Tour de France: Stage Seven: L’Isle-Jourdain – Lac de Payolle

Following a few days of fairly relaxed riding, all of the big GC contenders will look to steal a bit of time on each other as we enter the Pyrenees for the first time.

All eyes will likely be on Alberto Contador as he continues to lose time on the likes of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru and Tejay van Garderen. Who will claim victory once the riders make the descent down the Col d’Aspin? Let’s take a look!

To Win Stage
Alejandro Valverde 7/1 | Rui Costa 12/1 | Stephen Cummings 14/1 | Chris Froome 16/1 | Daniel Martin 16/1

The Contenders

Chris Froome
Froome wrestled control of the Tour last year when he attacked the very first mountain stage. He'd probably prefer a mountain top finish as opposed to a descent, though. I don't think the Kenyan-born rider will attack here, keep an eye on him here.

Thibaut Pinot 80/1
I can't believe that you're getting 80/1 on Thibaut Pinot here - behind Quintana and Froome, he's probably the best climber in the field. As much was evident when he won on the Alpe d'Huez last year. The FDJ rider may well fancy his chances here if he gets over the Col d'Aspin first.

Alejandro Valverde
This stage seems tailor-made for Valverde who could well look to attack early on. He's a distinguished climber who shouldn't have too many issues getting over the final category one climb. If he does get over before the main field, I'd be quite confident of him descending to victory in Lac de Payolle.

The Route
This is where things start to get interesting, especially in the general as well as the king of the mountains classification. The field will spend the first 105-kilometres negotiating the undulating hills just outside of L’Isle-Jourdain in the in the south-west of France. This sort of landscape can provide the ideal springboard for an attack, although I don’t think that the likes Movistar, Sky or Astana will let a breakaway group build up a lead in excess of 10 minutes as we saw on Wednesday’s stage.

While the first 143-kilometres of the stage should be fairly straight-forward for most of the peloton, things will start to get interesting once the field hits the slopes of the colossal Col d’Aspin will – the 2016 Tour’s first category one climb. This is where we’ll hopefully see guys Quintana, Froome and Aru stretch their legs on the 6.5%, 12-kilometre ascent.

Race director Thierry Gouvenou said this about the stage: “Everything will probably be decided on the descent leading down to the finish at Lake Payolle, rather than the climb that precedes it. Does that mean we’ve learned the lessons of last year, when Froome took control of the race on the very first mountain stage, which finished on the summit of La Pierre-Saint-Martin? Yes, we have indeed. Our aim is to work out a route that will maintain the sense of suspense.”

So even if one of the pre-race favourites does get away on the stage, they’re unlikely to take too many risks on the descent and should be reeled in by the chasing group. That should set things up quite nicely for the next two stages as the field slogs its way through the Pyrenees.

Verdict: Alejandro Valverde at 7/1
I don't really like backing favourites, but I think this stage is made for the powerful Spaniard. If he doesn't win the stage this evening, he'll be right up there. There is big value here at 7/1 - get on!

Value Bet: Thibaut Pinot at 80/1
You simply can't ignore this price. The Frenchman is one of the best climbers in the field and could look to stake his GC claim on this stage. Definitely have a tickle.

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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