Following Sir Bradley Wiggins’ triumph last year, hopes are high that another Brit will make a successful cross-Channel raid in the Tour de France this time round, with Team Sky’s Chris Froome a red-hot favourite – 4/6 with Paddy Power at the time of writing – to land the 100th renewal of this gruelling contest, which commences in Corsica on Saturday.
Froome, who was overall runner-up to Wiggins in 2012, was born in Kenya and raised in South Africa, but he has ridden under British Licence since 2008. The 28-year-old will go into the 2013 Tour de France brimming with confidence, having won a number of notable trials for the race this year, including the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine.
However, while the Tour de France is billed as the survival of the fittest, a sprinkling of luck certainly helps, particularly this year with the riders setting off in Corsica. The island, which will be featuring in the Tour de France for the first time, is synonymous with narrow roads and, with the competitors all jostling for good early positions, there is bound to be traffic problems, resulting in some hard luck stories.
For the uninitiated, the Tour de France comprises 18 stages, invariably culminating in a sprint up the Champs-Élysées in Paris some three weeks after the contenders embark on this tale of endurance. Each of the 22 teams deploys nine riders apiece and the format of the 2013 renewal is as follows: seven flat stages; five hilly stages; six mountain stages with four summit finishes; two individual time trials; one team time trial; and two days’ rest.
For punters, there are a number of betting markets available. With Froome a strong favourite to land the yellow jersey, Paddy Power are offering the option of betting without Froome, a market headed by two-time previous Tour de France hero Alberto Contador (10/11 currently), and various other options, including stage betting, points classification, podium finish and rider specials.
One of the most popular specials is bound to be Froome taking the yellow and fellow Brit Mark Cavendish securing the green jersey – this double is on offer at 9/4 with Paddy Power. Cavendish, who recently won the National Road Race Championship in Glasgow, may actually pull on the fabled yellow jersey after the first stage, for which Paddy Power make him the 5/6 market leader.
Cavendish is a truly exceptional sprinter and he could become the first cyclist of his ilk to pull on the leaders’ jersey after the first stage in the Tour de France since the mid ‘60s, what with the sprint finish of the first stage in Corsica right up his street. He became just the fifth cyclist to win the points race on all three Grand Tours when capturing the red jersey in the Giro d’Italia last month, and is 11/10 with Paddy Power to repeat the dose in the Tour de France for the second time.
This event is the undisputed summer spectacle in the cycling sphere and while there will be no prizes for originality in making this prediction, barring accidents Chris Froome will be extremely difficile à battre.