The first real mountain stage of the 2011 Tour de France gave us a much better idea of where all the major GC contenders are at. While Samuel Sanchez won the stage in his and his team’s home region, it was the situation behind him on the hill that was the most interesting.
Throughout the earlier climbs on the stage, the Leopard-Trek team set a high pace and dropped the majority of the peloton, including the white jersey rider, Robert Gesink, who has been very disappointing so far this tour. Toward the end, it was just a high quality group of six, including both Schlecks, Contador, Basso, Cunego and Cadel Evans.
Frank Schleck was the first to really attack and it was interesting that nobody went with him up the hill. He was able to put a significant gap between himself and the group, almost catching Sanchez to win the stage. However, the even more interesting thing was that Contador was dropped from this group on the final stretch of the hill, meaning that he lost another 15 seconds to his rivals.
It looks as though Contador is really struggling, whether it be from fatigue having ridden in the Giro or his knee injury, but he has drifted out to 5/1 (Betfred) to win the Tour now. It was also interesting to note that out of the two Schleck brothers, it is Frank that is looking in the better form and the fresher. Indeed, his odds of winning the race have now come into 6/1 (Sporting Bet), whilst his brother’s odds are drifting very slightly out to 7/5 (Bet365).
Moving onto Stage 13, it is likely that a breakaway will make it right to the very end. The leading contenders are likely to take it easy today after a difficult day yesterday and in preparation for tomorrow. With a long downhill section to the finish, there may be a large group of breakaway riders coming together come the finish.
As we have seen multiple times in the last couple of stages, Team Sky are concentrating on breakaways and looking for a stage win. Geraint Thomas rode superbly yesterday and we have seen Flecha in the ill-fated breakaway when he was hit by the media car. It would be no surprise if they were to send another rider out today and I suspect it could be the turn of Edvald Boasson Hagen. He is a decent climber and if it comes to a sprint finish amongst the breakaway, he would surely be the big favourite.
Sandy Casar already has a top three finish this year, but he is a serial member of breakaways and has won stages very similar to this in previous editions of the race. He will be looking to go better than his third place earlier in the race.
Two others riders to watch are the Portuguese duo of Rui Costa and Carlos Barredo. Rui Costa already has one stage win to his name after winning a breakaway earlier in the race and has admitted that he is keen to add to that tally. He took it easy on the stage yesterday and will be fancying his chances of getting in the break today. Barredo’s Rabobank team have had a pretty poor tour with Gesink’s failings. It would be no surprise to see them looking for a stage win and although Luis Leon Sanchez is probably the favourite to go in the break, there is a chance that it may be Barredo, who was in a breakaway on a similar stage to this last year.
Tejay van Garderen has been very active in trying to get in breaks so far and I expect him to try again today. I thought he might go yesterday, but he clearly struggled up the mountains and was unable to challenge. Similarly, David Moncoutie may go for a win today. His Confidis team have been extremely disappointing so far and will be desperate for something to please their sponsors.
Three other men who could challenge would be Grega Bole, Jose Joaquin Rojas and yesterday’s winner, Samuel Sanchez. Bole would be well-suited to this type of finish and Lampre may send him out to gain some recognition for their team, which has been pretty low-profile thus far. Rojas is still keen on the green jersey and can climb pretty well. He is well down on the GC and if he is in the leading group come the finish, he has as good a chance as any to win the stage.
Finally, Samuel Sanchez won yesterday’s stage, but if a breakaway group does not get too much of a lead after the mountain, he is undoubtedly one of the best descenders in the peloton. If he can keep the gap relatively low, he is perfectly capable of catching and passing the breakaway on the long descent to the finish.
Edvald Boasson Hagen to win Stage 13 @ 10/1 (Stan James)
Sandy Casar to win Stage 13 E/W @ 39/1 (Unibet)
Carlos Barredo to win Stage 13 E/W @ 40/1 (Sporting Bet)
Jose Joaquin Rojas to win Stage 13 @ 40/1 (Paddy Power)
Tejay van Garderen to win Stage 13 @ 66/1 E/W (Stan James)
Grega Bole to win Stage 13 @ 80/1 (Bet365)