Tour De France 2017 preview: Outright Winner

Tour de France 2017 July 1 – 23

The Parcours

The 2017 Tour de France sets off from Dusseldorf on the 1st July as the riders look to complete more than 3,500 kilometres on their way to Paris. The race starts with a short flat time trial before an opening week that should feature four bunch sprints. Stage 3 will see an uphill sprint for the puncheurs but Stage 5 is where we’ll get our first look at how the favourites are going as they finish up the steep climb to La Planche Des Belles Filles. Chris Froome won his first ever Tour stage here in 2012 as Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey, as did Vincenzo Nibali in 2014, and both kept it all the way to Paris.

The next major flash point will be the ferocious looking Stage 9 in the Jura Mountains. This stage sees the riders tackle arguably the three hardest climbs in the whole race as the climbs of Col de la Biche, Grand Colombier and Mont du Chat are all savage before a descent to Chambery. Fabio Aru distanced his rivals on “Cat Mountain” at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné but Chris Froome showed that how you descend will be just as important. That’s especially true this year as several of the hardest days see the finish come at the bottom of the final climb.

The next summit finish comes in the first of two Pyrenean days. Stage 12 will be a long day in the saddle and has a brutal last 50 km. Stage 13 on Bastille Day then sees the riders tackle a very short stage at just 100 km. Don’t think that means it’ll be easy however, Chris Froome’s hopes of winning the Vuelta Espana last year were shattered on a stage measuring just 118.5 km and this day could be chaos.

The final week sees riders head into the Alps where the pure climbers will have their last chance to gain time on Stage 17, which finishes with a decent into the ski resort of Serre-Chevalier, and Stage 18, which should see significant gaps up to the final summit finish up the Col d’Izoard.

There’s still a chance for positions to change as Stage 20 sees a 22.5 km time trial around Marseille, before it all finishes with the traditional dash on the Champs-Elysees.

With only three summit finishes and time trialling looking less important than at any other recent Tour seconds could be crucial. Time bonuses for stage wins could even come into play so the winning rider will need to be as tactically sharp as they are strong and they’ll need to be as fast downhill as they are up.


Who to watch out for?

Chris Froome

Froome starts as the favourite to win a fourth Tour but having been even-money he’s drifted out to 2.62 after a disappointing season to date. Prior to his three previous success he’d dominated the warm-up races but he remains winless this year and was off the podium in the key preparation race at the Criterium du Dauphine. He won that race prior to each of his previous three Tour titles and as an indicator of form just one of the last 10 Tour winners finished lower than seventh in the Dauphine.

However, the Brit has the strongest team in the race so we don’t expect him to be isolated as he was in last year’s Vuelta and he’ll look to use his teammates to attack the other riders. He’s also excellent downhill and importantly he knows what it takes to win the yellow jersey.

Richie Porte

Porte was the strongest rider at the Dauphiné, but a tactical error cost him the title and his lack of Grand Tour success is a major concern for the Tasmanian’s backers. Were it not for an ill-timed mechanical on Stage 2 last year he’d have finished runner-up to Froome and he arrives in even better form this time around, but something usually seems to go wrong. Nevertheless he’s deservedly the second favourite and on 2017 form alone is the man to beat. Having shortened to below 3.0 after the Dauphiné as there was an overreaction to his performance he’s drifted to 3.6 and that seems a fair price.

Nairo Quintana

The Colombian has been Froome’s closest challenger in recent years but he’ll have to go against 20 years of history to win this time. The last rider to win the Tour having also ridden the Giro was Marco Pantani in 1998, who won both races that year in a result that hardly seems possible. Quintana was second in the Giro and that is bound to have taken a lot out of him. He did win the Vuelta last year having ridden the Tour but on that occasion his main rivals were in the same situation whereas this time he’s competing against riders who have specifically targeted this race.

Alberto Contador

Contador is the only other past winner besides Froome in the race. However, it’s eight years since his last triumph and his best days appear to be behind him. He’s managed a string of second places this year but ended down in 11th in the Dauphiné as he struggled in the mountains. He only ever races to win and that should force the other contenders to react but ultimately that will probably cost him his chance of reaching the podium.

Jacob Fuglsang

The Dane won his first ever WorldTour title at the Dauphiné, which in past years would have marked him down as a favourite heading into the Tour. However, he’s already had 43 race days this year whereas the last 10 winners all had between 23 and 35 days of racing in their legs heading into the Tour. With other riders paying more attention to him and the likelihood that he fades as the race moves into the second and third week we think he’s one name we can remove from our shortlist.

Alejandro Valverde

Valverde might be 37 but he continues to be a prolific winner. However, he’s never won a Grand Tour and tends to struggle in the highest mountains. He’ll be delighted with the amount of descending in this year’s race though and he could easily win a few stages from reduced bunch sprints between the favourites. He’s finished on the podium in half his last 10 Grand Tour starts and should be around those positions again this time but the top step looks out of his reach unless other riders suffer a lot of bad luck.

Romain Bardet

It’s been 32 years since the French last celebrated a home triumph but Bardet could just break that streak. The runner-up 12 months ago will be delighted to see a route with limited time trialling and we can expect him to attack on the descents as well as the climbs. If he teams up downhill with someone like Valverde the other favourites are unlikely to catch them. He looked to be coming to the boil at just the right time as he matched the other favourites in the mountain stages at the Dauphiné and is definitely one to watch.

Fabio Aru

Aru is a former Grand Tour winner (2015 Vuelta) and has another two podiums from the Giro d’Italia so he definitely comes into this race as one of the favourites. His early season was disrupted by injury and illness but he was very aggressive in the Dauphiné as he helped teammate Fuglsang to the title and he followed that by winning the Italian championship last weekend. He’s a similar rider to Bardet, weak against the clock but brilliant in the mountains, and he typically gets stronger as the race progresses.

We can’t disagree with the two favourites but with fewer obviously decisive stages they look fairly priced and no more than that. Time gaps are likely to be far less than in recent editions and away from the Tour we’ve seen other Grand Tours go right to the wire in the last couple of years. Given how tight we see it there is better value to be had with some of the longer priced riders and we feel two of the younger contenders look ready to challenge.

 

Bardet already has a podium at the Tour on his palmares and has finished in the top 10 in the Tour in each of the past three years. Aru doesn’t have that level of experience racing in the world’s biggest bike race – he struggled to 13th on his Tour debut a year ago having struggled in the build up for form – but he’s a proven Grand Tour contender who looks to have the form this time around. Both riders look good value in case the two market leaders suffer any misfortune while they’re also worth backing to grab a podium spot.


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Fabio Aru win at 22

  BACK – Fabio Aru Top 3 at 4.4

  BACK – Romain Bardet Win at 34

  BACK – Romain Bardet Top 3 at 5.5


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