By Mark Rawlinson
The biggest cycling race in the world gets underway on Saturday morning, but defending champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will not be there to defend his title.
Wiggins, who also took gold in the Olympic time trial last summer, was ruled out some weeks ago due to a combination of a knee injury and chest infection.
Chris Froome’s chances
His team-mate at Sky Pro Cycling, Chris Froome, is favourite to win the yellow jersey come the end of the tour in three weeks’ time after finishing second place in the general classification last year.
Froome also scooped bronze in the Olympic time trial and has already won the Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné in the past few months. Bet Victor are providing odds of 4/5 on the 28-year-old winning this year’s tour.
Team Saxo-Tinkoff rider Alberto Contador is also expected to be in the mix for the yellow jersey as he makes his first appearance in the Tour de France since the doping scandal which saw him stripped of the 2010 title.
The Spaniard is considered as one of the best climbers in the cycling world and has already won the title in 2007 and 2009. Stan James are offering the most competitive odds of 11/4 for Contador to scoop his third title.
Other big names missing out on this year’s tour include Cannondale’s Ivan Basso, Luis Leon Sanchez and last year’s third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali, who also won the Giro D’Italia back in May.
Names to look out for further down the betting stakes include Andy Schleck who inherited Contador’s 2010 victory who is currently available at 50/1 with Bet 365. He’ll be looking for a strong race this year after missing last year’s Tour de France with a broken pelvis.
Teejay Van Garderen is another name to look for after the American won the young rider’s classification last year. Ladbrokes are offering the best odds of 33/1 for the BMC rider to take the title.
He is once again favourite to take the young rider’s white jersey this year with Sportingbet providing the best odds of 15/8.
Mark Cavendish and the Yellow Jersey
Cavendish will be hoping to make up for his disappointing green jersey campaign last year as he was left far behind in the sprinting points classification.
He won the green jersey back in 2011 but has moved teams over the winter from Sky to Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, citing the lack of support from team-mates in last year’s race, who concentrated mainly on Wiggins’ pursuit of the yellow jersey.
Cannondale’s Peter Sagan won the points classification at a canter last year, leaving closest challengers Andre Gripel and Matthew Goss trailing in his wake.
The 23-year-old Slovakian is favourite to win the sprinter’s title again this year with Ladbrokes offering evens.
Stage 1 Betting Prices
The first stage of the tour is on the French island of Corsica and is a generally flat stage, meaning top sprinter Cavendish is hot favourite to win it, with Paddy Power providing odds of 10/11.
Lotto-Belisol’s Gripel is also tipped to take the opening stage, and Bet 365 are offering odds of 4/1 on him securing the first yellow jersey.
You can claim free bets with Bet 365 by clicking HERE.