The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 8 July

Tips, Tricks, Picks, and Odds. 

Shrug off those Monday blues – and get keen for the week ahead. 

Over the past weekend we saw World Cups, Gold Cups, Copa Americas and any number of other sporting events to keep us glued to our seats. But, stay where you are, because the week ahead is bound to be just as huge. We’ve got more big sporting events than I can count, and I’m as keen as anyone to get stuck in.

As always in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports – focusing on a different sport for each day – and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis, and expert intuition. 

Just as a disclaimer: I would have written about Origin this week, but it’s impossible for me to provide an impartial view (go the Maroons!).

Tuesday – Tour De France

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Image via TechRadar

The world’s greatest race, and most-watched event (in terms of spectator numbers) has kicked off for another year in the beautiful city of Brussels, Belgium. The cyclists have since made their way south into France, and will be cycling from Reims to Nancy on Tuesday.

Stage 4

This stage kicks off in Reims, and is a relatively cruisy 215km affair. The harshest climb is a one kilometre category four midway through the stage, but other than that, the cyclists will welcome the respective ease of the ascents (or lack thereof) this portion of the race will provide. At around 200km, the riders will face a three and a half kilometre five percent climb, before a cruisy downhill ride into the town of Nancy to end the day. The stage has one sprint portion, at the 147km mark, so those gunning for the green jersey will be keen to tally up some points come the time.

This is a stage that will be won with teamwork. Given its flat profile and overall ease, it’s likely that a breakaway will be caught by the Peloton with relative ease. That is, of course, unless the breakaway is well-supported by a strong team of riders.

So far, the standout team has unquestionably been Jumbo-Visma. They’ve flown through the first few stages, keeping Teunissen in the yellow jersey, and their strength on the flat was showcased in their stellar performances in Brussels. There’s little question that Jumbo are the team to beat at this point in the race.

So, can they keep it up for a fourth stage? I think they absolutely can. They’ve been stellar on the flatter courses, and have displayed excellent teamwork, with Steven Kruijswijk, George Bennett, Wout van Aert and Tony Martin supporting Teunissen through his first two stage victories. They should break away relatively early, and I expect them to keep their distance from the Peloton right until the end, just like in Brussels.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Tuenissen to retain the yellow jersey and win Stage 4

Wednesday – MLB All-Star Game

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Image via CBS

For something a little bit different, the MLB is hosting its All-Star event at Progressive Field in Cleveland this week, headlined by its main-event – the All-Star Game – On Wednesday.

All Star Game

Now, I’ll preface this by saying that this is largely an exhibition match, there’s no longer any stakes to the All-Star Game (it used to determine World Series home advantage), so it’s a little tricky to pick a winner. The bookies have the odds completely even between the two teams. So, what I’m going to do is go through the lineups and let you know which team I think is stronger – but take it with a grain of salt, All-Star games are always hard to pick.

The American League team is one dominated by strength and offensive power. One of the best hitters of the season (LeMahieu) and one of the best hitters of all time (Trout) are the two biggest stars of this huge lineup. Of the nine starting players, five play for either the Astros or Yankees – a testament to the dominance of these two teams this season. Leading the pitchers are Bieber of the Indians, and Berrios of the Twins – two pitchers that are having the seasons of their careers right now (eight to three, 3.45ERA and eight to five, 3.00ERA respectively). This will be a tough team to beat on the offense, and their defense won’t be hit with any ease either. The AL are looking strong.

The NL team isn’t exactly a weak team either. Contreras, Baez, and Acuna are the big names bolstering this lineup, and the pitching prowess of the likes of Alcantra and DeGromm makes this team just as formidable.

This is an All-Star game after all.

I think the NL has better pitchers, and the AL better hitters – so it’s really just a question of which side trumps the other on the day. Because this is largely an exhibition match, pitchers likely won’t see more than an inning of play – so they won’t have the time to settle in like a regular match. The AL has a better power line up, and I can see them taking the game with some big dingers.

Either way, this’ll be a fun watch, and a good end to the All-Star showcase.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: American League to Win

Thursday – Cricket World Cup

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Image via ESPNCricInfo

90 games later, and the cricketing gods have finally given us the four teams that’ll be facing off in the finals, and what a finals we have in store. First up, New Zealand battles the Indians on Tuesday night, before we’re treated to cricket’s oldest rivalry, as the hosts face the Aussies in a semi-final grudge match for the ages.

Australia v England

England are still the bookies’ favourites to win the tournament, and it isn’t hard to see why. As the hosts, every match is a home game, and while they looked to be shaky at the start of the cup, they’ve since hit their form, being bested by only Australia in their final three games (against the three other tournament finalists). The highlight of their display so far would have to be their triumphant 31-run win over the ever-dominant Indian side – a match that might just have been a preview for the grand final.

Australia are a team that have been consistent all tournament, but suffered a pre-finals hiccup against the Proteas over the weekend. They’ll need to regather themselves if they want to put in a good display against the poms, in an effort to retain the trophy they won four years ago at the G. If the Aussies bat first, I can see them putting up a decent total, but their bowling is going to have to seriously improve (or be seriously lucky) if they want to beat the Brits. Starc can’t do everything himself.

I think the home advantage and the opportunity to embarrass the Aussies in the cup will motivate England, and I think here they’ll ultimately walk away with the trophy. The game should be closely fought, but the Brits should book a spot in the final come Thursday.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: England to Win

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Feature image via British Cycling