TOUR’18: The PEZ Course Preview!
2018 Tour de France Preview: In October in the Palais de Congrès convention centre in Paris, Christian Prudhomme unveiled the 2018 Tour de France race route. With the cobbles of Roubaix, the return of the Alpe d’Huez and a mountain time trial in the Basque Country. As the Tour starts in just over two weeks, our PEZ Grand Tour supremo, Ed Hood, takes his look at the course. An in-depth look at the Tour’18 protagonists up soon on PEZ.
What is on the menu for 2018?
If it was me, I’d have stuck a decent time trial in as Stage One, then another very long chrono late in the day to set it up for Dumoulin – I mean it’s 37 years since Joopie did the biz for The Netherlands. It would have been good to watch Froome and Sky having to fight for the race instead of controlling it. But, fortunately for most folks tastes, I just write about it and don’t actually organize Le Tour de France.
Will Bardet have anything left in the tank by stage 20?
Instead, we have a Tour for Bardet; IF he can reach the final highly technical mountain time trial in the Basque Country with something left in his legs – unlike 2017 where he was running on fumes in the Marseille time test.
But to get to that final five climb chrono and perhaps become the first French vainqueur for 32 years he has a few hoops to jump through – like 21.7 kilometers of pave over 15 sectors to Roubaix in Stage Nine. But let’s go back to Stage One; there’s no prologue in 2018 – so that’s a black mark right away in my book, I love my prologues.
The tide should be out for stage 1
Instead the Grand Depart sees the 105th Tour’s first 189K of a shorter than usual 3329 total kilometers as a road stage from Noirmontier-en-I’lle to Fontenay-le Comte in the Vendee Region on France’s Atlantic coast. Not quite Brittany or Normandy but an area big into its bike racing – Europcar are the home team and will be all out to animate this stage for sure.
Stages 1 to 7
Stage One is one of eight for the sprinters; there are five classified as ‘hilly’ (read brutal) and six ‘mountainous’ (read savage) with a team time trial and that Basque battle with Sir Isaac Newton’s great discovery as the only individual clock burst.
There are a few stages for sprinter Arnaud Démare
Stage Two is another for the fast twitch boys, with 183K from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La-Roche-Sur-Yon; but as early as Stage Three the GC gets a shake with a 35 kilometer team time test in Cholet – those little climbers always love a good 55 kph TTT.
Sky for the TTT?
Stage Four sees the race in the Brittany Heartland, 192K from La Baule to Sarzeau; with Stage Five a ‘mini Ardennes Classic’ from Lorient to Quimper dropping down into those deeply incised river valleys then back up the other side.
Stage 5 – Mini Ardennes
Stage Six isn’t for the flat, fast finishers either – not one but two ascents of the horrible Mur de Bretagne in final 16 kilometers of the 181 from Brest. Sagan? Fougeres to Chartres, 231 kilometers for Stage Seven and this long one is for the sprinters.
Stage 6 and the Mur de Bretagne
Stage Eight from Dreux to Amiens over 181 kilometers; and those coastal roads mean two things – cross winds and crashes, albeit with eight man teams and the field down to 176 riders things should be a tad safer; another for the sprinters.
The road to Roubaix
Arras to Roubaix over 154 kilometers and Stage Nine is the one the fly weights are losing sleep over already with it’s 21.2 kilometers and 15 sectors of cobbles – if it rains then this could be the day the form sheet gets torn up.
Rest day one in Annecy.
Stages 8 to 15
Stage 10 and we’re in the Alps, beautiful Annecy to Le Grand Bornand, that’s 159K with two of them being on the ‘non-tarmacked’ track to Plateau de Glieres – and that’s after the Croix Fry with the ‘frightening double’ – to quote ASO – of Col de Romme and Grand Bornand still to come. All told there are 25 major ascents in the race, 11 in the Alps, four in the Massif Central and 10 in the Pyrenees.
Stage 11 from the Olympic town of Albertville to La Rosiere, a mere 108K but with four categorized climbs including the early, long and steep Montee de Bisane – oh yes, and a mountain top finish. Savage.
Stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez
Stage 12 and more carnage; a 175K romp from Bourg-Saint-Maurice via the Madeleine, the Lacets de Montvernier, the Croix Fer and to finish – the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez. They say you can see Paris from the top on this the last day in the Alps but the boys in the grupetto will be seeing double by now.
Alpe d’Huez madness returns in 2018
Bourg d’Oisans to Valence over 169K is for the sprinters; Stage 13 and the speedsters will be OK once the soigneurs drag them out of bed and get some coffee down them.
Into the Massif Central, 187K between Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux and that now famous ramp to Mende – one for the baroudeurs is Stage 14.
Carcassone – famour for its sunflowers
Millau and it’s beautiful viaduct to Carcassone over 181K and Stage 15 is another for the ‘brawlers’. A quick Millau anecdote, Dave and I were staying there and at breakfast two English lads saw our creds and got chatting to us. The day before a rider had received a 10 minute penalty for an infringement in the sprint – our new chums asked if this meant that the guilty party had to start 10 minutes after the peloton, that day. . .
Rest day two – Carcassonne.
Stages 16 to 21
Moving on, Stage 16, Aspet, Mente, Portillon – a grim 218K grind from Carcassone to Bagneres-de-Luchon with Le Tour taking it’s only excursion out of its Homeland, into Spain for just 15K – but at least the finalé is downhill.
Stage 17 and one for the skinsuits; just 65K but we have the Pyrenean delights of Peyragudes, Val Louron and the Portet. Watch that time cut, guys. Those who survive that cut can look forward to 172K from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau, the 172K sprinter Stage 18.
But don’t get too euphoric guys, Stage 19 is rated XX, within it’s 200K between Lourdes and Laruns lies the Sapin, Tourmalet, Borderes and Soulor/Aubisque. On the bright side, again it’s a downhill finish. . .
Stage 20 TT
Stage 20 and if Bardet hasn’t wasted too much strength on fruitless attacks then he could just win the Tour here in the Basque Nation on the barely 20 miles ‘alone and unpaced’ between Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle and Espelette with it’s five climbs and four descents.
Back on the plane for Stage 21, Houilles to those Elysian Fields where the sprinter Gods can frolic after 115 predictable kilometers.
2018 Tour de France route
So that’s the route in brief, we’ll be taking a closer look at the critical stages and the top riders soon. Will it be Froome’s fifth; Dumoulin to disappoint him or Bardet steps up from good to brilliant and ‘does a Thevenet?’
No.5 for Mr. Froome?
Whichever way it plays, PEZ will be right there to take you through all the dramas. Don’t forget you can watch live Tour action on steephill.tv HERE.
The riders at the presentation – Démare, Pinot (not riding), Calmejane, Barguil, Froome, Bouhanni, Cavendish, Yates and Bardet
What the riders say
2018 Tour de France Stage Details:
Stage 1: Noirmoutier-En-L’Ïle – Fontenay-Le-Comte 195km
Stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint Germain – La Roche-Sur-Yon 185km
Stage 3: Cholet (TTT) 35km
Stage 4: La Baule – Sarzeau 192km
Stage 5: Lorient – Quimper 203km
Stage 6: Brest – Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan 181km
Stage 7: Fougères – Chartres 231km
Stage 8: Dreux – Amiens 181km
Stage 9: Arras – Roubaix 154km
Rest day 1: Annecy
Stage 10: Annecy – Le Grand Bornand 159km
Stage 11: Albertville – La Rosière 108km
Stage 12: Bourg-Saint-Maurice – Alpe d’Huez 175km
Stage 13: Bourg d’Oisans – Valence 169km
Stage 14: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Mende 187km
Stage 15: Millau – Carcassonne 181km
Rest day 2: Carcassonne
Stage 16: Carcassonne – Bagnères-de-Luchon 218km
Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon – Saint-Lary-Soulan (Col de Portet) 65km
Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse – Pau 172km
Stage 19: Lourdes – Laruns 200km
Stage 20: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle – Espelette (ITT) 31km
Stage 21: Houilles – Paris 115km.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,600 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.