I’m a fan of the favorites winning on the big mountains but since also this Tour stage ends with a descent, I’m fine with leaving the victory to the escapees. That’s how I think it will go anyway. Team Sky won’t be interesting in pulling back any breakaways with guys more than 20 minutes behind in the overall classification and for Liquigas (Nibali) and BMC (Evans) the only thing that matters is the overall win. Therefore I’m pretty sure that a strong break of 10-15 riders will get away on Col d'Aubisque (if not earlier, then at least here) so let’s try to take a look at who might be in that break.
The first two riders I thought of looking at the profile were Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi. Valverde has been trying very hard to hit the right breakaway the last couple of days with climbs on the menu and he seems very determined not to leave this Tour without putting his mark on it. He’s far out of the classification (32:59 minutes after Bradley Wiggins) so I think that Team Sky finally will be okay with him getting in the break. Had Valverde still been near the podium I would probably have picked him as well. This stage is perfect for him since he can stay with the very best both on the climbs and on the descents. Plus he is very fast on the line. For me there isn’t a bigger favorite for this stage than Alejandro Valverde being at 100%.
|Col de Peyresourde - 9,5km / 6,7%|
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Other solid breakaway candidates to the win in Bagnères-de-Luchon are riders like Rein Taaramae (out of the GC and strong uphill and downhill), Dan Martin (pure climber and feeling great these days) and Rui Costa (if Valverde doesn’t hit the right break, Rui Costa is very likely to do so and he already knows how to win in the Tour).
Among the favorites Vincenzo Nibali is the best pick. The Italian is excellent on the descents where he has been trying to drop Wiggins and co. numerous times in this Tour already. If the break gets caught, I can’t see anyone other than Nibali winning this stage…
Winner pick: Alejandro Valverde or Michele Scarponi
Joker: Vincenzo Nibali