It is the 99th edition of the Tour this year with 21 stages covering 3,497 kilometres. It consists this year of 9 flat stages, 4 medium mountain stages, 5 high mountain stages and 2 ITT stages. This year’s Tour will start in Belgium and run South through the Juras and the Alps, before crossing over to the Pyrenees. It finishes with its customary finish down the famous Champs-Élysées.
Overall it is a very disappointing route with only three mountain top finishes and none of these are HC climbs, which is the most difficult of climbs. We have over 100 kms of TT, which is effectively going to decide this Tour. What the organisers were thinking I’ll never know. We also have to do without the two main men Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck who are not participating for various reasons. On the face of it, it doesn’t look too appealing, but hopefully I will be proven wrong.
I’m going to look at it from a betting perspective from here and see can we come up with a few winners. It looks like a two-horse race this year between Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins, but you never know.
Last year’s Tour de France winner and second favourite for the crown this time round. Evans has had a fairly quiet year so far, as he always tries to get himself right for the Tour. In his prep race, the Dauphine, he finished 3rd overall and won the first stage. He also pulled away from Wiggins on a few climbs only taking a few seconds, but it showed that he was in excellent form. He did lose 1 min 43 sec to Wiggins in the TT and this is time he will need to get back in the mountains. We should see Evans attacking early in the mountains as he is an excellent descender and he will be looking to put time into Wiggins, who is a poor descender.
Evans has proven he can win a Tour with his BMC team and this will stand to him well. Luck plays a big part and we have seen many a favourite crash out over the years. Evans and his team are proven in this department. Evans is 3.25 on betfair which is about fair. He has done it before which is a massive plus and I think he will do it again.
I never thought I’d see the day that Bradley Wiggins would be favourite for a Tour de France. He deserves some credit for improving his climbing immensely and being able to hang in there with the big boys. Let no one be mistaken, if the Tour organisers hadn’t decided to add on 40 more kms TT and only have three mountain top finishes and none of them HC climbs, Wiggins wouldn’t be anywhere near favourite. He couldn’t ask for a better route and he will have at least a 2 min advantage over everyone else with the TT. Can Wiggins win the Tour? Indeed he can. Will he win it? I have my doubts.
Everything looks in his favour but the big question is can he see out the full 3 weeks. Wiggins is well known to have at least one bad day in the mountains where he loses time, Anglira in the Tour of Spain 2011 and Mount Ventoux in the Tour 2009 come to mind. He has also put in dismal performances in Grand Tours, 40th in the Giro 2011 and 24th in the Tour 2011. He has yet to last out a 3 week Tour. He has had super form in the one week Tours this year, but there is a huge difference between that and 3 week Tours.
One massive thing in his favour is the super team he has. Froome, Porte and Rogers are all brilliant climbers. They should be able to keep the tempo high on climbs to stop anyone attacking. They could be the winning or losing of it for him. He is priced up at 2.54 on Betfair and to be honest I wouldn’t touch it. I do think there is more value in Evans.
The 4th favourite for the Tour on Betfair @ 27. Menchov has 3 grand Tours to his name the last one coming in 2009. In my opinion he is so far up in the betting only because of his excellent TT. Menchov is not the climber he once was, his explosiveness is gone, so I can’t see him doing much in this Tour. His form is not great either and he has done nothing of note this year. He can TT very well so he could well be up there after the first 10 days but I just can’t see him lasting out the full 3 weeks, so I would be staying away from him with regard to a betting perspective.
The 3rd favourite at 23s on Betfair. Nibali has had a good start to the year, 2nd in Oman and won the Tirenno-Adriatico. He has also done well in the classics. He is a fairly good TT which as we know is imperative in this Tour. He is a great descender as well and is an explosive attacker. He seems to have everything to win this; his major weakness again, is that he is prone to a bad day, where he can lose a lot of time. If he can fix this he has a great chance of a podium and that price is not too bad at all.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck
He looks to be coming into this Tour in great shape. He has improved his TT considerably and was climbing very well in the Dauphine, where he finished 5th. He will be another who will attack in the mountains; he has a 4th overall from the Tour in 2010 which bodes well for this. The TT will probably be his undoing but I’d be very surprised if he isn’t in the top 5.
I had it in my head that he was out of form, but he is not. He won the Tour of California and has being TT excellently this year. He did a very good Tour of Swisse as well. He is another who can be explosive on climbs and we should see some action from him. He has two big negatives coming into the Tour: he is very prone to crashes and he is only joint team leader with Rabobank. These alone are enough to put me off backing him.
Coming into this suffering from a bad fall in the Dauphine. His form has been good this year, but I think the route doesn’t suit him at all. The climbs aren’t hard enough for him, where he can make most of his time. His TT is only okay and this is going to be a massive disadvantage as we know. His injury is the main reason why I’d put people off backing him.
Can’t leave him out after his heroics in the Giro. It is proven that it is impossible to win the Giro and the Tour in the one season but I think Hesjedal can go well in this. He has proven he has the all-round game but I think fatigue will catch up with him in the Tour.
Best of the Rest
I can’t have a full write up for them all but there are some that will do well without threatening the overall rankings. I expect Frank Schleck and Alejandro Valverde to go for stage wins and not to threaten overall. Schleck hasn’t the TT ability to compete and Valverde doesn’t look to have the form. Chris Froome is well up in the betting as well but he is Wiggin’s super domestique and that ruins his chances. He would still be well capable of a top 5. Levi Leipheimer had an accident in April which has scuppered his training for this. He did finish 3rd overall in the Tour of Swisse, so he has the form. Can he hold it for 3 weeks is the question. He is pushing on 38 but can climb and TT so you never know. Tony Martin, Michael Rogers, Tom Danielson and Janez Brajkovic are the others high up in the betting. They are there because of their excellent TT. Danielson and Brajkovic would have the best chance out of these as they are the best climbers.
It would be wrong to do a preview without mentioning the two Irishmen in the race.
Our most consistent Irish cyclist since his father and Kelly. He has had the bad luck of being fairly good at everything but excellent at nothing. He goes for the GC each year but he knows he will never get into the top 8. Again this year his form has been bad and he has only recovered from a crash. We saw in the Tour of Swiss that he is coming back to form but will he last the 3 weeks? The TT is going to let him down again. He will hold his own in the mountains but it’s very hard to see,how he will get a top 10. The odds might look good at 20/1 but I just can’t see him doing it unfortunately.
This fella I’m looking forward to seeing. He has got a free role with his team and is going for the KOM jersey as well. He will be looking to get into breaks and I expect him to get a stage win somewhere. You can forget him for the overall as he will soft peddle stages that don’t suit him. His TT is brutal but he or the team don’t care. It’s for stage wins and the KOM that he will be going for.
It’s hard to look past the first two in the market. It’s a real shame to look down through the betting and find good climbers down the list. Wiggins the favourite is an outstanding TT and that’s why he is top of the market. I think there are a few negatives, which I explained above, and he is worth taking on with Evans. Evans has done it before and at the price is way better value.
Looking for someone to finish 3rd is very difficult as you could make a case for at least ten which I have done. Jurgen Van Den Broeck stands out for me @ 5.6 for a top 3 finish on Betfair. He looks in great shape, looks very good in the mountains and his TT has come on fantastically. He has proven he can last a 3 week Tour as well. Nibali at 5.1 is my other pick but not as confidently. If he attacks early in the mountain stages, he is a great descender and he is well capable of putting time into all his rivals. He can climb with the best and should be well up there.
5pts Cadel Evans to win @ 3.35 on Betfair
3pts Lay Bradley Wiggins @ 2.60 on Betfair
2.5 pts Jurgen Van Den Broeck top 3 @ 5.6 on Betfair
2pts Vincenzo Nibali top 3 @ 5.1 on Betfair