Navarro could make big break at 100-1 on brutal day
Stage nine is a gruelling test
Eurosport 1/ITV4, 10.55am
The Tour’s entry to the Jura mountains produced a full-on day of racing on stage eight – with victory going to breakaway rider Lilian Calmejane – and the action over Sunday’s seven climbs should be even better. Even without a summit finish, this is a big test for the General Classification contenders and there will be no hiding place.
The Jura does not have the historical heft of the Alps or Pyrenees but few Tour climbs are as tough as Mont du Chat, which awaits the riders near the end of stage nine.
The 8.7km climb has an average gradient of 10.3 per cent with parts at 14 and 15 per cent and is the last ascent in a brutal day. From the top of the Mont du Chat it is 26km to the finish – mostly but not all downhill – and getting back in the GC group may prove difficult if cracks appear.
There is a form pointer as the Mont du Chat featured at the end of stage six in this year’s Criterium du Dauphine. After attacks by Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru made the most telling break and reached the summit first, 15 seconds ahead of Chris Froome, Richie Porte and his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang. Those four joined up on the descent (shorter than Sunday’s) and Fuglsang won the sprint from Porte, Froome and Aru.
The difference is that the Tour stage is much tougher, with the climbing starting almost immediately, and the riders will be more tired by the time they reach the final battleground. For Froome’s rivals, it will be a question of whether the Sky team can be weakened en route and what damage they can do to the yellow jersey on that vicious climb. Alternatively, of course, Froome might blow them all away.
For punters, the issue is whether the stage winner will come from a breakaway or the GC group. A break is bound to go but will need a big lead at the bottom of Mont du Chat – possibly as much as eight minutes – because the GC riders will be going all out from that point.
A similar stage in the Jura was the 15th of last year’s Tour when the final climb followed by a descent was the Grand Colombier, which is on Sunday’s route but this time at about the halfway point. That stage was won by the Colombian climber Jarlinson Pantano, who might well fancy his chances again as he is well down in 45th place at 14:54 and no threat overall. Last year he was 29th before his stage win.
It is going to take a talented climber to win and another who fits the bill is Dani Navarro, who has gone close in several tough Tour stages and was ninth overall in 2013. The Cofidis rider was active early in Saturday's stage and is a likely type if he makes the big break this time.
1pt e-w 100-1 Betway