacked off the front of the group, leaving Sagan with little option but to respond. Once Matthews launched his attack for the finish line, he benefited from the work that Sagan had had to put in all day and powered to victory.
If Orica BikeExchange were the team of the day then the man of the day as undoubtedly Peter Sagan. The World Champion was fantastic all day, firstly being ultra aggressive on the first climb of the day, the Port d’Envalira, and then having the energy to force the decisive split in the breakaway group. He then did most of the hard work for the last 7km, covering all the Orica BikeExchange attacks and finished in 2nd place. The man is a genuine superstar in the world of cycling and rightly so. He took the Green jersey back from Cavendish thanks to the points accrued on the immediate sprint and given the parcours of the remainder of the race, he’ll won’t be giving it back.
It was a quiet day for the main GC contenders, as they took it easy in the peloton. All eyes will be on Mont Ventoux in a couple of days for the likes of Froome, Quintana & Porte.
On paper, today’s stage looks to be set up nicely for the main sprinters to battle out a bunch sprint, another day for the main GC contenders to take it easy and prepare the legs for the upcoming Alp stages. In reality, we could be in for a very interesting stage due to the famous Mistral wind. For novices of road cycling, one thing that the peloton dreads is strong crosswinds. If the wind is strong enough it has the ability to blow the peloton to pieces, leaving unlucky riders very isolated with no chance of catching back up if they are dropped. Back in 2005, the Astana team blew the race to pieces here and in 2013, the riders were so nervous that a breakaway didn’t form until over 100km had been covered. This sets the scene for what could be one of the fastest stages in Tour history as every team will want to ride at the front of peloton to minimise the risk of getting dropped, ruining the chance of any breakaway succeeding.
Riders that don’t have particularly strong teams will be extra nervous today as they could well lose the race on this type of stage and the likes of Quintana & Rodriguez will have to be extra vigilant.
The sprinters will be eyeing off the victory regardless of the conditions as this stage could be the last stage before Paris that they are able to contest a bunch sprint. The finish is flat and should be very fast, with the likes of Kittel, Cavendish & Greipel favourites for the win.
Kittel – $2.85
Joint favourite for the win with Cavendish, Kittel will be relishing the fast nature of this stage and the flat power finish. He has the backing of a strong team in Etixx-QuickStep, a team that have the ability to keep the German at the front of the group if the crosswinds threaten to split the peloton. He is at short odds but is favourite for the win.
Cavendish – $2.85
The Manx Missile is having a fantastic race with 3 stage victories so far. His team will be trying to keep him towards the front, however the loss of Mark Renshaw wo abandoned a couple of days ago is a huge loss to his chances of victory here. That being said, Cav has shown that he can use his vast experience to surf wheels in the final sprint and power to victory. He has suffered the most in the mountains so far, with his track training possibly hindering his ability to get up the climbs. It’ll be interesting to see how he pulls up today.
Greipel – $5.50
The Gorilla has had a race to forget so far. His performances in the sprint finishes have been very lacklustre, apart from the photo finish loss early in the race. Greipel will be hoping that the crosswinds are strong as his team are very strong in these type of conditions. In fact, on paper, he probably has the best team around him amongst the sprinters. If the race is fast and nervous, this could play into his hands and use his vast speed and power to go for the victory at decent odds.
Sagan – $12
The World Champion is having a fantastic race and he’ll be banking on echelons forming today. He is an expert at putting himself in the position to avoid getting dropped, regardless of who is controlling the peloton. If the crosswinds are strong enough and the main sprinters get dropped, he could spring a surprise and get the stage win.
Groenewegen – $29
The Wolf likes the young Dutch debutant. He has proven on previous stages that his is in top form and has the speed to challenge some of the bigger names in the race. His LottoNL-Jumbo team have some great riders for the crosswinds & as long as they can position Groenewegen well he has a fair chance to win the stage at big odds.
King Of The Mountains: Both Majka & Pinot are very short at $2.20 & $2.75 respectively and don’t represent much value given that a summit win by any of their rivals could easily wipe out any advantage that they currently hold. Tom Dumoulin is value at $12