The 2023 Tour de France contenders set out from Bilbao on Saturday on the long road to Paris, and if the odds are correct we are in for a cracking duel for the yellow jersey.
It’s your choice between defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (11/10) and the winner of the previous two editions Tadej Pogacar (11/10).
Pogacar has begun the season in typically dominant form, winning the Ruta del Sol and Paris-Nice stage races. The Slovenian rider has also collected the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne one-day prizes.
He suffered a setback in late April, breaking a wrist during a crash in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. However, Pogacar stated the injury didn’t hamper his Tour preparations too much, as he had planned to take a break after the race anyway.
That claim was backed up when he won the road race and time-trial at the Slovenian national championships on his return to action last week.
Vingegaard has taken a different approach to his title defence preparations.
While Pogacar spent the spring adding to his impressive trophy collection, Denmark’s Vingegaard has opted to keep himself relatively fresh.
He finished third to Pogacar in the Paris-Nice in March, which is run over eight stages. Since then he has competed only in the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour of the Basque Country, both of which he won comfortably.
It took a team effort from Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma outfit, who also fielded Primoz Roglic as joint-team leader, to unseat Pogacar in last year’s Tour.
This time however, they will be fully behind the Dane’s repeat bid, and it could also work to his advantage that only 22.4km of the route is time trial.
For those looking to take on the favourites, 2022 Giro d’Italia hero Jai Hindley (16/1) is next in the betting.
The Australian has warmed up for the Tour by finishing eighth in the Volta a Catalunya and fourth in the Dauphine, where he was over three minutes behind winner Vingegaard.
It’s 25/1 or bigger the rest, headed by three-time Vuelta a Espana runner-up Enric Mas Nicolau. The Spaniard has questions to answer after finishing only 17th in the Dauphine three weeks ago.
Unusually, this year’s Tour de France route starts with a medium m.ountain stage and Pogacar is the 11/4 favourite to take an early advantage in the race for yellow.
Recent Tour of Belgium winner Mathieu Van Der Poel is 5/1 and Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Wout van Aert are both priced is 5/1 for the stage win with Vingegaard himself a 12/1 chance.
Tour legend Mark Cavendish returns having not been selected last year and needs one more stage win to take his tally to a record 35. The sprinter, who will retire at the end of the season, is a 50/1 chance to win the green jersey for the third time, though.
Belgian Jasper Philipsen, who won two stages at last year’s Tour, is 11/10 in the points market.