With Tour de France champion Cadel Evans out of contention for this year`s yellow jersey, the Australian`s teammate, Tejay Van Garderen, is the value to win the 17th stage.
Evans finished Stage 16 nearly 12 minutes behind Thomas Voeckler and, more importantly, almost five minutes behind the group that included Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and the disappointing Vincenzo Nibali, who did not throw the kitchen sink at the Sky cyclists in the Pyrenees mountains.
Last year`s General Classification winner has next to no chance of standing on this year`s Tour de France podium so there has to be a decent chance that his BMC team will give the green light to Van Garderen, whom some cycling pundits have labelled as none other than the next Lance Armstrong.
Van Garderen is 11 seconds and one place ahead of Evans in this year`s Tour de France and has his sights set on the white jersey given to the best young rider. His only danger is Thibaut Pinot, who is three minutes and 48 seconds back.
Fifth in the eight-stage 2012 Paris-Nice, fewer than two minutes behind the winner Wiggins, Van Garderen has been Evans` trusted lieutenant in this year`s Tour de France. Without the young American, the veteran Australian would be more than 10 minutes off the pace and outside the top 10.
There is a suspicion that Van Garderen has something left in the tank, that he has been riding within himself out of loyalty to BMC leader Evans, similar to the intriguing situation between Froome and Wiggins on the Sky team.
Certainly Van Garderen is worth an interest at the general 50-1 to win the tough 143-and-a-half-kilometre stage from Bageneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes that features no fewer than five categorised climbs, including the hors category Port de Bales just over 30km from the finishing line.
Bookmakers think that the 17th stage is between Froome and Nibali, with the Briton at around 5-1 and the Italian at around 11-2. It is about 12-1 bar those two cyclists.
Both Froome and Nibali are too short in the market. Froome`s job is to look after Wiggins rather than chase the stage win and his odds are an overreaction to his Stage Seven success. Sure, if Froome, Nibali and Wiggins are the three riders who fight out the finish then Froome would be the one to be on - he is a better sprinter than Nibali and Wiggins owes him a favour or two - but it is unlikely to be as simple as that.
Nibali tried to break Wiggins and Froome on the 16th stage but failed to get away from the Sky cyclists on the Col de Peyresourde and pretty much conceded that now he is riding for second or third position rather than first place.
Van Garderen, whom the likes of Wiggins, Froome and Nibali may allow to go up the road provided that the gap does not blow out by more than a couple of minutes, is the 50-1 value play on what promises to be another tough day in the saddle.
© Frixo 2014