Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar crosses the finish line of the fifth stage of the Tour de France cycling race, an individual time-trial over 27.2 kilometers (16.9 miles) with start in Change and finish in Laval Espace Mayenne, France, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
- Stage 6 of the Tour de France (Thursday, July 1) profiles as another sprint finish
- Riders will navigate 160.6 kilometres Thursday between Tours and Châteauroux
- Tim Merlier and Mark Cavendish took the Tour’s first two sprints this year; should bettors side with one of them or a longer shot?
The Tour de France was not won on Wednesday, but a major statement was made.
Defending champ Tadej Pogačar is clearly the man to beat after taking the Stage 5 Individual Time Trial. The pre-race favorite is expected to be very strong in the mountains, so when he can not only gain time but win the ITT, it really sends a message.
GC riders should be content to take it easy when Stage 6 gets underway on Thursday (8:05 am ET). The mostly flat course has one Category 4 climb in the middle of the route. Oddsmakers think the two riders who have won sprints thus far, Tim Merlier (+325) and Mark Cavendish (+225), are the most likely victors.
As we know, many specialists can be factors on sprint days. Let’s look at some top contenders
Tour de France Stage 6 Odds
|Rider||Odds to Win Stage at DraftKings||Top-3 Finish Odds|
|Wout Van Aert||+450||+100|
|Mathieu van der Poel||+4000||+1000|
|Danny van Poppel||+10000||+2200|
Odds as of June 30th
While Pogačar dominated the time trial, outpacing Stefan Küng by 19 seconds, and finishing 27 ticks ahead of third place Jonas Vingegaard, Mathieu van der Poel remains in the yellow jersey.
It will be a challenge for van der Poel to survive the weekend with the lead. There are mountains to climb on Saturday and Sunday. In the meanwhile he leads Pogačar by eight seconds. Wout van Aert is in third place, a half minute behind van der Poel. Julian Alaphilippe is 48 seconds back of the lead in fourth position.
Three top GC competitors are nearly two minutes behind van der Poel. Richard Carapaz (1:44), Primoz Roglic (1:48), and Geraint Thomas (1:54) are going to need to do serious work on climbs to keep Pogačar from back-to-back titles.
Each of the last two times the Tour has finished in Châteauroux, Cavendish has tasted victory. Those victories came in 2008 and 2011. Cavendish, who wasn’t expected to compete in this year’s race was summoned when Sam Bennett was injured, and earned his 31st career stage victory on Tuesday.
Cavendish couldn’t compete on the first sprint stage this year and was lucky just to survive it. He got caught up just behind an ugly crash and never was able to get rolling. He was fortunate not to be unseated and possibly injured. Given a shot to roll on Tuesday he took advantage.
Maybe we should have known, despite being forgotten recently, Cavendish would be a factor in 2021. While his spot in the Tour was uncertain, he won four stages at the Tour of Turkey this year, and still has the “it” quality.
Merlier was the beneficiary of the ugly crash involving top sprinter Caleb Ewan in Stage 3 this year. That said, he may not have needed the carnage to win the stage. He went head-to-head with Ewan at last years Tour.
Merlier came into this year’s event in strong form. He won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, and five times in 2021 has triumphed in one day races.
UEFA Euro 2020 Odds Tracker
Van Aert seems to always be in the mix. He is hard to label because he is not a specialist, but he is capable regardless of what the stage includes.
This is the third Grand Tour Van Aert has competed in, and he has won three stages. He also has a very strong history in Cyclo-cross.
Arnaud Démare has won two Tour de France stages, and five times taken daily honors at the Giro d’Italia.
Demare has a couple of notable wins this year, La Roue Tourangelle and Boucles de la Mayenne.
Is this the stage for a big price?
Danny van Poppel has improved throughout this year, finishing sixth in a couple of early year events, improving to fourth in April’s Scheldeprijs, and turning in a runner up performance less than a month ago at the Dwars door het Hageland.
The winner of a stage at the Vuelta a España back in 2015, this is the first Grand Tour for van Poppel since 2018. He raced at the Tour de France in 2013 and 2014.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.