For most, the Tour de France is little more than something to be put on in the background on a long summer’s day when you can’t be bothered to do anything other than vegetate on a sofa for several hours with a can of imported lager in one hand and a poorly constructed ham sandwich in the other. Hence its beloved place alongside snooker in the pantheon of daytime entertainment for students, pensioners and other groups of people without much else to do with their lives in July.
Still, once you’ve sat down in front of Le Tour for the first time in a given year, it’s hard not to become enraptured by this epic trek around France and its neighbouring countries. All of a sudden, you find yourself banging on about pelotons and baroudeurs, nodding sagely when a commentator points out that “the Colombian’s wattage output on steep climbs has been off the scale on recent stages”, and boring everyone around you about how Chris Froome’s absence from the 2019 edition has really opened things up in the general classification.
That said, when you grab yourself a pack of custard creams, open up your Paddy Power app and settle in to watch Geraint Thomas and the lads roll off the line in Brussels on Sunday, it’s probably worth knowing a bit about what’s actually going on. So without further ado, here’s your in-depth betting guide to Le Tour.
Basically, the aim is to complete the race as quickly as possible. Every rider’s time is added up across the 21 stages (each individual day of racing) to indicate the total amount of time it took them to get from (in this edition) Brussels to the Champs-Élysées.
The shortest cumulative finishing time is the winner of the General Classification – that’s what you’re betting on when you punt on the Tour De France “Outright” market.
Throughout the race, the current GC leader wears the famous yellow jersey. Additionally, the highest-ranked rider under the age of 26 in the general classification is entitled to wear and win the white jersey as part of the young rider classification.
It’s possible to win both, and this year there’s a real chance that might happen, with 22-year-old Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) favourite to take the race outright and pretty much a dead cert to top the young rider classification even if he doesn’t end up wearing yellow in Paris.
WHO TO BACK FOR THE YELLOW JERSEY?
Bernal (9/4) would be one of the youngest-ever riders to win GC at the Tour, but there’s every chance he’ll do it. There has been non-stop discussion about who Team Ineos would give protected rider status since Chris Froome was ruled out after a crash, and the team recently confirmed Bernal would share leadership duties with last year’s maillot jaune, Welshman Geraint Thomas (5/2).
Thomas’ form has been patchy at best in the leadup to the Tour and he recently crashed out of the Tour de Suisse, a race that Bernal went on to win. On the surface, it seems unlikely that “G” will retain his title and his prodigious team-mate is the most obvious candidate to succeed him. However, with Ineos’ ability to control things in the peloton and manage their leaders better than any other team on the World Tour, you can’t rule out Thomas being in the shakeup.
Elsewhere, Jakob Fuglsang (5/1) is third-favourite behind the Ineos duo thanks to some fairly stellar form during this season. His recent GC win at the Criterium du Dauphine was preceded by a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and another GC at Vuelta a Andalucia back in February.
But Fuglsang is yet to prove he has what it takes to last the pace over three weeks at a grand tour – something which the man himself has acknowledged. He’s a good bet for a Top 10 GC finish, but it would be a massive surprise if he won the race.
Adam Yates (12/1) has looked good so far in 2019, with solid form in the spring stage races and a 4th place at L-B-L, the same final position he managed at the Tour three years ago.
La Grande Boucle is a different kettle of fish to Tirreno-Adriatico or the Volta a Catalunya, but it would be ill-advised to write off Yates, who’ll be supported by his twin brother Simon in France. Accidents aside, he’s all but assured of a Top 10 finish and in the absence of riders like Froome, Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic, it’s easy to see him making the podium (23/10).
It’s hard to know what the mercurial Nairo Quintana (14/1) will bring to the table this time around, but he certainly appears to be in better shape than he was at this race last year. Back him at your peril, though.
Quintana is part of a Movistar leadership “triumvirate” with world champion Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, who at 25/1 isn’t an outrageous shout for an each-way bet (four places paid). Landa rode the Giro and looked strong – but the very fact he took part in Italy’s TDF equivalent should mean he’ll be too tired to mount a serious challenge. We think it’s fairly safe to rule him out of genuine GC contention.
For those seeking an outright bet with a bit more value than simply taking Bernal at 9/4, it’s worth looking each-way at the French duo of Thibaut Pinot (18/1) and Romain Bardet (22/1) and Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran (22/1). Being quite honest, it’s difficult to see any of these men beating the Ineos crew to the top step at the Champs-Elysees, but they are surely the best of the rest if you set aside Bernal, Thomas, Yates and Quintana as the genuine favourites group. (No offence to Fuglsang or Steven Kruijswijk).
Pinot has gone slightly under the radar this year but managed to win two stage races in his homeland and showed up well at the Dauphine. Those wins came after he rounded off 2018 with a monument victory at Il Lombardia and, like Bardet, will benefit from a lack of time-trial kilometres in 2019’s Tour. He’s a stronger, more confident rider than in recent seasons and could well figure here – don’t rule him out for a Podium Finish at 4/1.
Bardet is impossible to predict, but will be happy that this Tour has a huge amount of climbing metres included. He won’t be pleased about the late withdrawal of team-mate Pierre Latour, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him grab a top four finish – or even a podium at 15/2.
Uran is a perennial grand tour nearly man, having been second in two Giri and runner-up at the Tour in 2017. Rigo looked strong at the Route d’Occitanie but would be something of a bolter for the places in France over the next three weeks.
And no, we’re not forgetting Richie Porte – we’re just not sure he’s even going to complete the race.
***** – Egan Bernal (9/4)
Each stage will see the award of points as part of the Points Classification. Points can be earned via intermediate sprints marked along the route, as well as at the designated finishing line on every stage. The rider with the most points gained from these sprints across the whole event wins the points classification.
Similar to the yellow jersey and the general classification, the current leader on points gets to wear the green jersey. Teams who don’t have riders thought to be in with a shot at the GC will often be focused entirely on getting their best sprinters or key riders into positions to take as many stage-wins, and therefore points, as possible.
WHO TO BACK FOR THE GREEN JERSEY?
There isn’t much looking beyond three-time world champion Peter Sagan (2/5), who has already won the Tour’s points jersey on six occasions and has 11 stages to his name. Likeliness is the BORA-hansgrohe star will make it seven maillots vert in 2019.
The only man to beat him in this competition since 2012, Michael Matthews, is reasonable value at 7/1 but has spent the year preparing to work for Tom Dumoulin in this race, at the expense of his own sprint form. It’s not unreasonable to suggest he has a big task on his hands to deny Sagan, so we’re looking elsewhere.
Elia Viviani (5/1), Dylan Groenewegen (5/1) and Caleb Ewan (16/1) are realistic candidates to outsprint Sagan in the Tour’s six scheduled flat stages, with Groenewegen arguably the form rider of that trio. It’s not hard to see any of those three taking a stage or two from Sagan, but it’s also easy to see the Slovakian excelling on one or two of the race’s lumpier days. If you’re going for a sprinter, though, take Groenewegen.
A bolter for this classification might be Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Julian Alaphilippe (16/1), last year’s King of the Mountains, who is much more of a puncher than a sprinter but who has shown he can mix it with the fast men on several occasions this year. If he’s going to take green, he’ll do it by winning stages in the hills, and there are plenty of those this time around.
For us, however, Sagan and Groenewegen can’t be ignored and at 5/1 the latter is better value.
The idea behind the mountains classification is essentially the same as the points classification. The only real difference is that the set locations to gain mountains points are the summits of each stage’s toughest climbs (though not every stage offers mountains points).
The winner of this classification is evocatively named “King of the Mountains” and wears the famous polka dot jersey. As with the points classification, teams will frequently focus on getting their best climbers in a position to claim this prize.
Usually, these climbers will break away from the peloton during a mountainous stage in order to maximise their chances of winning.
WHO TO BACK FOR THE POLKA DOT JERSEY?
Alaphilippe (13/8) is favourite to retain the jersey he won in 2018, and understandably so. He has been electric so far this season but may be more focused on winning stages on this occasion. If he goes for the polka dots again, he’ll be hard to stop.
Warren Barguil (6/1), who has just been crowned French national champion, won the competition back in 2017 and is worth a glance again. His victory in the national championships indicates that he’s in good shape and he’s likely to try his hand at becoming KOM once more.
Giulio Ciccone (10/1) was impressive when winning the Giro equivalent a few months ago, but will face much stiffer competition here. It’s hard to see him topping the mountains classification in France.
However, Ciccone’s compatriot Vincenzo Nibali (12/1), a past winner of the Tour and much better known for his GC performances, looks an intriguing pick for this competition. Nibali will be something of a loose cannon in this race and is rumoured to be targeting the polka dot jersey. If he does, no-one else will be able to stop him on the climbs. Arguably, he’s the value bet for this market – the only question is whether the peloton lets him get away in the first place.
Two interesting outside picks for the maillot à pois rouges are the aforementioned Simon Yates (40/1) and Alejandro Valverde (40/1). Yates was one of the favourites for the Giro but faded and is here to support his brother, but could be given licence by his team to attack the mountain passes, while Valverde will surely feel the need to compete for some kind of honour as long as he’s in the world champ’s rainbow jersey. Consider a small bet on either one.
Odds correct at time of posting. Subject to change.