Stage 19: Embrun to Salon-de-Provence (222.5km)
With the mountains in the distance and only 3 stages left in this years Tour de France, Chris Froome looks likely to take his 3rd consecutive Maillot Jaune and his 4th overall. Try as AG2R did overnight, they couldn’t break either Froome or his Sky teammates and given the defending champion is clearly not at the level he has been at in recent years, this victory will taste ever so sweeter. He’ll be buying the champagne for the likes of Rowe, Knees, Kiry, Kwiatkowski & Landa over the next few weeks as without them to guide him through the race, he’d probably be sitting outside the top 10.
Stage 18 saw yet another breakaway group caught before the finish as AG2R set a huge pace before the climb of the Col d’Izoard and it has been a running theme in 2017 for the breakaway to not quite make it to the finish line. Atapuma was caught and past by the KOM winner, Warren Barguil, who took his second stage win of the race and cemented his position as the best climber in the race.
Another case of breakaway versus the peloton on one of the longest stages of the tour at 222.5km. The parcours is rolling with lots of lumps and bumps for the first 177km, including 3 CAT 3 climbs before the road levels out for the last 30kms. The break should from somewhere around the first couple of CAT 2 climbs and will then build up a decent advantage along the rolling roads up to the Intermediate Sprint point. So what chance doe the break have at staying away? Well, given the previous two days of racing, the GC teams will be looking for an easy day in the saddle, in preparation for the ITT on Saturday and The Wolf cannot see them chasing it down. Of the sprint teams, Sunweb shouldn’t chase as they now have the Green jersey sewn up and deserve a well earned rest, leaving probably only Lotto Soudal & Dimension Data wanting to chase. At some point during this race, the break has to win and tonight will be the night. Crosswinds could cause havoc on the final section of the stage s the GC boys will need to be wary of their position in the peloton as any mistake could be catastrpohic to their final position in the standings.
Greg Van Avermaet – $15
Without a win in the race so far, BMC will be keen to animate this stage with strong classics riders and there is none better than GVA. The Belgian classics specialist has 3 top 5 finishes in the race so far and given his lack of activity on the Alp stage, he looks to have been saving his legs for an attempt to snatch a win on tonights stage. The parcours looks like a classics dream and if he can re-capture some of his early season form & get into the break, he’ll be extremely hard to beat on the final sprint.
Oliver Naesen – $61
Like GVA, Naesen is a classic specialist that has been marshalling Bardet along the flatter sections of the race so far. Now that Bardet’s position is relatively secure, Naesen might be allowed off the lease in search of a stage win for AG2R. The French team are after the Team Classification and need to put at least 3 riders into the morning break group and the Belgian champion would be a very strong option at decent odds. Also look to Bakelants to get into the break for AG2R.
Jack Bauer – $101
Quick Step hunt stage wins, it’s just what they do, ask Marcel Kittel. They will be extremely keen to get a couple of options in tonight’s break and Bauer should be looking to be one of those options. The Kiwi has worked tirelessly over the past few weeks for both Kittel & Martin, even staying with the best on the slopes, which shows that the form is there. Now that Kittel has abandoned and Martin has a secure top 10 finish, Bauer is a great each way bet for this stage. Also look to Stybar as another break rider for Quick Step.