Stage 19: Albertville – Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
146km – Suited to climbers & a breakaway
Froome underlined his superiority with a dominant win in the time trial and effectively ended the race as a contest. The Wolf’s best bet paced himself perfectly across the course, winning by 21 seconds from Tom Dumoulin with Fabio Aru in 3rd place. The Wolf is now looking for a hat-trick of wins in tonight’s stage.
Team Sky have become the world’s leading team over the past 5 years, in particular with their race tactics. This was evident today as Froome started the stage slowly, he was 14 seconds down on Dumoulin after the first sector, but then ramped up his efforts and was flying on the climb and the latter part of the stage. This is in stark contrast to someone like Porte, an ex Team Sky member, who flew out of the gates and posted the fastest first sector time, only to fade towards to end. It is testament to the way Team Sky plan out the race in advance in meticulous detail. They may have the biggest budget in the race but they deliver results on a consistent basis.
For Dumoulin, he will look at the result as a success as he isn’t as strong on the climb as others. His main goal goal now is Olympic Gold and he will be favourite for the medal. As mentioned previously, the race is now over barring Froome suffering some form of catastrophe. What we do have though is two exciting stages to decide the podium places. There are 7 or 8 riders that will fancy their chances at a tilt on the podium and we should see some exciting moments over the next couple of days.
In any other year, today’s stage would be a highly dangerous affair for the Maillot Jaune holder with repeated attacks and constant pressure been applied in the hope that he’ll break. However, given the way in which this year’s race has panned out, today is an ideal stage for the breakaway to succeed yet again. Riders within the top ten seem happy enough to maintain their position rather than trying to push for glory, risking their overall race standing. This has left the GC battle very dull but in terms of betting and finding some value, it’s been fantastic!
The Wolf expects a large breakaway to form on the first climb of the day and as long as there are no GC contenders in the group, they should be allowed to ride unopposed for the stage win. Team Sky have no reason to put in a big shift at the front of the race, with the race almost sewn up and Froome claiming 2 stage wins, although they do have the team classification to fight for. The onus will be on teams like BMC, Astana & AG2R to set the tempo if they are to catch any breakaway group, however given Froome’s dominance they could end up losing the stage to him anyway so they may not see any point in chasing hard. Instead, each team will try to get at least one rider into the breakaway group for a chance at the stage win.
The stage itself, one of the shortest in the race, consists of 4 big climbs, one of which being a debut HC on the Montee de Bisanne. It’s uphill from the very start which should smash the peloton to pieces leaving 3 or 4 distinct groups spread thinly across the course. Only the strongest riders will make the breakaway, which will stand them in good stead for the remainder of the stage. Given how the race has panned out so far, The Wolf can see the winner coming from the break, leaving us with some value in the betting.
Zakarin – $7.50
The Russian was dominant in his win on Stage 17, should’ve won on Stage 15 and goes into this stage as a short priced 2nd favourite in the betting. Whilst he will almost certainly be in the breakaway, the amount of technical descents will not suit him. He went on a club ride in last night’s TT, which indicated that he is probably targeting this stage for another victory.
Rolland – $21
The race hasn’t seen a French stage winner yet and the next 2 stages represent good opportunitis to rectify that. Rolland is getting better as the race progresses and should be in the early breakaway as the start suits him well. He may not be as strong on the shorter, steeper climbs but he’ll be spurred on by his good TT performance and stands a chance.
Nibali – $21
Astana have a good chance to control today’s race and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Giro d’Italia winner in the breakaway. Nibali has indicated that he is targeting a stage win despite being in the race to support Aru and enjoys a certain amount of freedom within the team. With the race gone, Aru doesn’t really need Nibali by his side and today could see him riding for the stage win.
Barguil – $34
Another of the French contingent, Barguil was the pre-race favourite to take out the White jersey classification. He has never quite looked at his best and was also involved in a heavy crash, however he’ll should be targeting today for a stage win as the parcours suits him well. If he can make the break and stay competitive on the early climbs, he’ll be hard to beat.
Nieve – $101
Jealousy is a vicious beast and Team Sky definitely suffer from the public perception that they are strangling the race. It’s a little bit of a long shot, but if the team want to show that they have more to offer than the ‘Death Star’ train, they could look to put a rider in the break. With Froome needing the support of Poels, Thomas & Henao by his side, this could leave Nieve free to chase his own success today at big odds.