Tour de France heads to the mountains with Froome in yellow
Miles Crosby | July 19, 2015
Normally, the first week of the Tour de France is a quiet affair for the yellow jersey hopefuls; not so this year. There hasn’t even been a major mountain stage so far, and yet the overall lead has changed hand five times and race favourite Chris Froome (4/7 to win the Tour with Coral) is already over a minute ahead of his main rivals.
After the surprise victory of Australian Rohan Dennis over German Tony Martin in stage one, the drama really started on stage two. What should have been an uneventful and flat ride across the Netherlands turned into chaos as strong winds split the peloton and left big gaps between finishers, of which Froome was a beneficiary. This was followed by major crashes on stage three which put the race leader Fabian Cancellara out of the race, while Froome gained more time.
On the cobbled roads of stage four, Martin won an impressive victory and took the yellow jersey he was denied on the first day. He lost it just two days later when he fractured his collarbone on stage six and had to abandoned the race.
Mark Cavendish finally won a stage on day seven, although at this point he is a long way behind Slovakian Peter Sagan in the green jersey competition. Sagan remains the favourite in this contest at 2/9, but German Andre ‘the Gorilla’ Greipel has looked very strong and has moved into second in odds at 7/2.
So, at the end of the first eight days of the Tour, Froome looks to be in an excellent position. Chief rival Alberto Contador (9/1 Tour chance) is already 1’03” down, with Nairo Quintana (3/1) 1’59” and Vincenzo Nibali (22/1) 2’22” behind. The other riders will now be forced to attack Froome in the mountains to have any chance of victory in the Tour.
They will have plenty of opportunities, though. All of the next seven stages will be hilly, three of which end in mountaintop finishes. Monday’s stage 10 will be the first big showdown for the yellow jersey favourites, and the others will have to put time into Froome to show they can still be competitive. Froome has shown excellent form all week, however, and is the 7/4 favourite to win the stage.
Stage 12 and 18 will also be days for the favourites. The former finishes with a battle up the 17km climb of the Plateau de Beille mountain in the Pyrenees, and expect to see a long and drawn out fight between the yellow jersey contenders. If Froome were to crack here and fall behind it would throw the whole race open again.
In the midst of the mountains, stages 13 and 15 will be ones for the sprinters. The routes will favour the likes of Sagan, however, as three days in the mountains may have left purer sprinters like Greipel and Mark Cavendish too tired to compete.