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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Barguil in strong position to keep polka dots at 11-10

Kristoff should have the legs for sprint battle

Warren Barguil in the polka dot jersey following stage nine
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Stage ten ITV4 & Eurosport, 12.25pm

The first bet to have as the Tour resumes after Monday's rest day is Warren Barguil to take victory in the mountains classification when the race reaches Paris on July 23. 

No-one deserved a rest more than Barguil, who was the most attacking rider through two days in the Jura and, though denied victory on Sunday by an agonising few millimetres, he emerged in the polka-dot jersey.

After building a commanding lead in a competition that looks likely to go to one of the riders not in GC contention – with so few summit finishes this year – Barguil is favourite at a best-priced 21-20 and looks good value even at those odds.

Yellow was once the colour that French cycling hoped Barguil would be capable of wearing in the mountains and, while hopes of overall victory have not been fulfilled, he is still a highly talented rider and will be hard to budge from the top of the mountains classification.

Comparisons can be tricky, with previous results affected by subsequent disqualifications for doping offences, but it might be useful to take Barguil’s tally of 60 points as a benchmark. Five of the past seven polka-dot winners were one of the first two to reach that mark and, with second-placed Primoz Roglic back on 30 points, it is clear Barguil is in a strong position.

None of his likely rivals for the jersey looks any stronger than him and he can afford to ride for the points now. There are four hors-category climbs left in the race and one of them is the Izoard at the end of stage 18, which is likely to go to one of the GC contenders.

That means Barguil can get in the breaks and try for the hors-category or category-one climbs earlier in stages. The next opportunity comes in the Pyrenees on Thursday by which time Barguil will be well rested and can get in the thick of battle on the Col de Mente and Port de Bales, which together carry a maximum of 30 points.

Roglic is highly promising but looks no stronger than Barguil, and the other two main French contenders, Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland, faded on Sunday’s crucial stage. Rafa Majka – twice polka-dot winner in the past three years – could launch a challenge now he is out of overall contention, but he is badly wounded from Sunday’s crash and Barguil should be able to mark him effectively.

The next two stages are fairly flat, offering the opportunity for more recuperation for most of the peloton, and Marcel Kittel will be hoping to cement his hold on the green jersey with a fourth stage victory in Bergerac on Tuesday.

But it might be worth looking for an alternative among the stronger roadmen who can pack a punch even with tired legs and one who fits the bill is Alexander Kristoff.

The Norwegian's form figures in sprint finishes from stage ten onwards in the last three Tours are (latest first) 3224332311 and his average finishing position improves from 4.67 in the first half of the race to 2.4 in the second half.

By contrast, ten of Kittel's 12 stage wins have come either before stage ten or in Paris and there is enough of a doubt about his performance in the middle part of the race to oppose him.

Recommendation
W Barguil to win mountains classification
3pts 21-20 Betway, Hills

A Kristoff to win stage ten
1pt e-w 10-1 BoyleSports, Hills

None of his likely rivals for the jersey looks any stronger than him and he can afford to ride for the points now
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