The 2018 Tour de France is expected to start in the Vendee region of central France, with a confirmation from race organiser ASO reported to be imminent according to well-informed French regional newspaper Ouest-France.
The Vendee –home to Jean-René Bernaudeau Direct Energie team, hosted the Grand Depart six years ago and 2018 will be the sixth time the coastal department hosts the start of cycling's most important Grand Tour after previous starts in 1976, 1993, 1999, 2005 and 2011.
According to a second report in Le Telegramme newspaper, the Grand Depart will be centred around the Puy du Fou historical theme park, with three days of racing in the Vendee before heading north to Brittany.
The Puy du Fou hosted the Grand Depart in 1993, when Miguel Indurain won the 6.8km prologue time trial and went on to win the race in Paris.
Le Telegramme suggests the Tour de France could visit Sarzeau, on the Rhuys peninsula in Brittany after the stages in the Vendee. The local newspaper also claims that Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme asked local officials from the Plouhinec area of Brittany to suggest a tough finale for a stage that includes dirt road sections in the final 30km.
The iconic Tro-Bro Leon race covers dirt roads and farm tracks in a neighbouring part of Brittany north of Brest and seems to have inspired the Tour de France organisers to add some dirt sections to the 2018 Tour de France route.
Value for money
Hosting the Grand Depart costs several million Euros but the Vendee department has calculated that the Tour de France creates significant income from tourism. According to Ouest-France the 2011 Tour de France Grand Depart attracted 1.2 million spectators to the area and generated € 22.6 million in economic spin offs.
Six years ago Thomas Voeckler had an inspired Tour de France, he wore the race leader's yellow jersey for ten days and finished fourth overall in Paris. The 37 year-old Frenchman plans to retire after this year's Tour de France.
In 2011 the opening stage ended on the Mont des Alouettes climb, with Philippe Gilbert winning the stage and pulling on the first yellow jersey. Alberto Contador was part of a group of riders who lost 1:14 in a late crash and would only finish fifth overall, almost four minutes down on overall winner Cadel Evans.
The 2017 Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf, Germany on July 1 with a 13km individual time trial.