The Tour de France, the biggest of the three Grand Tours, is the most widely-known cycling race in the world.

I find the Tour exciting enough as it is, but if you want a bit more of an adrenaline rush each stage, you can bet on the race! I have enjoyed fantasy cycling leagues in the past, but if that isn’t cutting it anymore, you can actually place real bets!

Shortly before the riders start, betting closes, so keep an eye on the date. This year’s event begins Saturday, July 5, 2014 – that’s just one month away!

If you think you might want to bet on the race, here’s a basic guide to get you started on the right track.

An Introduction to Sports Betting

Sports betting is a hot topic. There’s a lot of controversy around it, since it’s technically gambling, but it’s perfectly legal in certain areas if you go through the right outfit. (Some stats strictly forbid it, though. This can change though so heed local laws. I’m not a lawyer!)

Betting starts with the bookmaker (who is called the “bookie” in movies.) They maintain the spread, which means they do all the complicated math that allows them to make money in the end, no matter what the general public (you and me) are betting on.

These days, most bookmakers you’ll go to are mainstream betting websites on the Internet. They’re the most convenient and least scary places to place your bets!

The bookmaker also sets the odds, and here in the United States, we have US format odds. You have to do some math here, but it’s relatively easy to understand.

  • The amount won on a $100 stake (when positive.)
  • The stake needed to win $100 (when negative.)
  • Odds of 100 are an even bet (you bet $100, you win $100.)

Let’s say you have a bike race between Jens Voigt (+130) and Levi Leipheimer (-250) going head-to-head.

The numbers in parentheses are the odds. In this case, if you were to bet $100 on Jens, and he wins, you will win $130. For Levi, if you bet $250 on him, and he wins, you’ll win $100. (These payouts are on top of getting your money back, of course.)

Types of Bets

There are many types of bets you can make. I’ll explain the three most popular ones which can apply to a professional bicycle race.

Straight Bets

Straight bets are the most straightforward. You are betting on who wins. That’s it.

The example above where you’re either betting on Jens or Levi to win is a straight bet.

If you bet that Chris Froome or Alberto Contador will win the Tour, that’s a straight bet. You pick a winner, pay the money, and wait.

Proposition Bets (or “Prop” Bets)

This is a where you make a wager on some specific outcome of the race, other than the winner.

Perhaps you want to bet on the number of stage wins by Cadel Evans. Or that 5 riders will test positive for banned substances. You do that through a prop bet.


A parlay is where you have multiple single bets combined into one. To win this, all the individual bets must hit.

As you can imagine, the odds are stacked against you. If one bet misses, the whole thing is defunct. The allure, though, is that if all the bets do hit, it means big money!

What You Can Bet On During the Tour

There’s a lot going on during the Tour. It’s so much more than just the General Classification (i.e. the overall standings for the entire race.) There are stage wins, points, best young rider classification, etc.

This presents numerous opportunities for straight bets, and so many possibilities for prop bets. It’s really only limited by what the bookmakers are offering.

Here are some examples of options I’ve seen:

  • Overall Winner Is ____
  • Overall Winner Is Someone Other Than _______
  • Mountains Classification Winner Is ______
  • Points (Sprint) Leader Is _____
  • Winning Time Gap Is Over/Under _____
  • Stage ___ Winner Is _____
  • _____ Will Finish Faster Than _____
  • Over/Under ____ Riders Will Finish the Entire Tour
  • Over/Under ____ Different Riders Will Wear the Yellow Jersey

Look around to see what suits your interests.

Betting Tips and Strategies

Here are some useful strategies I’ve picked up over the years:

Only bet what you can afford to lose.

This is the big one. With any gambling, or even investing in the stock market, you should only bet what you can afford to lose. Don’t be stupid.

Some bets aren’t worth it.

Sometimes you’ll find a bet that’s nearly a “sure thing.” But often, those bets have considerably low payouts. So low that it’s not worth risking the money (especially if you can find a better payout elsewhere.)

Hedging your bets.

Hedging your bets means you’re betting on both sides in a way that allows you to make money regardless of which bet wins. Sounds ideal. It’s tricky, though, and usually means less profit. It’s probably wise to avoid this strategy unless something changes drastically and you want to change your predictions.

And an interesting tip for shopping around:

Look for the best odds.

You’ll find different odds at different sportsbooks, so choose the best ones. Betting $100 on Alejandro Valverde at +120 is better than betting $100 on him at +110.

And some neat ways to bring your cycling knowledge into play:

Watch the riders’ performances through the Spring.

The most telling sign of a rider’s Tour de France performance will be how well they ride through the Spring. They should gradually improve and look good, being ready to peak in July.

Get personal.

Research news articles, personal Twitter accounts, etc. – anything you can find that could tip you off to good or bad news. Local newspapers are great sources of info and speculation. Personal Twitter and Facebook accounts are even better. There’s even Strava, where you can look at training progress.

Here’s an example newspaper article and an example Twitter account, to get you thinking. And another. And one more Twitter. And an Instagram.

Think about what all can go wrong.

Over the course of 21 days, so much can go wrong. Just look back to 2013 where Bradley Wiggins didn’t even start the race!

Illnesses, mechanicals, freak accidents, tacks on the road, motorcycle collisions, etc. They give hope to the underdogs!

The team matters, too.

A good team situation is crucial. Does the rider have enough team support? Or will he have to do the work himself? Could there be a conflict of interest?

For 2014, you’ve got Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde who are both strong riders on the same team…

Past winners.

When analyzing and choosing favorites for this year, past winners can be considered, as they know what it takes.

Some previous winners: 2013 Froome, 2012 Wiggins, 2011 Evans, 2010 Contador (later stripped and awarded to Schleck), 2009 Contador, 2008 Sastre, 2007 Contador.

Compare riders’ strengths/weaknesses to the course profile.

The course changes each year. The 2014 course favors climbers. Think Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador.

Testing positive.

Who’s going to get caught doping? If they get caught, they certainly aren’t winning the GC!

Where to Place Your Bets (Online)

I’ve found a few websites that offer betting opportunities on the Tour de France. Here are my three favorites:


5Dimes is the most popular and highly-regarded sports betting site I know of. Along with professional cycling, they have a wide selection of weird sports to bet on! The minimum deposit is just $50 when you join online, and they offer matching bonuses where you can get up to a $520 bonus on your initial deposit.

The website itself is very plain looking, but it works well is reliable. This is also one of few sportsbooks accepting customers in the USA, so it’s probably your best bet (no pun intended.)

Get started at


Unibet is another popular site that’s super easy to use. You can bet on the Tour de France (and many other big cycling races, actually,) so this is a great choice if you’re looking to place bets on bike races. They’ll even give you a £20 risk-free bet to start off.

Unfortunately US customers are not accepted, so this site is best if you’re in Canada or Europe. (My UK friends recommend this place.)

Get started at


Bet365 offers up to $200 in free bets for new customers (via a 100% bonus on added funds) so that makes it very attractive. Plus, the site is very easy to use and beginner-friendly.

Unfortunately US customers are not accepted, so again, this is only another option if you’re in Canada or Europe.

Get started at


I had not looked into Bovada until recently, but wow – the site looks wonderful, they offer great cycling bets, and they’re open to US residents! Score a $250 free bet to start out!

Get started at


My Final Thoughts

Though I know cycling better than just about any other sport, I really don’t like to bet on it. I know what all can go wrong over such a long race, and despite past success in fantasy cycling, I don’t want to risk real money.

I might do a few bets as long as the odds are worth it, though! It does make things extra exciting! We’ll see what happens later in June, because 5Dimes and Bovada are my only options possible as a US resident.

How do you feel about it? Would betting make you giddy and excited or paranoid and distracted?


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1 Comment
  1. That 2014 Tour was something else. I bet if someone won, they won big!

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