Stage 20: Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz, 125km

A great result for Rui Costa today, a great result for me after backing him at 38/1! It all worked out perfectly, if not exactly as I had envisaged it, with Costa and De Clercq in the final selection of the day. Lays in-play of Nieve, Hesjedal and Rolland helped too!

The break of the day consisted of around 40 riders, making it probably the biggest breakaway of the Tour so far. Lots of strong riders but no real GC contenders, so they were left go and build a very large lead. Out front though, Ryder Hesjedal and Izagirre had broken away and led over the Col du Glandon, then on the second HC climb Izagirre dropped away but Pierre Rolland bridged and then led Hesjedal over the Madeleine to take some mountain points. On the Col de Tamie, Rolland pressed on and  Hesdejal cracked badly after being out front for 130km.

Rui Costa soloes to Stage 19 Victory in Tour de FranceOn the last climb of the day, the Col de la Croix Fry Costa attacked out of a smaller selection that included Kloden, Navarro, Nieve and my other pick Bart de Clercq. He caught a tiring Rolland as the rain hammered down and then rode away from him, quickly opening up an unassailable gap. 

The GC men tried to light it up behind, after Saxo, and NIco Roche in particular, had been working very hard on the front all day. Valverde attacked, Gadret went with him, Valverde hoping Quintana could bridge, but the little Colombian couldn't shake off the leaders. Costa soloed to an excellent victory, his second in the Tour. 

Tomorrow is an equally brutal day in the saddle, but there is some good news for the riders, it is only 125km long. But in those 125 km there will be 3500m of going up or down as they face 6 categorised climbs, culminating in the HC Annecy-Semnoz climb to the finish. There is still so much to play for, with still only 47" separating places 2-5 and then only 35" between Mollema in 6th place and Fuglsang in 7th. So expect lots of personal battles on that last climb of the day, riders will be literally fighting for their finishing places, as nothing will change come Sunday's nocturne around Paris.

stage 20 profile

The first category Mont Revard is tough, climbing to 1463m but I am not sure we will see the GC men start battle that early - but then again you never know with the way Saxo's tactics are being acted out.. We may well see another early long breakaway like today, but expect the gaps to be kept manageable so the likes of Quintana can go for the stage victory as well as time over their rivals. 

tdf Stage20 finalclimbI think tomorrow is Quintana day. The brutally hard final climb averages 8.5% for 10km, and has some very steep parts of up to 10%. What we have seen so far on previous stages is that Quintana seems to be the best rider in the bunch for attacking on the really steep climbs, and I fully expect him to really go for it tomorrow. With 50 KOM points on offer for the winner at the finish he could well ride himself in to 2nd place, the stage win, the white jersey and the KOM jersey - that would be some haul. He has to beat Contador by more than 21" and with the way the two of them have been riding, it is definitely possible. He is the 11/4 favourite for the stage and I have had a bet on that.

Also, as I said, he could well win the KOM jersey with that ride, he is 11/10 with Coral to take it and I think that is also worth a bet. As I said, I also expect him to beat Contador by more than 21" so Quintana in the 'Without Froome' Market at 10/11 with Bet365 is worth looking at. I think Quintana will launch his attack about 5km from the finish after Movistar have set him up and he will press on for victory and time. Froome is the only one likely to stay with him if he really goes hard and fast, but I think he will not be that interested in the stage, just getting to Paris in yellow. 

The second favourite is Purito Rodriguez, and I can see why, as he has been getting stronger as the Tour has gone on and will like that finish if he is still there. He has done some training preparing on this road so will know it well, and will have Moreno to assist him in the final 10km too probably. But what we have seen over the last few days though is that even Rodriguez can't match the little flyweight that is Quintana once he attacks. If it comes down to a scrap to the line between these two or maybe one or two more, I would fancy Quintana more these days. So Rodriguez could be a good podium shout - the price is tight but he should be in with a big chance@ 9/10. He is after all only 47" off 2nd place, and if he and Quintana can put the hurt on Contador with 5km to go he could well finish on the podium. So I am also backing him for a Top 3 place at 8/5 with William HillWilliam Hill Sports and laying Contador for Top 3 at 4/7.

fuglsang relaxesFroome is 8/1 and Contador is 25/1 but I am not going to back either of those, Contador to me is a place Lay at 9/4. Instead I am going to jump down to two other interesting candidates for bets - Jacob Fuglsang is apparently well up for tomorrow's stage and has 6th place in his sights - he is only 35" behind Mollema and is clearly going the better of the two. Mollema is struggling and his assistants Gesink and Ten Dam are also exhausted after a really hard Tour. He rode the entire distance in training in June, and their third DS Jaan Kirsipuu used these climbs as his training routes when he was racing. I expect one final heroic effort from him to haul himself in to 6th place at the expense of Mollema so I am trying to lay Mollema at 5/6. Fuglsang at 12/1 for a Top 3 place isn't the craziest bet either. 

The final candidate is Daniel Martin, who has been ill since the Time Trial on Tuesday after picking up a virus. But he has said tonight he is feeling a little better and in his Irish Times column today said his target today was to just get through the stage with a view to trying something on the final stage in the mountains tomorrow. It is a risk given he is ill, but at 100/1 with Paddy Power there are worst bets you could have for a bit of fun tomorrow. 

So it should be a final stage packed with action and excitement and hopefully amongst all that above we can turn another profit tomorrow!

As ever, keep up to date with me on Twitter, I called lays of Rolland, Nieve and Hesjedal during the stage today at nice prices. 



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