Tour de France 2018 route revealed: cobbles, two time trials & Alpe d'Huez

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Tour de France 2018 route revealed: Chris Froome could face toughest test yet with cobbles, two time trials and Alpe d’Huez summit finish announced

"It is a massive challenge for next year and a Tour de France that tests every aspect of cycling," says Froome

The 2018 Tour de France could provide Chris Froome’s toughest test yet with cobbles, gravel and the return of Alpe d’Huez. The 105th edition of La Grande Boucle will also feature two time trials, as well as the shortest road stage in recent Tour history.

The 2018 race will combine Tour tradition with Grand Tour innovation. A team time trial, Alpe d’Huez summit finish and a hilly individual time trial will provide three classic Tour tests. On the other hand, 21.7km of cobbles on stage nine, a section of dirt road on the first mountain stage, and three climbs packed into stage 17, which measures just 65km, will ensure the Tour champion crowned in Paris on July 29 is a worthy all-round winner.

“We especially wanted to emphasise stage variety and the routes that may prove decisive, whilst combining legendary climbs with brand-new ascensions or ultra-dynamic formats to provide a vision of modern and inspired cycling,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

The 2018 Tour de France will feature 22km of cobbles, dirt roads, two time trials and a summit finish on Alpe d’Huez (Pic: ASO)

After a series of dour flat stages in the first half of the 2017 Tour, Prudhomme has also sought to shake-up the racing beyond the mountains by introducing three, two and one second time bonuses at key points on the road stages up to and including stage nine. The 2018 Tour will also be contested by eight-rider teams, rather than nine.

– Etape du Tour 2018 sportive route announced: four major climbs and a dirt road –

The race will start in the Vendée region on Saturday July 7, a week later than normal due to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the first nine stages will provide opportunities for the peloton’s sprinters and rouleurs as the Tour begins its clockwise circuit of France.

The biggest challenges for Froome and his general classification rivals during the opening exchanges will come on stage three, a 35km team time trial. Two ascents of the short but steep Mûr-de-Bretagne will feature on stage six before 15 secteurs of Paris-Roubaix cobbles on stage nine. With nearly 25km of cobbles in total, the 2018 race will feature more pave than any Tour since 1980 – the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Tour only had approximately 13km of cobbles each.

The race will then head into the mountains, with 25 climbs of category two, one or hors catègorie classification in total. The climbing begins on stage ten, the first of three days in the Alps, with four climbs in 159km, including the steep ascent of Montée du plateau de Glières. The climb, featuring in the Tour for the first time, rises at an average gradient of 11.2% for six kilometres – including a final kilometre at a thigh-numbing 13%.  “Per kilometre, the average does not go below 10%, which is very rare,” said Prudhomme.

The limestone plateau at the summit will also see the peloton take on two kilometres of rough dirt road, although with more than half of the stage still to run, it’s unlikely to have much impact on the race – the climbs of the Col de Romme and Col de la Colombiere that follow will take care of that. The stage will “undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the Tour de France”, according to Prudhomme, and will be be used for the Etape du Tour sportive on Sunday July 8.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme unveiled a varied route for the 2018 race (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)

The climbing continues on stage 11, which measures just 108km, but the race’s toughest Alpine test will come a day later, on a 175km route which packs in more than 5,000m of climbing via the Col de la Madeleine, hairpin-laden Lacets de Montvernier, returning to the Tour for a second time having debuted in 2015, and the Col de la Croix de Fer, before finishing on Alpe d’Huez.

The race will then traverse the south of France before the first of three tough stages in the Pyrenees. Stage 16 covers 218km and includes three major climb in the final 80km, while stage 17 will be raced over just 65km, finishing on the the Col de Portet, a 16km climb averaging 8.7 per cent. The short stage is typical of Prudhomme’s reign as Tour race director, with aggressive racing expected as the race enters its finale. Every general classification rider still in contention will need to be on guard.

The Tour de France will return to Alpe d’Huez on July 19 (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)

Stage 18 will provide some respite before the final test in the Pyrenees, a 200km stage with four ascents, including the Col du Tourmalet, and finishing with a fast descent to Laruns. If the yellow jersey is still in doubt by then, the champion will be decided on stage 20 and a lumpy 31km time trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette.

It is on the roads of the French Basque Challenge that Froome and co can expect one final test from Tom Dumoulin who, having won the Giro d’Italia in May, is expected to launch an attack on the Tour de France next July. This is no pan-flat time trial, though, with the hilly route featuring the Côte de Pinodieta, a 900m at a gradient of 10.2%.

But Froome believes he is up to the challenge set both by his rivals on the road and the varied parcours announced by Prudhomme in Paris.

“I wouldn’t expect anything different from the organisers,” said Froome, who will bid to win a fifth Tour title and join Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain in the record books.

“It is a massive challenge for next year and a Tour de France that tests every aspect of cycling.”

Tour de France 2018 route

Stage 1 – July 7: Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile – Fontenay-le-Comte, 189km

Stage 2 – July 8: Mouilleron-Saint-Germain – La Roche-sur-Yon, 183km

Stage 3 – July 9: Cholet – Cholet (TTT), 35km

Stage 4 – July 10: La Baule – Sarzeau, 192km

Stage 5 – July 11: Lorient – Quimper, 203km

Stage 6 – July 12: Brest – Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan, 181km

Stage 7 – July 13: Fougères – Chartres, 231km

Stage 8 – July 14: Dreux – Amiens Métropole, 181km

Stage 9 – July 15: Arras Citadelle – Roubaix, 154km

Rest day – July 16: Annecy

Chris Froome took centre stage during the presentation (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/ASO)

Stage ten – July 17: Annecy – Le Grand Bornand, 159km

Stage 11 – July 18: Albertville – La Rosière, 108km

Stage 12 – July 19: Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs – Alpe d’Huez, 175km

Stage 13 – July 20: Bourg d’Oisans – Valence, 169km

Stage 14 – July 21: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Mende, 187km

Stage 15 – July 22: Millau – Carcassonne, 181km

Rest day – July 23: Carcassonne

Stage 16 – July 24: Carcassonne – Bagnères-de-Luchon, 218km

Stage 17 – July 25: Bagnères-de-Luchon – Saint-Lary-Soulan (Col de Portet), 65km

Stage 18 – July 26: Trie-sur-Baïse – Pau, 172km

Stage 19 – July 27: Lourdes – Laruns, 200km

Stage 20 – July 28: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle – Espelette (ITT), 31km

Stage 21 – July 29: Houilles – Paris Champs Elysées, 115km

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