Stage 17: Berne – Finhaut Emosson
184km – Suited to climbers & breakaway
For the third time in the race, Stage 16 saw a photo finish between The Wolf’s best bet, Marcel Kittel & the green jersey holder, Peter Sagan. Sagan won the stage by millimetres after pushing his bike as far forward across the line as possible, leaving Kristoff celebrating in vain.
The stage itself was an exciting race, set at a fast pace, with Tony Martin & Julian Alaphilippe pulling away from the peloton at the 10km mark and riding alone for the next 166km, only being caught with around 30km left to race. This left all the main sprinters, puncheurs & one day classics riders at the front, battling it out for the win. Sagan used his incredible bike handling skills to eke out a very slight edge on Kristoff, who in truth should’ve won the stage. A special mention has to go out to the young Norwegian, Sondre Holst Enger who finished 3rd. The Wolf has tipped him a few times this tour and he has a very bright future if this race is anything to go by.
There was no change to the GC, however Sagan has pretty much sewn up the Green jersey and in some sad news, Mark Cavendish has withdrawn to concentrate on his Olympic dream. It’s disappointing that we won’t see him in Paris battling for the win, but he has had a fantastic race, probably his best since 2011 and has been very profitable for the Wolf. Good luck to him in the Olympics!
The race kicks back up after the rest day with the first in a 4 day block of really tough Alp stages. If Chris Froome is to win his 3rd title then then next 4 days will test him to the fullest, especially given that his track record in the 3rd week of Grand Tours is not the best.
The first 100km of the stage is a gradual climb of around 1000m, before the riders dip into the valley and then face a brutal finish with a Category 1 climb up first, before a HC summit finish at the Finhaut-Emosson. Coming off the back of the rest day, the finish should surprise a lot of the peloton in how difficult it is and we will see a very strung out race with only the strongest surviving.
The Wolf is predicting that the breakaway will be successful today and that means we should see some huge value in the betting. Whilst Chris Froome is favourite in the betting, there is no need for Team Sky to expend too much energy today, given there are another 3 hard days of riding to come, including tomorrows uphill time trial. We should see a large breakaway form across the flat section, a group that’ll hopefully contain some talented riders that can push the pace of the race. There is a chance that the GC contenders will want to fight for the stage win but as previously mentioned, they will not want to expend too much energy in doing so. The two final climbs were actually used in a Dauphine stage back in 2014, a stage won by Contador in a breakaway as he put time into Froome that day.
Froome – $3.60
The Wolf expects the breakaway to succeed today but if it doesn’t, Chris Froome has to be favourite for the win. He hasn’t shown any signs of weakness up to this point in the race, actually looking stronger than ever. His team look pretty much invincible and have punished Froome’s main rivals with their incessant pace in the race. If the race comes together towards the final two climbs, he’ll be hard to beat
Zakarin – $17
The Russian was really unlucky on Sunday, losing contact with the breakaway group on a descent after losing a contact lens. He is strong on the flat, which will be vital if he is to get into the breakaway, and he has shown that he is climbing well. Today is an ideal day for him to attack, especially given that he is also preparing for the Olympics road race.
Nibali – $51
The Italian is in the race to support his teammate and team leader, Fabio Aru. Up to this point in the race, The Wolf hasn’t seen much support from him and given the dislike between the two, there is no reason why Nibali won’t be targeting the stage win here. He might not be at his best but he certainly has the pedigree and also enjoys a fair amount of freedom within the Astana team. He could easily win this stage at big odds.
Kelderman – $101
The Dutchman finished 12th on stage 7 in the 2014 Dauphine, in a similar style of race. He came into the Tour seeking out stage wins and has been unlucky so far, suffering a heavy crash early on & sustaining a few injuries. His performance on Monday indicates that he is coming into some form and he should be targeting the breakaway to set up an attack.
Anacona – $151
With Movistar leading the team classification, Anacona could be a key rider sent up front in the breakaway to ensure that that lead is maintained. His prioer performances in the final week of races have been good and he is riding well in this race. His Strava activity shows that he has recon-ed these climbs and he could well be targeting today for the win at huge odds.
Durasek – $201
The Croat had a huge 2015, winning the Tour of Turkey and also taking a stage in the Tour de Suisse. He is a proven climber and if he makes it into the breakaway he could easily open up a gap on the final climbs and ride for stage glory.