Contador Favored in Tour de France Betting

Under a seemingly never ending cloud of illegal drug use, sportsbooks have opened Spain's Alberto Contador as an overwhelming 2/3 favorite to capture the 2011 Tour de France, the premier event on the elite International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar. The 2,150-mile bicycle race starts out with a 112-mile flat stage from Passage du Gois on July 2 and concludes with the traditional ride down the Champs-Elysees, in Paris, July 24.

Contador, who won the Tour de France in 2007 and then again in 2009 and 2010, is the subject of an upcoming hearing that could result in a doping ban. However, any decision made at the hearing will not affect payouts for this year's event so cycling betting fans can gamble with confidence that should Contador win, sportsbooks will honor the result.

Contador was widely referred to as a climbing specialist for his success in the mountain stages of races but his performance in the Tour's individual time trial in 2007 has grudgingly won him the reputation as an all-rounder, a cyclist who excels in every aspect of stage racing. The Spaniard seems poised for another good run in the Tour, having recently captured the Giro d'Italia.

Contador's main competition should come from Andy Schleck, the runner-up to Contador at the last two runnings of the Tour de France and a solid 2/1 second choice in futures. Schleck, from Luxembourg, lost 39 seconds when his chain fell off during a mountain stage last year, the same number of seconds by which he lost the 2010 Tour de France. Some sections of the media insisted that Contador, in a sporting gesture, should have waited for Schleck. Whatever the cycling etiquette of the situation, Contador and Schleck will renew their rivalry this year.

Beyond the top two riders, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Frank Schleck, Samuel Sanchez, Bradley Wiggins and Robert Gesink all appear capable of springing an upset.

Evans, 22/1, was the Tour de France runner-up in 2007 and 2008, the highest finishes ever for an Australian. In the absence of Contador in 2008, whose Astana team was not invited, Evans was the favorite to win the Tour de France and held the Yellow Jersey from stages 10-14 before falling behind in the Alps. A good time trial racer, Evans will be tested during the race's climbs.

Basso, 25/1, another rider who has served a suspension for doping, is a powerful mountain rider and clear threat in this year's race. The Italian was one of the few riders able to keep up with Lance Armstrong through many of the Tour de France mountain stages.

Frank Schleck, 28/1, the older brother of Andy Schleck, is another strong mountain racer. While riding in Stage 3 of the 2010 Tour de France, Schleck fell and suffered a triple fracture of his clavicle, forcing him to retire from the race.

Sanchez, 28/1, another Spaniard, was the Gold Medal winner at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the men's road race and is known as one of the sport's best descenders in the peleton.

Wiggins, 30/1, was initially viewed as a time trial specialist until he proved his worth with a fourth place finish in the 2009 Tour de France. The Brit signaled his improving form with a solid victory in the Criterium du Dauphine in the Alps earlier this month.

Gesink, 33/1, at age 25, is one of the youngest riders in the race. The Dutchman finished sixth in the 2010 Tour de France after breaking his wrist in the 2009 edition.

In addition to straight win betting, many sportsbooks—particularly those in Europe where the sport of cycling is more popular—have props on top 3 and top 6 finishes. For example, Contador, a chalk-players dream, is 3/10 to finish in the top three and 5/18 to make it into the top 6. You get much better odds on someone such as Frank Schleck, who is 3/1 to be on the podium and even money to finish in the top 6.

There's also a proposition matching Contador against the entire field in which the Spaniard is -150 (bet $150 to win $100) to take his fourth Tour de France and anyone else is +110 (bet $100 to win $110).

Tour de France betting fans also can lay -160 that fewer than six riders wear the Yellow Jersey during the race or take back +120 that six or more racers have the lead after an individual stage.