Online bookmakers are offering free bets to new customers as the 2010 Tour de France departs the Pyrenees for Paris.
Today’s stage 18 will bring out the sprinters on the 198km route from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux.
Team HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish had a slow start to the Tour but picked up his game to win three stages this year and lies third in the point’s classification behind Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi.
Cavendish’s hopes of donning the green jersey in Paris looked to have slipped as Hushovd has been able to pick up regular points in the climbing stages to maintain a lead of 29 points over the Brit.
With three stages including a time trial to go, bookmaker Paddy Power believes his chance has all but gone and offers odds of 20/1 for Cavendish to win the points classification.
Petacchi is bookies’ favourite to be top sprinter, he has just four points to make on Hushovd and Stan James offer Petacchi at odds of 4/6.
Before the brutal Pyrenees Mountains took their toll, Cavendish had looked to have given himself a chance to steal the classification with the help of some brilliant and aggressive riding from his team.
His last stage win in Bourg-les-Valence was soured when his lead-out man Mark Renshaw, pivotal to Cavendish’s success, was thrown off the Tour for head butting Julian Dean away from his team mate’s route to the line.
It left a question over the depth of Team HTC-Colombia which was answered two days later in Revel.
Cavendish’s team set him up brilliantly to comfortably win the sprint from the pelaton to finish second behind the breakaway ride from Alexandre Vinokourov.
Betting on the outcome of today’s stage, Paddy Power offer Cavendish at odds of 10/11 while going 5/1 for Petacchi and 22/1 Hushovd.