Tour de France: Sprinters Gear up for Stage 1 Battle

Martin Green

Friday, July 6, 2018 1:56 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 6, 2018 1:56 PM UTC

Stage 1 of the Tour de France is extremely flat and tailor-made for fast finishers, so elite sprinters like Dylan Groenewegen and Marcel Kittel dominate the betting.

<p>Stage 1 of the Tour de France begins on Saturday, July 7, and Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has been installed as the favourite to win it. The 24-year-old LottoNL-Jumbo rider enjoyed a fantastic 2017, landing the final stage of the Tour de France, and he has carried that form into this year. He got the better of Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and several other star sprinters to win the opening stage of the Dubai Tour, cementing his status as a real prodigy. Now punters are backing him to take an early lead in the 2018 Tour de France.</p><p>Bookmakers including <a href=";a=8737f02d-3242-44da-81a6-d0ca444a746b&amp;f=2" title="Top rated bookmaker">Betway</a> and <a href=";a=172db2ac-31fb-422f-a2ed-ae1f4f1fe73c&amp;f=2" title="top rated bookmaker">Intertops</a> are offering a market leading 5/2 on Groenewegen emerging victorious from Stage 1, and he has attracted more action than any other rider in this market. It begins in the Atlantic island of Noirmoutier-en-l'Île on Saturday and stretches for 201km to Fontenay-le-Comte. The peloton will have to cross over a bridge to get off the island, and it can become slippery and dangerous. A large portion of the route follows the twisting Vendée coastline, where crosswinds can be a hazard and echelons could ruin several riders’ chances. With 1.4km left, there is a sharp right-hand turn and the final 800 metres take place over an uphill false flat.</p><p>Stage 1 is extremely flat and it looks tailor-made for fast finishers, hence the hype around Groenewegen’s chances. He has secured stage victories at Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice, Tour of Norway, Tour of Slovenia, and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and he looks like a deserving favourite. But he will not have it all his own way. Many bookmakers have Fernando Gaviria as the joint favourite, and others have made him the outright favourite. The Colombian started the season well, winning in South America, but his year has been plagued by setbacks.</p><p>A more enticing option at longer odds could be Kittel of Germany, who is priced at 17/4 with <a href=";a=e605009c-af6d-4596-a06f-dbd28d37b12f&amp;f=2" title="top rated sportsbook">Bet365</a> to land Stage 1. He was the standout sprinter at last year’s Tour de France, winning five out of seven sprint stages. He had already pulled out by the time Groenewegen took the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, and Arnaud Démare took the other followed a spectacular crash on the finale. Kittel is now with Katusha and he landed his first two victories of the year in the Tirreno-Adriatico. He has endured a difficult season thus far, and he does not consider himself the favourite to win the sprints this time around, despite claiming victory in every single one he contested in 2017. Yet that has not stopped him being a popular bet in this market, and he certainly looks tempting at that price.</p><p>Demare and world champion Peter Sagan are both 8/1 and they look dangerous. Then there is Britain’s Cavendish, an intriguing 16/1 shot. By the time you get to those sort of prices, you can well afford to go each-way, and most bookmakers will pay out a quarter of the odds on the top three. Apart from Kittel, Cavendish is the only man in the current crop to ever take the yellow jersey after Stage 1 of the Tour de France. He has won 30 stages throughout his exceptional career, leaving him just four behind the all time record set by Eddy Merckx. Now 33 years of age, Cavendish is running out of time to usurp the Belgian, but the Manx Missile has bags of experience and he retains the pace to trouble the favourites in this contest.</p>
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