The Tour de France Grand Depart is just hours away and the attention is turning to who will wear the first yellow jersey of the race.
The only obstacle standing between the riders and that coveted jersey is a 13.8km time trial in Utrecht. Too long to be a prologue, but short enough that the prologue specialists should come to the fore.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
Who are you backing? Cycling Weekly takes a look at the best odds you can get in the world of internet bookmakers.
All odds are taken from oddschecker.com and are correct at time of publishing
Tony Martin (11/10 at Boyle Sports)
It’s hard to overlook a three-time world time trial champion but Martin has had an up-and-down time in opening-stage time trials.
His Tour de France debut in 2009 saw Martin finish eighth behind some big names like Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador and Bradley Wiggins in a 15km spin around Monaco.
In 2010 he finished second on the opening prologue, but was 23 seconds off the pace on the opening stage in 2012, finishing in the same time as Mark Cavendish in 45th place.
Martin is odds-on favourite across the board, except for with Boyle Sports where you can back him at a decent 11/10.
Tom Dumoulin (7/2 at Sporting Bet)
The home favourite, but not the bookies’ favourite.
Dumoulin told Cycling Weekly in January that he wasn’t focussing on taking the yellow jersey in front of the Dutch fans, but now he surely must be dreaming of the win.
He stormed onto the time trial stage last year with a string of impressive results culminating in a bronze medal at the World Championships.
The Giant-Alpecin rider finished off the pace in the Paris-Nice prologue, but took the final time trial at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April.
He followed it up in June by taking the prologue at the Tour de Suisse and storming to victory in the final time trial in Bern.
Sporting Bet offer the best odds on Dumoulin at 7/2, but he can generally be found hovering around the 11/4 mark elsewhere.
Fabian Cancellara (10/1 at Paddy Power)
Cancellara has won every Tour de France prologue or opening-stage time trial since 2007 – four on the trot – but an injury hampened spring and his advancement in years have seen his odds rise.
The Swiss won his first ever Tour stage on his first ever attempt back in 2004, taking the prologue in Liege, returning to the scene of that victory to take his most recent Tour win in 2012.
Broken vertebrae suffered in a crash at E3 Harelbeke kept Cancellara out for several months, but he returned to take second behind Dumoulin in the Tour de Suisse prologue and third in the final time trial.
At 10/1, Cancellara is a great option to back over the short course and he could find himself in yellow for the 29th time in his Tour de France career.
Adriano Malori (16/1 at Paddy Power)
Movistar’s team is packed with time trial talent this year with three national champions against the clock in their midst.
Of those three, Malori seems to be their best bet for glory in Utrecht and comes with some great odds as well.
He only finished ninth in the Tour de Suisse prologue, but before that he won against the clock at the Tour de San Luis, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Circuit Sarthe.
The distance suits him, but whether he has the beating of his rivals is a tough one to call. At 16/1 he’ll certainly win you some money if he crosses the line first, but maybe look at an each-way bet with Boyle Sports, who offer 1/4 odds on the first three places at a decent 14/1.
The decent bets
Rohan Dennis (25/1 at Bet365)
The odds rise quite quickly outside the top four favourites, with Rohan Dennis the next best-priced rider at 25/1.
Former UCI Hour Record holder Dennis took second place behind Richie Porte in the Australian time trial championships in January but hasn’t ridden much against the clock since then.
Second at the Paris-Nice prologue was a highlight for the BMC rider, with 18th place in the Pais Vasco TT and fifth at the Tour de Romandie.
As with all the long-odds riders, an each way bet is worth a shout with Dennis, with Boyle Sports again offering the best money.
Alex Dowsett (33/1 at Paddy Power)
Why such long odds for Dowsett? The Brit is in the form of his life against the clock, having claimed his fourth British title last week.
Before that, Dowsett won Bayern-Rundfahrt on the back of his excellent time trial just days after he had broken Dennis’s Hour Record.
With Dowsett owning the British 10-mile Time Trial record, the length of this course could be to his liking, and he has experience of winning a Grand Tour time trial, with victory at the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
He’s worth a cheeky punt if you’re feeling flush. He’ll certainly reward you if he comes in first.
Michal Kwiatkowski (33/1 at Paddy Power)
Kwiatkowski will have to take off his World Champion’s stripes and don his standard Etixx-Quick-Step skinsuit for this race, but the Pole may be able to spring a surprise in Utrecht.
While he may not win the time trial, he could put himself in a good position to snatch the yellow jersey on one of the stages in the first week – notably at the top of the Mur de Huy on stage three.
Maybe save your money on Kwiatkowski winning this stage and put it on him taking the lead later in the week.
Matthias Brändle (33/1 at Boyle Sport)
Another former Hour Record holder hits our list. Brändle is certainly accomplished against the clock, but is unlikely to cause an upset on stage one.
He won the prologue at the Belgium Tour and came third in the opening stage at the Tour de Suisse, so has the ability to claim a good result.
But if he wins in Utrecht it could arguably be a better performance than when he beat Jens Voigt’s mark in the Hour Record last year.
Geraint Thomas (50/1 at Bet 365)
As a former track cyclist, Thomas is particularly proficient at these short time trials.
He skipped the Tour last time it started with a prologue in 2012, but claimed second in the one at the Giro that year. In 2010 he finished fifth in Rotterdam behind the likes of Cancellara, Martin and that guy Lance Armstrong.
While he could surprise a few people in Utrecht, Team Sky’s priority is with Chris Froome, so Thomas would likely look to relinquish the yellow jersey on stage two in order to not put undue stress on the squad.
Peter Sagan (66/1 at Bet 365)
It’s been a mixed season for Sagan, including in time trials.
He remarkably won against the clock at the Tour of California, came fourth in the prologue in Switzerland and then took the Slovak national title. At Tirreno-Adriatico, though, he came in 138th over 10km.
Like with Thomas, Sagan is riding on a team with a general classification contender, so it would not be ideal for him to take yellow, but like Kwiatkowski, a strong performance on stage one would set up the possibility of him taking yellow in the first week.