Tour de France: Improving Pinot best of the Stage 18 home hopes

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Like the new red Routemasters in England’s capital city, we’ve waited so long for a home podium finish at the Tour de France, and now two might come along at once.

The fallout from the carnage that saw favourites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador crash out of Le Tour early on sees Astana rider Vincenzo Nibali as the 1/50 champion elect with a seemingly unassailable six-minute lead.

Three Frenchmen have realistic hopes of standing either side of the Italian though, with third-placed Thibaut Pinot currently closing in on Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in second.

At the tender age of 22, when the baby of the peloton, Pinot took Stage Eight of the Tour on his way to becoming the youngest rider to notch a top-ten finish since Raymond Impanis in 1947.

Pinot failed miserably when attempting to repeat the trick 12 months later, eventually withdrawing on Stage 16, but the 24-year-old version of this climbing machine is threatening to do what none of his compatriots have managed in 17 years and make the top three.

However, as Tour bugle L’Equipe gleefully exclaimed earlier this week, ‘Barring an earthquake, a Frenchman will be on the podium in Paris’, because Pinot’s countrymen Jean Christophe-Peraud and Romain Bardet are hot on his heels, with the former looking very dangerous 12 seconds behind.

Nevertheless, Pinot’s powerful Pyrenees climb during Stage 16, where he burned off Nibali and Valverde for a while, makes him the shrewd home pick at 10/1 to take Stage 18, which was won by Frenchman Christophe Riblon last year.

The journey from Pau to Hautacam has been described as a stage king-to-be Nibali was born to ride, but at short-enough 7/4 odds such sentiment turns rather cold, while the 9/2 about impressive Tuesday winner Rafal Majka rates a risk after the Pole’s latest exertions.

Incidentally, Riblon can be backed at 80/1 for a repeat of his 2013 triumph.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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