VILLIE-MORGON, FRANCE - Finally the stage went to plan on Wednesday between Givors and La Clayette. The bookies predicted a tense fight between the sprinters, but after favourite Degenkolb punctured a wheel in the closing stages, it was left to Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen to pick up the pieces.
Boasson Hagen had been a 6/1 shot in the morning betting, and for most of us cycling punters, it was a relief to see things go according to the betting for once, even if the Euskaltel boys hashed up the bunch sprint with a big crash in the final few metres.
Stage four is an individual time trial from Villie-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse, which is over a fairly flat 52.5km. The sprinters had their final opportunity on Wednesday and the climbers will have their day in the sun this weekend, but on Thursday it looks a straight shoot-out between the two best time-triallers on the Dauphiné, namely Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins.
So far Bradley Wiggins had done everything right to ride himself into the yellow jersey, and he is one of the best time-triallers in the business. Every cycling punter knows that Fabian Cancellara is the best man at the discipline, but with the Swiss now sidelined through injury, this looks a good opportunity for Germany’s Tony Martin to grab a stage win, if not ride into the yellow jersey whilst he is at it.
Tony Martin is best-priced at 6/5 with Skybet to win the time trial, which could be significant as his closest rival in the betting rides for Sky. Martin is the best time-trialler out there with Cancellara, and these 52.5km will suit him massively, and could give him a crack at the yellow jersey (four seconds to make up on Wiggins). This year Martin won the Tour of Belgium from Philippe Gilbert, and was also placed fifth in the Tour of the Basque Country behind Samuel Sanchez. At 6/5 Tony Martin definitely looks the best bet on paper as Bradley Wiggins has been very active recently, and if Martin can triumph, it will qualify as a successful week for his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team.
It comes down to a two-horse race on paper, and the second horse in the race in Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins. ‘Wiggo’ was remarkably calm at the start on Tuesday and did not have a huge task on his hand to finish with the peloton, but things get more serious on Thursday as he knows he has to perform in the time trial discipline if he is to have any chance of winning the Tour de France next month (over 100km of TT). Wiggins will not mind this distance, and is 6/4 with bet365 to triumph. In the last 18 months for individual time trials over further than 10km, Wiggins has never been out the top five, but even though it sounds trivial, he would rather be wearing his Team Sky' suit made by Adidas for this rather than the maillot jaune, which will cost him time. On the other hand he has the advantage of going last.
Wiggins will be without his team-mates like Michael Rogers and Christopher Froome, but this is a discipline he excels in, and he is in blistering form following wins in the Tour de Romandie and the Paris-Nice. 6/4 is not an enormous price, but he beat Martin by four seconds in the opening time trial in Grenoble, so he clearly has a leading chance over a longer distance.
As for the other runners, Cadel Evans is put in at 20/1 with Sportingbet, but even as an each-way punt, he is worth opposing as he is still on a prep mission. Another Aussie, Luke Durbirdge, is also prominent at 25/1 with Paddy Power, but is hard to fancy when Wiggins will be giving it his all.
Finally, Michael Rogers and Richie Porte and both at 33/1 with Sportingbet.
The first cyclist will leave at 12.00pm local time on Thursday 7 June, and the stage concludes with the final arrivals at about 4.15pm, which is 3.15pm in the UK.