I've said this before and I think ASO should make a thing of it, and I'm drawing the idea from the Open Championship, whereby the winner is described as the 'Champion Golfer of the Year'. The winning sprinter on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees after the three weeks ride around France, should receive the title of the 'Champion Sprinter of the Year'. It would be a fitting title, I think. The sprinters hardly ever abandon the Tour like in the Giro or the Vuelta with a bunch of mountain stages remaining, knowing that the final stage in Paris is such a prestigious win and worth the added suffering to complete the race, and they should be recognised for their efforts in making it to Paris in such a way.
This year, that might be a hollow title actually, with the absence of the dominant 5-time stage winner Marcel Kittel. Nevertheless, this is still a world class field on the start line. The main contenders are as follows:
*** Gorilla Greipel Lining-up as the standout performer and clear favourite, having won here in the past two editions. Last year from Sagan and Kristoff, and in 2015 from Coquard and Kristoff. LTS have not a won a stage and have nothing to show for their efforts. Even De Gendt was joiking on social media how the people's vote means more to him than any jury prize, in relation to the overall Combativity Award. LTS, like the other teams with bupkis, have one last chance to do something for their sponsors, and they will have been drilled to organise a solid train for the Gorilla. The Gorilla has had fair service, particularly Roelandts who has been performing exceptionally-well as his lead-out man. In the six, main bunch sprint stages of 2/4/6/7/10/11 the Gorilla has been the most consistent of these. Commands the upmost respect.
9/4 at SP easing out into 11/4.
* Groenewegen TLJ have a win with Roglic and they line-up with the promising 24yo from NED. He is putting together a decent palmares with consistent results, and whilst he is a little inexperienced this might be his best opportunity to claim the biggest win of his career. Very big go for him with the Books, going 9/1 at SP into 9/2. That is a very big move, suggesting he is a big-stage performer who has not only the presence but potentially also the second kick required to get close to the win. Much, if not all, the interest is because of his stage 11 2nd-place finish, when following Kittel's wheel and finishing stronger than EBH and Bling. This stands in stark contrast to his stage 10 finish, when coming from a long way back and sustaining his top-end speed for such a long distance he stoppped pedalling, evidently out of fatigue. He might have jagged the win if got destructive in the way world class sprinters can do. He will need to have learnt from that mistake to grab the win, here. He is on an ascending form arc, even though his results are not there yet. Interesting proposition. Worthy of close very consideration.
* Bouhani COF have nothing to show for their presence in the Tour either, but FRA might get something more to cheer about should Bouhani rediscover his form from earlier in the season, especially during the spring when he put together a nice string of results, going 3rd in Scheldeprijs, 1st in Paris-Camembert and a 2nd in GP Denain. His small demeanour gives him an aero-style and when he follows the right wheels he always looks like he is using the least amount of energy, however his top-end speed and kick has been faulty here after being in position a number of times. Worryingly, is how he has consistenlty been bettered by those he is facing here in the earlier stages. He looked good in stage 2 when coming up on the inside behind Sagan and seemed like he might have figured in the finish with a turn-of-speed for a brief moment, however Colbrelli came across him and he stopped pedalling, stopping his momentum. Nevertheless, when facing a situation to his advantage on stage 10 after perfect delivery from teammate Laporte, he simply could not make any ground. Warrants respect.
8/1 at SP into 12/1. Friendless, but fair E/W value.
1/2* Kristoff Finished in 3rd-place here last year and in 2nd-place in 2014 behind Kittel, so with EBH winning stage 19, maybe the Norwegian sprinter might be inspired to finally win one after so many so close finishes. He would ordinarily be recognised as one of the favourites here, but just looking at his labouring style in the earlier bunch sprint stages, particularly stage 4 when he had the sit on the LTS train and went for the line first, that there is something not right with him, and he requires trust. Kristoff in top form would have won that crash-affected race very easily, but his power output just wasn't there. KAT have nothing to show for their efforts in the Tour. Take on trust.
10/1 at SP and steady.
1/2* EBH In those sprint stages mentioned has a 2nd and 3rd, and looking at his position on the bike he appears to look quite big and solid in comparison to when he was younger. That will allow him a presence in the rough-riding and jostling of the finale, and he has proven that he can sustain his top-end speed and power for a long way after his stage 19 win. He did this on stage 7, also. I therefore think he is better suited than Bling. EBH doesn't seem to have that extra kick required amongst those who have at least suggested it here, and I think he will require things to go his way. Nevertheless, he might have won that stage 7 after getting the sit for a long way, if he didn't open the inside gate for Kittel who was floating on his wheel. 4th here last year and is going much better this time in. May pay to follow.
6/1 into 333/100.
1/4* Michael 'Bling' Matthews Will be buoyed by his performances, but even if we were to accept that he is as good as Sagan now, and clearly he is looking like a future WC, the closest Sagan has come in this sprint are two 2nd-place finishes in 2016 and 2012. That's not to say he won't win, but I think he requires a lot to go his way, and apart from his 3rd-place finish on stage 7 he hasn't looked threatening. May surprise.
11/1 at SP into 9/1.
1/4* Degenkolb Only has the one stage in for the season, but at least TFR have a stage win with Mollema. He also has that 2nd-place finish on stage 10. May find conditions to his liking.
11/1 at SP into 10/1.
There are also some second-string sprinters such as: Colbrelli (33/1) from BHM, Selig from BOH (33/1), and Cimolai from FDJ (33/1), and if we were to look at another big-priced winner to follow Bodnar from yesterday than perhaps GVK from WGG (500/1), Swift from UAB (200/1), Petit from DEN (300/1), Naesen from ALM (400/1), or Bauer from QST (400/1).
Bodnar (150/1) actually did put the writing-on-the-wall when nearly stealing that win from the long-range breakaway on stage 11, so if there's one rider to go long it could be him. I recall from a couple of years ago that CJ reminded me of Vino’s breakaway win in 2005, and there was also the 1994 solo win by Frenchman Eddy Seigneur prior. It’s clearly a rare thing on these famous cobblestones, but going on those dates it looks like it occurs about once every decade, so it would be nice to see it happen again this year, but it is unlikely.
It's essentially an uphill sprint into the line and he just stood on the pedals there -- quite an amazing finish from him -- wow -- very strong -- looks like he benefited from the resistance of the incline, where before he might have been leaking power out of his bike.
It's essentially an uphill sprint into the line and he just stood on the pedals there -- quite an amazing finish from him -- wow -- very strong -- looks like he benefited from the resistance of the incline, where before he might have been leaking pow