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Betting Guide to the Tour de France

By Kelly Lawson in Tips & Tricks / Strategies
| June 27, 2017 12:00 am PDT
tour-de-france

With 21 days of racing on offer that will span four countries and a massive 3,540 miles, for some the 2017 Tour de France may sound like the stuff of nightmares, but for the cycling community this is the pinnacle of the sport.

Since 1903, elite cyclists have proved their worth in a race that pushes riders to their limits and beyond; the race is a test of athleticism and skill that separates the contenders from the pretenders and leaves the rest of us glad we can enjoy the action from the comfort of our sofa!

The 104th edition of the Tour de France is sure to be no different, and you can enjoy not just the action out on the course, but also reap some rewards at your favorite bookmaker.

How the Tour de France Works

The Stages

The Tour de France is comprised of 21 stages spread over 23 days, with riders afforded a rest day after the ninth and fifteenth stages.

There are two types of stages: individual time trials and mass-start stages. Time trials are a race against the clock as riders set off at two-minute intervals. The rider who is last in the classification begins first, with the leader in the classification the last rider to start. The rider who posts the fastest time is named the winner of the time trial.

Mass starts are – no prizes for guessing this one – stages that begin en masse, with the entire field beginning the stage at the same time. There are three kinds of mass-start stages: flat, hilly, and mountain. And when we say mountain, that’s not an overstatement: the highest peak that the Tour de France has ever scaled is the 9,193 foot Cime de la Bonette-Restefond.

The Prizes on Offer

General Classification – Yellow Jersey

The yellow jersey, worn by the winner of the general classification, is the most sough-after prize on offer. The general classification is determined by the overall time of the riders. The yellow jersey or maillot jaune changes hands as the race progresses, and is re-awarded at the end of each stage.

Points Classification – Green Jersey

The green jersey is worn by leader of the points classification. Riders win points at the intermediate sprint during each mass-start stage, and at the end of each stage. The number of points on offer differs from stage to stage, with the most points on offer on the flat stages. This is because sprinters, who are specialist riders competing primarily for the green jersey, are for the most part not strong on mountain stages.

Mountain Classification – Red Polka-Dot Jersey

This jersey, which is white with red polka-dots, is worn by the leader of the mountain classification – often referred to as the ‘King of the Mountains’. The jersey is awarded to the best climber in the race, with points in this classification won at the end of every ‘category’ climb (climbs are categorized according to difficulty), and are doubled at the summit of mountain stages.

White Jersey – Best Young Rider

The white jersey is awarded to the best-positioned rider in the general classification who is aged 25 or under in the year of the race. Four riders – Laurent Fignon (1983), Jan Ullrich (1997), Alberto Contador (2007), and Andy Schleck (2010) – have topped the best young rider and the general classification in the same year.

Combativity Award – Red Number

At the end of each stage, a panel of experts decides which rider was the most aggressive on the day. That rider wears a red number in the following stage. The overall combativity award is decided at the end of the race.

Team Classification – Yellow Helmets

While the individual rider at the top of the general classification wears a yellow jersey and a yellow helmet, the riders on the leading team wear yellow helmets and yellow numbers. The team classification standings are determined by adding the time of each team’s best three riders at the end of each day.

What to Expect in 2017

The Course

This year’s start to the Tour de France (known as the Grand Départ) will take place in Düsseldorf in Germany…yes, the Tour de France will start in Germany! Since 1954, the Tour de France has begun outside of French borders. In addition to the opening two stages in Düsseldorf, the Tour will also enter into Belgium and Luxemburg on its way to France where it will meander through 34 French counties that fit a little bit more appropriately with the race’s name!

As has been the case in recent years, there is no team time trial, but there are two individual time trials, beginning with the Prologue in Düsseldorf.  The official stage breakdown is:

  • Nine flat stages
  • Five hilly stages
  • Five mountain stages, including altitude finishes
  • Two individual time trials
  • Two rest days

With a number of stages scaling above 6,500 feet, this year’s course looks tailor-made for the climbers. Stage 9, the 112-mile ride from Nantua – Chambery, is certainly one to look out for in this respect, with the field set to climb Grand Colombier from the Virieu-le-Petit side, a route which packs a section of road at 22%. To compound matters, it’s followed by the climb up Mont du Chat which has a horrendous 5.5 miles stretch at 10% – if that won’t separate the field nothing will!

A highlight of a very different nature can be found in Stage 20, the second individual time trial. On what could prove to be a pivotal day, the stage will start and finish at the Stade Vélodrome soccer stadium in Marseille, offering a unique perspective for fans.

The Riders

This year’s race has all the ingredients required to potentially make it one for the ages. The fight for overall victory is set to be one of the most unpredictable battles seen for years, and major question marks hang over the heads of all the serious contenders.

As the defending champion, Chris Froome of Team Sky will naturally start as one of the favorites, and he’s Bovada’s favorite at +135. But, for the first time since 2012, the three-time Tour winner will go into the Tour without having won a single race this year, so despite the short odds the Briton is not a sure bet.

Instead, Froome’s former team-mate, Richie Porte of BMC Racing (+175), is many pundits’ tip for the yellow jersey. The Australian has been in a class of his own this season, but faltered under pressure on the final day of the Criterium du Dauphine – the traditional Tour build-up race – when a combination of questionable tactics and a lack of strength from his team left him isolated and ultimately cost him victory.

Porte nevertheless finished second overall, behind surprise winner Jakob Fuglsang (+1,400) of Team Astana. Perhaps most importantly, Froome finished just fourth in a race he won in all three years that he claimed victory at the Tour.

With Froome and Porte under pressure, and a course that will reward aggressive climbers on offer, it seems like a perfect storm for Movistar’s Nairo Quintana (+650). The Colombian, who has finished on the podium three times, has changed his preparations this year. Conventional wisdom holds that it is impossible to win the Tour having completed the Giro d’Italia in May. Yet Quintana’s track record suggests that he actually has better form in his second Grand Tour of the year.

Team Astana had planned on letting Fuglsang lead the way at the Tour, with Fabio Aru (+2,000) targeting the Giro. However, Aru’s knee injury threw a spanner in the works, and as a result Fuglsang and Aru will be joint team captains for the Tour – a situation that isn’t ideal for either rider.

With no less than seven Grand Tour titles to his name, Trek-Segafredo’s Alberto Contador (+1,400) is arguably the best three-week stage race rider of his generation. At almost 35, the odds are stacked against him, but discount the Spaniard at your peril.

A French rider has not triumphed in the Tour since 1985, and it’s hard to see that streak ending this year. Romain Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale (+2,000) came close as runner-up last year, but the notoriously fragile 26-year-old has failed to impress this season.

There are plenty of subplots to be added. World Champion Peter Sagan of the Bora-Hansgrohe team is aiming for a record-equaling six-straight success in the points classification. The Slovakian, who is a -175 favorite to finish in green, is arguably the most entertaining rider in the history of the sport and is capable of winning on just about any terrain. Surely only a major disaster will deny him the green jersey.

In the young rider classification, South Africa’s Louis Meintjes (+175) of UAE Team Emirates is a solid bet to challenge the favorite in this category, Simon Yates (-133) of Orica-Scott, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, his twin brother Adam.

The mountains classification is often hardest to pick, but with two Polka Dot Jerseys to his name from the last three years, Rafał Majka (+300) of team Bora-Hansgrohe is a handy candidate, especially as he arrives in excellent form having recently won the Tour of Slovenia.

Betting on Cycling

Types of Bets

Cycling is fairly standard in the bets on offer, and the most popular ones are:

Outright Winner

What you see is what you get with this bet: pick your overall winner and it’s all or nothing.

Points Classification

Here you’re betting on the green jersey competition. Like with the outright winner, pick the rider you think will come out on top and hold on tight to your lucky charm!

Top Three

Feel like hedging your bets? Then this one is for you. If you’re not sure whether Chris Froome will be wearing yellow in Paris, but you think he’ll be there or thereabouts, then back the Briton to finish in the top three.

Stage Winner

With 21 opportunities to back a stage winner, it’s hard not to get carried away with this one! Each stage has its intricacies so there is a lot of skill involved in correctly protecting a winner. For some context: even though Peter Sagan was the runaway winner of the 2016 points classification, he only won three stages, so it’s not a matter of one or two riders sweeping the stages.

Head-to-Head

Forget the rest of the field, focus on two riders and pick who will come out on top in a head-to-head battle between the two riders. 

Tour de France Betting Strategy

Focus on the stages

With the general classification odds so short at the top, a wise strategy is to focus more on individual stages. This means you’ll have 21 opportunities to pick a winner, and there is more value to be found.

Timing can be everything

Certain riders will be eyeing particular stages from the outset that they will conserve their energy for. For example, Stage 13 to Foix in the Pyrenees on Bastille Day – the French National Day – seems like a prime target for one of the French riders to make a claim for the stage win. FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot was third overall in 2014, but having fallen just short of the podium at the Giro – his main goal of the year – he may focus stage wins at the Tour, and this will surely be one he has in mind.

Know a rider’s strength

Peter Sagan is likely to dominate the sprints, but, like with most sprinters, the mountains will stretch the Slovakian; he might walk away with a handy total of stage wins, but backing him to win a mountain stage is not a smart move. Similarly, the likes of Chris Froome and Richie Porte will prefer to stay in the bunch on the flat stages and let the sprinters battle it out in what can be treacherous sprints to the line.

It’s not all about the individual

If you’re eyeing up a bet on the general classification, then make sure you do your research on more than just the rider you think is the strongest. So much of the hard work at the Tour is done by the favorites’ team-mates and having a strong team will make or break a rider’s challenge for the yellow jersey. Research into the fitness and form of those around riders like Froome and Porte could provide key insight.

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