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Tour de France odds: The leading contenders

Chris Froome will be bidding for a fifth title when the 2018 Tour de France gets under way on Saturday.

Froome has ruled this event in recent years and is again the man to beat in this year's race which features the shortest route of the 21st century and sees a return to Alpe-d'Huez.

A hilly time-trial in the Basque Country could be decisive on the penultimate day of the race, which concludes in Paris on July 29.

The 105th edition of the Tour will see a reduced peloton, with each team reduced by one rider from nine to eight in Grand Tours in a bid to make the racing less controllable.

Here's our look at the leading contenders to win the 2018 race and their Tour de France odds.

Chris Froome

Tour de France odds: 13/8

Nationality: British

Team: Team Sky

Previous TdF best: Winner (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Stage wins: Seven

Froome has proven himself the greatest Grand Tour racer of the day, adding the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia crowns to his palmares in the last year to hold all three titles at the same time. Now he is out to prove wrong those who say the Giro-Tour double is impossible in the modern age and he starts as the clear favourite in the Tour de France betting.

Another Tour victory would see him move level with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil on a record five titles. The 33-year-old is free to ride in the Tour de France after cycling's world governing body cleared him of any wrongdoing in a doping case on Monday.

Richie Porte

Tour de France odds: 19/4

Nationality: Australian

Team: Team BMC

Previous TdF best: Fifth (2016)

Stage wins: None

Froome's friend and former team-mate is seen by many as the man most likely to benefit if either the Giro - or the Salbutamol case - catch up with the Team Sky rider in France. Porte has all the qualities required - strong in the mountains, good against the clock - but is yet to convince in a Grand Tour.

The Australian has suffered terrible luck every time he has targeted the general classification whether at the Tour or Giro, with crashes, illnesses and mechanicals combining to derail him every time. At 33, he is running out of time to prove he can hold it all together over three weeks.

Nairo Quintana

Tour de France odds: 9/1

Nationality: Colombian

Team: Movistar

Previous TdF best: Second (2013 and 2015)

Stage wins: One

A past winner of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, the Tour crown has so far eluded Quintana despite podium finishes in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Last year he attempted an ambitious Giro-Tour double and came away empty-handed, finishing second in Italy and, exhausted, a distant 12th in France.

This year, the 28-year-old has put all his eggs in the Tour basket, but he has a fresh challenge to face just to keep supremacy in a Movistar team which now also includes Mikel Landa - who made clear in the last two years at Team Sky he does not appreciate playing a supporting role.

Vincenzo Nibali

Tour de France odds: 15/1

Nationality: Italian

Team: Bahrain-Merida

Previous TdF best: Winner (2014)

Stage wins: Five

Nibali is the only man not named Froome to have won the Tour since 2013, capitalising on the Brit's early exit from the race in 2014, and the only other former winner on the start line. With four Grand Tour titles to his name, his credentials are exemplary but there are plenty of questions about the 33-year-old's form heading to France.

He skipped the Giro to focus on the Tour and was duly expected to shine at the Criterium du Dauphine in a show of strength. Instead, he limped home in 24th place, complaining of allergies. His palmares shows he knows how to manage his condition but he has plenty to prove.

Romain Bardet

Tour de France odds: 16/1

Nationality: French

Team: AG2R La-Mondiale

Previous TdF best: Second (2016)

Stage wins: Three

There has not been a home winner of the Tour since Bernard Hinault took the last of his five titles in 1985 - a wait which weighs more and more heavily on the French each year. Bardet, 27, has emerged as the strongest hope to end the hurt, elevating himself above the likes of Warren Barguil and Thibaut Pinot by finishing second in 2016 and third last year.

His AG2R squad is strong and the goal is absolutely clear, with no distractions. Bardet has been outspoken in his belief Froome should not be racing, helping a rivalry with Sky build nicely before the Tour begins.

Tom Dumoulin

Tour de France odds: 20/1

Nationality: Dutch

Team: Team Sunweb

Previous TdF best: 33rd (2014)

Stage wins: Two

Dumoulin, 27, first announced his Grand Tour potential in the 2016 Vuelta, when he led in the final week before fading to sixth by the finish. He won the Giro in 2017 and was second to Froome this year, but is yet to take a real shot at the Tour de France.

In truth, a title bid seems unlikely this year too given Dumoulin has the Giro in his legs and there are few time trial kilometres where the world champion against the clock can put his best talents to work. However, we have seen of late that Dumoulin is too talented to be ignored entirely.

Geraint Thomas

Tour de France odds: 22/1

Nationality: British

Team: Team Sky

Previous TdF best: 15th (2015 and 2016)

Stage wins: One

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After several years serving as a super-domestique for Froome, Thomas has increasingly been given his chance by Team Sky. 'G' went to the Giro last year as co-leader of the team, only to be derailed by a crash with a police motorbike.

Sky are convinced the 32-year-old has the attributes to win a Grand Tour and he once again underlined his potential by winning the Criterium du Dauphine in June - the traditional warm-up to the Tour. Froome is the clear focus for the team in France, but should anything happen to him along the way, Sky have an obvious Plan G up their sleeves.

Adam Yates

Tour de France odds: 22/1

Nationality: British

Team: Mitchelton-Scott

Previous TdF best: Fourth (2016)

Stage wins: None

After Simon's starring role in the Giro, now it is the turn of twin brother Adam in the Tour. The 25-year-old excelled the last time he raced La Grande Boucle, winning the young riders' classification as he came home in fourth two years ago, and a podium spot looks a realistic target this time around.

He managed his efforts perfectly to finish second to Thomas in the Criterium du Dauphine, suggesting his form is right where it needs to be. He may not get the full backing of Mitchelton-Scott in France on all the Tour de France stages, with the ambitions of sprinter Caleb Ewan expected to be balanced as well, but Yates has shown an ability to look after himself.

Rigoberto Uran

Tour de France odds: 40/1

Nationality: Colombian

Team: EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale

Previous TdF best: Second (2017)

Stage wins: One

Uran's second place 12 months ago was one of the best stories of the 2017 Tour. Few cycling betting experts gave the Colombian a shot before the start and he seemed an afterthought for much of the race despite winning stage nine on a bike with only two working gears and sitting within touching distance of yellow for the full three weeks.

He started the penultimate time trial only 29 seconds off Froome and kept his former team-mate on his toes throughout. It remains to be seen if he can repeat such heroics 12 months on, but nobody will make the mistake of overlooking him again.

Dan Martin

Tour de France odds: 50/1

Nationality: Irish

Team: Team UAE Emirates

Previous TdF best: Sixth (2017)

Stage wins: One

Martin put in an heroic ride 12 months ago to fight his way to sixth place overall, despite racing for nearly two weeks with two broken vertebrae in his back following the crash which ended Richie Porte's Tour on stage nine. What's more, he did it while part of a Quick-Step Floors team which could offer him little to no support as they backed Marcel Kittel in the sprints.

He may find his support limited again in his new UAE Emirates squad but that will not bother Martin who, after a slow start to the season, suggested his form is where it needs to be with a stage win and fourth place overall in the Criterium du Dauphine.

Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in Cycling