Geraint Thomas the one to beat as he takes up pole position
Grid start should suit yellow jersey wearer
ITV4 & Eurosport 1, 2.15pm Wednesday
The big guns held fire on the first day in the Pyrenees, with no change in the overall standings as the GC contenders kept a wary eye on Wednesday's short but extremely testing 65km stage that looks sure to be a major battleground.
There was no lack of drama on Tuesday, however, as stage leader Adam Yates crashed on the final descent and Julian Alaphilippe sped past to land his second stage victory of this year's Tour. Alaphilippe looks secure in the mountains jersey, having opened a substantial gap over Warren Barguil, while Pierre Latour is a little further ahead in the young rider competition after a good day in the main break.
Now for the battle in yellow between Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin over Wednesday's experimental short stage that covers just 65km but consists only of ascending – for around two-thirds of the distance – and descending.
This is also the stage that starts with an F1-style grid where the riders are arranged in general classification order, although it is difficult to know if that will have any significant impact on the racing and, in particular, on Team Sky's organisation as a concerted unit.
Like the cobbles in the opening week, however, this stage is a fearsome prospect and the racing is expected to be full-gas from the off. The climbing starts immediately with the Col de Peyresourde, which is followed by another category one, the Col de Val Louron-Azet, and then the final hors-category climb of the Col du Portet to the summit finish, which marks the highest point of this year’s race.
Some of the top ten could make an early strike, if only in an attempt to draw the sting out of Team Sky, but it is difficult to envisage anything other than a GC battle on the final climb.
When you consider how Steven Kruijswijk's 4:20 lead was wiped out on Alpe d'Huez last Thursday, it is hard to see how a breakaway could build enough of an advantage over the short distance to hold on once the GC contenders go to war.
With the overall contest so tight and bonus seconds available at the line (ten, six and four for the first three), going for the win is important and Thomas looks well equipped both as the strongest climber so far and as a powerful finisher.
1pt 4-1 bet365
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