Tour de France Picks and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 7/10/2014
The Tour de France had a unique setup this year. With no team time trial, and no individual time trial until the second last day, combined with four reasonably easy days to start of the tour, we really hadn't seen the start of the race until stage 5. It was like the first four days were a preseason.
We knew that things were going to get interesting in stage 5 because the riders would be crossing nine sections of cobblestones - a massive challenge for riders, and a dangerous proposition for the peloton. Many riders, including co-favorite and defending champion Chris Froome, were dreading the stage. Little did we know, though, just how much chaos the stage would cause. The weather was lousy - very wet. That added an extra complication, and it blew the whole race up. Froome, who had crashed once the day before, crashed twice more and dropped out of the race. Alberto Contador, the other favorite, really struggled and is now far behind the leaders. Vincenzo Nibali, who had a scant two-second lead heading into the stage, took a very aggressive approach to the stage, finished just behind the winner, and now has a massive cushion on his biggest rivals. It's like a whole new race all of a sudden.
The good thing about betting on this race is that futures odds are available throughout. There was no good reason to bet on the race before the craziness of stage 5, so it made more sense to let things play out a bit first. Here, then, is a look at the race as it sits now with some Tour de France betting picks (odds to win the race are from Bovada):
Vincenzo Nibali (1/1): It's amazing how quickly things change. Before the fifth stage he was the third choice to win the race at 8/1, and now he is the clear favorite. He deserves it, too. After a season that had largely been underwhelming, he clearly is feeling ready to assert himself here. He has won both the Giro and the Vuelta, and he was third in the Tour in 2012, so he is obviously a grand tour rider. He won his national road race championship just a week before the Tour started, so he is in form. His biggest concern has to be the individual time trial - in 2012 he gave up more than two minutes to Bradley Wiggins in that stage. He is a solid climber, though, and he has the advantage of time on his side. If he can stay upright, ride smart, and maintain his form, then he can make things interesting. The odds feel more than just a little low in my eyes, though.
Alberto Contador (11/8): I'm pretty sure that there isn't an athlete on the planet that I like less than Contador. Everything about him rubs me the wrong way. Watching him struggle, then, made for a great morning. The problem, though, is that though in trouble he is far from out of it. He is an exceptional and aggressive climber, and he will be comfortable with the risks he will have to take in the mountains to gain ground. He is also a very good time trialist, so if he can stay close to Nibali he can make up real time there. He hasn't won a grand tour in two years, though, and was a very disappointing and flat fourth last year. Still, it is a clear sign of how strong he is that he was a 5/4 co-favorite before this stage, and that only rose to 11/8 despite his lousy day. It would, sadly, be a big mistake to overlook him.
Richie Porte (11/1): Aside from Nibali, Porte was the biggest beneficiary of the brutal fifth stage. He came into the stage as an afterthought on Team Sky - the squad that has won the last two tours. With the injury to Froome, though, Porte is now the man in charge. He had a strong ride and sits eighth overall - though almost two minutes behind Nibali. He hasn't had a lot of major wins, but as the third-stringer on the Sky team his chances have been few. Now he is in charge, albeit with a team that is depleted supporting him. I don't think he can do enough to win it, but he will be a factor - and could certainly wind up on the podium.
Alejandro Valverde (16/1): Maybe a longer shot will be interesting for you. Movistar finished second in the Tour last year with Nairo Quintana. Quintana focused on, and won, the Giro d'Italia this year, so now Valverde gets to be the main man for Movistar. They are a smart and talented team, and Valverde is an accomplished grand tour rider - he has a Vuelta title to his credit. He has had a very good season this year and won the Spanish time trial championship this year to show he won't be left behind in that key stage. He is in the Top 10, so he is in striking distance. I like his chances a fair bit more than Porte, so at least in relative terms the price is attractive.
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