Geraint Thomas has strength to come through final mountains test
Mollema could launch successful escape this time
Eurosport 1/ITV4, 11.15am Friday
The final big mountains test awaits Geraint Thomas on Friday with time running out for his rivals to find any sign of weakness.
Thomas became Team Sky’s undisputed leader with Wednesday’s impressive performance on the Col du Portet and with Chris Froome now at his service if required, along with the tyro Egan Bernal, there seems little prospect that the Welshman can be isolated and attacked.
Friday’s stage includes the fabled climbs of the Tourmalet and Aubisque – both hors category – but the absence of a summit finish means it is not as tough as it might have been. From the top of the Aubisque there is a 20km downhill run to the line in Laruns.
Nobody has been able to drop Thomas by more than a few seconds – especially not the closely marked Tom Dumoulin, second overall at one minute 59 seconds – and the main source of hope for his opponents is that he has one of the bad days that have afflicted him in past Tours.
This time that looks unlikely, given the strong form Thomas brought into this year’s race from his Dauphine win and the fact that he has been able to ride for himself rather than in Froome’s service.
There were no alarms for Thomas on Thursday as the finish in Pau came down to a sprint won by stage favourite Arnaud Demare.
A large break seems sure to go early on Friday and in recent years the winner on this type of late stage has come from an escape, so that looks the best route to go.
It is going to take a high-grade climber to win on this terrain and mountains leader Julian Alaphilippe has to enter calculations again, given his remarkable displays on the ascents and descents.
Adam Yates, who went so close on Tuesday’s stage, will be keen to feature prominently again and so will Rafal Majka, who has been trying but has so far lacked the zip of previous years.
Not surprisingly those three are high in the betting and a decent shot at longer odds is Bauke Mollema, who won a similar stage last year and has been third and fourth in recent days. He won’t win a sprint but is a good descender and has the time-trialling ability to stay away if he gets clear.
0.5pt e-w 40-1 Betfred
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