For the second year in a row the first major General Classification shake up of the race will occur on the slopes of Mount Etna. This year they’re using a new road to the top after an anti-climactic stage last year, when a group of 20 or so favourites finished together behind Jan Polanc, who won alone having been a part of the day’s breakaway.
The main issue last year was the wide road and strong headwind on the climb. This prevented any of the major players attempting to spice up the stage apart from Ilnur Zakarin, who managed to grab a few seconds on the group with a late attack.
This year’s stage promises much more action among the leaders, with the new route and bigger gaps between the favourites in the standings giving greater reason to attack. The chances of a breakaway succeeding are also reduced, with a much flatter route leading to Mount Etna making it easier for the peloton to control the race.
For these reasons, when looking into betting for the stage winner the focus has to be on the big names at the top of the overall standings.
My first bet will be Simon Yates at around 7/1. He’s come into the race in the form of his life, having finished a close second in Paris-Nice and fourth in the Tour of Catalunya in recent months. He’s a dark horse for a top 3 overall finish too.
He has started this race in similar form, riding extremely well in the opening time trial, a discipline that wouldn’t usually suit him. With the support of teammates Esteban Chaves and Roman Kreuziger his Mitchelton-Scott team have the fire power to light up any mountain stage.
A slight time gap and the bonus seconds for winning the stage could see Yates take the leader’s jersey so he has massive incentive to go for it here.
My other bet will be on Fabio Aru, who’s priced around the 22/1 mark currently. The Italian, similar to Yates, was one of the pre-race favourites. However, he has already lost some time to other contenders so will want to take some seconds back, even at this early stage, as we are now entering the mountainous terrain he prefers.
In the first week of last year’s Tour De France he attacked on a similar mountain finish in devastating fashion to take the stage win having lost some time in the overall battle and he can be expected to attempt something similar here.
For anyone looking for a big price each-way selection, Robert Gesink will contend for victory on a mountainous stage at some point in this year’s race, and can be backed at 50/1 for the sixth stage win.
He is a talented climber who has already lost significant amounts of time. This allows him the freedom to attack without alarming the big names. He comes into this after a solid Spring Classics campaign so is in decent shape. Without a genuine outright contender on his team in need of his services he will be given the freedom to go for some individual glory.