The Tour de France turned nasty for Team Sky over the weekend, with leader Chris Froome’s claims that a cup of urine was chucked at him during Stage 14 following hot on the heels of Richie Porte’s complaint that a spectator punched him four days earlier.
Unfortunately for Sir Dave Brailsford’s band of cycling stars, the sport’s shocking links with drugs, particularly over the past couple of decades, means Froome’s monster performances en route to a probable second overall victory won’t be believed by all.
Nevertheless, the Kenya-born Brit is 1/12 to make it two wins in three cracks at Le Tour since 2013, and looking increasingly unlikely to be reeled in by 11/2 second favourite Nairo Quintana, with the Colombian more than three minutes behind with effectively only five days of racing left.
That being said, Monday’s medium-mountain stage is expected to cause plenty of carnage, so the fight can’t quite be called just yet.
As Sky’s Geraint Thomas flagged up in his Tour de France preview for the BBC, riders will feel plenty of trepidation during the descent into the Alpine town of Gap, as both Froome and Alberto Contador were forced off the road here two years ago, while mega-cheat Lance Armstrong had to traverse a nearby field to avoid crashing in 2003.
The muddled market for Stage 16 gives a clear indication of the hazards expected to be in play, with Ladbrokes pricing up all-rounder Alejandro Valverde as the tentative 12/1 favourite ahead of last year’s champion Vincenzo Nibali and Joachim Rodriguez, winner of two stages so far in 2015, who both pick up 14/1 quotes.
With another yellow jersey very much off the cards for Nibali, considering Froome’s lead over the Italian has stretched to over eight minutes, this could be his opportunity to put a fifth Tour de France stage victory on the board.
Nibali finished first in three full-blown mountain stages and one medium-mountain stage 12 months ago, so he clearly has what it takes, and with little reason to conserve energy for Le Tour’s last few tests, the Astana rider looks as likely a winner as any.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.