The Tour De France, the most prestigious cycling event in the world starts this weekend with Team Sky and Chris Froome looking to maintain Britain’s recent domination of the race.
The Tour now regular goes through numerous European countries and the 2017 edition is no different with the tour going through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg as well as France.
The German city of Dusseldorf is the home of the Grand Depart – the official start of the race.
22 teams consisting of nine riders will make up the field – known as the Peloton.
The winner is the man wearing the Yellow Jersey going into Paris on the last leg – but there is also the Green Jersey for the points, which is for the sprinters who accumulative points throughout the event, the Red dotted Jersey is the King of the Mountains whilst a White Jersey is worn by the top young rider.
This year’s race takes place over 21 stages and will end in Paris on July 23rd, although the final stage they don’t compete for the Yellow Jersey – they allow the leader to take in the applause of the crowd and he is not challenged.
The defending champion is three-time winner Chris Froome and along with Bradley Wiiggins’s victory in 2012, means there has been a British winner for four of the last five races with the only non-Brit being Italian Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
Going into the race and Froome is the 2/1 favourite to win the title again, but he believes his former Team Sky team-mate Richie Porte – who played a crucial role in his previous wins – is his biggest threats and the Bookmakers agree, making him second favourite at 2/1.
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“The level of my rivals is higher, and Richie stands out as the strongest,” said Froome.
“The season’s gone well so far and this is the biggest race and the big goal.
“We’ll do our best – that podium in Paris is the goal and I’m ready to do my best to get there.”
Australian Porte, who is now racing for BMC instead of Team Sky, insists that Froome is playing mind games.
“It’s just one of the games they play,” said Porte.
“Chris is the one with the biggest target on his back. He’s the defending champion but I don’t think it’s going to just be between Chris and me. It’s more than a two-horse race.”
Porte though, is in confident mood and added: “If numbers in training and feelings on the bike are anything to go by, I’m ready for the next three weeks.”
At 13/2, Colombian ace Nairo Quintana is also highly fancied to do well and said: “I’m feeling good on the bike, but you can only see where you stand when you’re into the race.
Quintana believes that Froome is the clear favourite for the race and added: “To me Froome still looks like the big favourite.
“He always approaches the Tour perfectly, it’s a race he’s been brilliant at in the past, and I’m sure he’ll be at 100% condition in July. “
Quintana rides for Movistar – who are favourites at 7/5 to beat Team Sky at 5/2 to being top team in the Tour.
In the other categories, Peter Sagan is the 21/50 favourite to claim a record equalling sixth consecutive Green Jersey.
“I will try to do my best this year to get another one, and then next year another one, and after that maybe I’m bored,” said the Slovak.
“It’s a very hard Tour de France, with crazy competition, every day you have to be concentrated. To take green is a very hard thing and you have to fight for that from the first day until the last one.”
The King of the Mountains favourite is Frenchman Thibaut Pinot at 3/1 with defending champion Rafal Majka rated at 9/2.
“I’m more relaxed coming into the Tour this year, and it’s good to be in this situation,” said Pinot.
We spoke with freelance cycling journalist Matt Westby to get his thoughts on the big event.
“Chris Froome goes into the Tour as favourite to win a fourth yellow jersey in five years, but his preparations for the race have not gone smoothly and his competition this time is arguably tougher than ever.
“Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and 2016 runner-up Romain Bardet are all expected to challenge for the win, but Froome’s biggest rival is likely to be Richie Porte, who has been in outstanding form this season and is many people’s tip for the title.”
One man not in the betting is Mark Cavendish, who is riding but only after overcoming glandular fever, but Westby believes at 200/1 for the first stage, for instance, he could be worth looking at.
“He had glandular fever earlier in the year and is still not really anywhere near peak condition. There’s a hope he will ride himself into fitness during the race and start challenging for wins in the second half,” he said.
“But he’s still pretty much the best in the business and I wouldn’t put it past him.”
We spoke with Alistair Gill of Unibet to get their take on the tour and the betting.
“As you would maybe expect, Chris Froome as the favourite has taken the most money with us, around 21% of all turnover backing the Englishman,” Gill explained.
“The view from the experts here is that Richie Porte, 2nd favourite at 2/1 may be a smart bet. The Australian is a strong all-rounder who crucially is also quite strong in the key mountain stages.
“Although the odds are slightly closer, it may be a bit of a Clinton v Trump/ Conservatives v Labour situation, with Froome having nearly 4x as much turnover as Porte but a very similar amount of bets. With Froome not in great form and reported discontent within the Team Sky set up, this could be Porte’s year.
“A little bit further down the market, previous winner Alberto Contador could represent some good value at 14/1
“In the Young Rider classification market, we feel Simon Yate’s could be the pick at 6/4.
“Unibet have a very strong offering on this year’s Tour, including stage betting, Rider specials and a Young Rider specific market.”