With a brief hiatus in the European Championships, I thought it was worth spending a bit of time preparing for the Greatest Race On Earth which starts this weekend at the beautiful Mont-Saint-Michel. To begin with, here is a quick look at last year’s race and how each stage played out relative to the pre-event market expectations. All odds quoted are the average price matched on Betfair (considering volume) before the stage commenced:
Stage 1 Saturday, July 4 2015 – Individual Time Trial
Pre-Event Odds: Tony Martin (2.03), Tom Dumoulin (4.04), Fabian Cancellara (11.39)
Podium: Rohan Dennis (28.18), Tony Martin (2.03), Fabian Cancellara (11.39)
A shock of sorts in Rohan Dennis setting the fastest time by 5 seconds and landing the odds at 27/1. However he was actually fifth favourite and with the top three in the market filling the next three spots, it really wasn’t far off the form. ITTs are generally one of the more predictable markets, but I do love to trade them in-running. Perhaps more on that later…
Stage 2 Sunday, July 5 2015 – Flat
Pre-Event Odds: Mark Cavendish (2.3), Alexander Kristoff (5.87), Andre Greipel (6.56)
Podium: Andre Greipel (6.56), Peter Sagan (19.74), Fabian Cancellara (81.77)
This parcours was always going to deliver a sprint finish, but the crosswinds reeked havoc, reducing the group and allowing a couple of the puncheurs to get involved. Never disregard the conditions.
Stage 3 Monday, July 6 2015 – Hilly / Uphill Finish
Pre-Event Odds: Alejandro Valverde (3.61), Daniel Martin (7.54), Joaquim Rodriguez (8.01)
Podium: Joaquim Rodriguez (8.01), Chris Froome (44.76), Alexis Vuillermoz (89.41)
A classics stage nestled in a grand tour. The Mur De Huy ensured that the market was dominated by La Fleche Wallone favourites and J-Rod (3rd Fav) duly obiliged. Froome surprised many by getting involved in the race so early and reminded us that we shouldn’t discount GC contenders on uphill finishes at big prices.
Stage 4 Tuesday, July 7 2015 – Cobbles
Pre-Event Odds: John Degenkolb (5.49), Alexander Kristoff (8.04), Peter Sagan (9.22)
Podium: Tony Martin (61.53) John Degenkolb (5.49), Peter Sagan (9.22)
After a mini-La Fleche Wallone, we had a mini-Paris-Roubaix. From second place downwards the finishing order was almost exactly as expected, but no-one could stop Tony Martin soloing away for success. Even when the market seemingly gets it right, it can still get caught out.
Stage 5 Wednesday, July 8 2015 – Rolling
Pre-Event Odds: Mark Cavendish (2.56), Andre Greipel (6.06), Alexander Kristoff (8.38)
Podium: Andre Greipel (6.06), Peter Sagan (11.89), Mark Cavendish (2.56)
A sprint was predicted and a sprint was contested. The market had not yet woken up to Greipel’s superiority over Cavendish or the raw speed that Sagan still packed.
Stage 6 Thursday, July 9 2015 – Lumpy
Pre-Event Odds: Peter Sagan (2.83), John Degenkolb (7.89), Greg Van Avermaet 16.10
Podium: Zdenek Stybar (68.91), Peter Sagan (2.83), Brian Coquard (42.12)
A stage for the puncheurs, just not the one that the market expected, with cyclocross legend Stybar taking the spoils. These lumpy stages were seeing some big-priced riders making the podium.
Stage 7 Friday, July 10 2015 – Rolling
Pre-Event Odds: Andre Greipel (3.84), Mark Cavendish (4.06), Peter Sagan (6.04)
Podium: Mark Cavendish (4.06), Andre Greipel (3.84), Peter Sagan (6.04)
The market called the podium exactly, but a reversal in the sprint race between Cav and Greipel saw yet another favourite overturned.
Stage 8 Saturday, July 11 2015 – Uphill Finish
Pre-Event Odds: Peter Sagan (5.76), Alejandro Valverde (8.86), Tony Gallopin (10.65)
Podium: Alexis Vuillermoz (41.32), Dan Martin (14.32), Alejandro Valverde (8.86)
The second Mur or ‘wall’ finish of the race and a similar look to the result as the first one: the AG2R rider again being underestimated – this time to the tune of a stage win.
Stage 9 Sunday, July 12 2015 – Team Time Trial
Pre-Event Odds: BMC Racing Team (2.11), Team Sky (5.25), Movistar Team (5.77)
Podium: BMC Racing Team (2.11), Team Sky (5.25), Movistar Team (5.77)
A 1,2,3 for the market. Team Time Trials are obviously a collective effort, which in theory should iron out some of the vagaries of individual performance.
Stage 10 Tuesday, July 14 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Chris Froome (3.20), Nairo Quintana (5.41), Joaquim Rodriguez (13.69)
Podium: Chris Froome (3.20), Tejay Van Garderen (43.43), Nairo Quintana (5.41)
A climbing masterclass from Froome. The best rider in the race dominating the first mountain stage, as the market expected.
Stage 11 Wednesday, July 15 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Alejandro Valverde (9.23), Pierre Rolland (16.27), Chris Froome (24.87)
Podium: Rafal Majka (30.72), Dan Martin (25.47), Emanuel Buchman (399.12)
It looked prime for a breakaway and it was a very select group that got away. Not select enough to prevent a wonderful 40km solo effort from Rafal Majka taking the win though. The GC contenders finished 5 minutes back.
Stage 12 Thursday, July 16 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Chris Froome (2.97), Nairo Quintana (7.20), Pierre Rolland (11.70)
Podium: Joaquim Rodriguez (47.42), Jakob Fuglsang (48.69), Romain Bardet (137.19)
Another breakaway followed by a solo effort. More big prices.
Stage 13 Friday, July 17 2015 – Hilly
Pre-Event Odds: Peter Sagan (5.45), John Degenkolb (15.64), Greg Van Avermaet (21.91)
Podium: Greg Van Avermaet (21.91), Peter Sagan (5.45), Jan Bakelants (40.52)
The market so nearly got this one right, with Degenkolb also finishing fourth. The curse of the stage favourites strikes again though.
Stage 14 Saturday, July 18 2015 – Hilly
Pre-Event Odds: Alejandro Valverde (6.93), Joaquim Rodriguez (8.12), Chris Froome (11.81)
Podium: Stephen Cummings (316.63), Thibault Pinot (49.82), Romain Bardet (54.24)
The market wasn’t sure whether the breakaway would stick, or whether it would come back together for the punchy-GC riders. It stuck. I’m not sure we’d get those odds on Steve Cummings this season.
Stage 15 Sunday, July 19 2015 – Hilly / Flat Finish
Pre-Event Odds: Mark Cavendish (6.77), Peter Sagan (7.01), John Degenkolb (8.99)
Podium: Andre Greipel (14.21), John Degenkolb (8.99), Alexander Kristoff (14.7)
The market knew that it was a stage for the sprinters, but would they all manage to get over the hills. Cavendish didn’t, but most of the rest did: including the biggest of them all: Andre Greipel.
Stage 16 Tuesday, July 21 2015 – Hilly
Pre-Event Odds: Michal Kwiatkowski (20.93), Alejandro Valverde (20.98), Vincenzo Nibali (22.29)
Podium: Ruben Plaza Molina (301.21), Peter Sagan (29.68), Jarlinson Pantano (145.98)
This was always going to be a tough stage to predict and so it proved.
Stage 17 Wednesday, July 22 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Vincenzo Nibali (10.15), Alejandro Valverde (11.33), Joaquim Rodriguez (11.56)
Podium: Simon Geschke (276.94), Andrew Talansky (65.85), Rigoberto Uran (77.69)
A fantastic breakaway, absolutely blown apart by Geschke, with the GC boys marking each other 7 minutes back. Congratulations on those few that backed the German for his victory.
Stage 18 Thursday, July 23 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Joaquim Rodriguez (8.17), Samuel Sanchez (16.68), Alejandro Valverde (19.27)
Podium: Romain Bardet (19.6), Pierre Roland (27.16), Winner Anacoma Gomez (218.75)
The stage of the race, with the young French riders attacking on the climbs and on the descents. The favourites for the stage and the race finished some three minutes down.
Stage 19 Friday, July 24 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Nairo Quintana (4.26), Chris Froome (4.60), Pierre Rolland (16.79)
Podium: Vincenzo Nibali (25.98), Nairo Quintana (4.26), Chris Froome (4.60)
The forgotten man Vincenzo Nibali finally gets his stage win, albeit in slightly controversial circumstances having attacked when Froome was suffering a mechanical. There is no doubting the Italian’s pride though and here he once again dug deep into it.
Stage 20 Saturday, July 25 2015 – Mountain
Pre-Event Odds: Nairo Quintana (2.12), Chris Froome (4.60), Vincenzo Nibali (19.03)
Podium: Thibault Pinot (21.56), Nairo Quintana (2.12), Ryder Hesjedal (73.65)
There was little doubt by this stage that Quintana looked the strongest in the mountains and he simply had to attack if he wanted to win the race. Froome on the other hand could simply manage [however uncomfortably] the gap. Thibault Pinot had his own ideas though, landing a famous French victory on Alpe d’Huez.
Stage 21 Sunday, July 25 2015 – Rolling
Pre-Event Odds: Andre Greipel (2.74), Mark Cavendish (3.77), Peter Sagan (8.97)
Podium: Andre Greipel (2.74), Brian Coquard (62.94), Alexander Kristoff (9.1)
Andre Greipel had proved that he was the best sprinter in the race and deservedly took the honours on the Champs-Elysee. A rare right call by the market.
Twenty-one gruelling and varied stages will undoubtedly see the cream rise to the top, but for individual stages it was proved again that there are so many factors at play that everything is up for grabs. From the twenty individual stages in the race, the market favourite was victorious just twice.
Those two stages can – with the considerable benefit of hindsight – be called out as:
Stage 10: the first time the GC favourite had a mountain to attack.
Stage 21: the last time the by-then-acknowledged best sprinter in the the race could strut his stuff.
Level Stakes Profit on the stage favourites: -14.06 units
The Team Time Trial on the other hand certainly did go to form, although that is not a stage format that we will see at the 2016 Tour.
It is clear that in 2016 we will need a very good reason to back riders at short prices. Two takeaways to consider: the conditions and breakaways. Wind-formed echelons did for the sprinters chances early in the race and the GC favourites late in the race showed little desire to contain breakaways, instead managing the time-gaps to their immediate rivals. Both were conducive to upsets.