We have been trying to get this right every day for the last five years or so, and to date our best year was 2015, where we scored four correct (semi-educated) guesses. Our chosen riders managed to score another three first-loser places, too, but we all know that second counts for nothing, especially at the Tour.
So, lets look at the first stage – 201km from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île to Fontenay-le-Comte, following the Brittany coast for 135km of the parcours, before heading inland for the twisty final 70… prime territory for crosswinds to wreak havoc on the peloton. This plays into the hands of the Dutch and Belgian teams, in particular Quickstep and Lotto Soudal. They will look to use their Classics strong men to split the pure sprinters off the back, and set it up for Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep) and Andre Griepel (Lotto Soudal) to take on a reduced bunch. There are some super-experienced individuals in not-so-strong teams though, including Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish, UAE-Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff and, obviously, World Champion Peter Sagan who will surely make the final selection. With a Yellow Jersey on offer for the winner, we were going to choose Mr BMT, Sagan, but after throwing the ceremonial ball bearings, Gaviria it is to surf the Quickstep train and add a first Tour stage win to his four Giro stages.
But that is not the only byplay in this first stage: there is a tiny Cat4 climb 30-odd kilometres from the finish, and there are no odds at all on Dimension Data chucking a rider in the early break to get the first Polka Dot Jersey of 2018… our slightly-patriotic cash is on our own Jay Thompson. #thumbsfirmlyheld