The final countdown to the 2018 Tour de France has begun, and with it comes Cyclingnews’ comprehensive look at the 21 stages that the 176 riders starting this year’s race will have to negotiate en route to the big finish in Paris.
Starting in Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile in the Vendée on July 7, this year’s stages include a 35.5km team time trial around Cholet on stage 3 – a discipline that is often a very strong indicator of a team’s collective strength for the entire Tour – and a tough conclusion to the end of stage 6 with the climb of the Mûr-de-Bretagne, which last featured at the Tour in 2015, when AG2R's Alexis Vuillermoz took the stage win ahead of Dan Martin.
Stage 9 – on the day of the FIFA World Cup final – mimics the one-day Classic Paris-Roubaix, with its treacherous cobbled sectors, and the stage 17 mountain stage that, at just 65km long, should also provide fireworks – especially as the Tour will experiment with a unique start grid whereby the riders will set off together, but in order of the overall standings at that point in the race.
There are three summit finishes – one of those being the legendary Alpe d’Huez, which returns to the race on stage 12 after a three-year absence – and two downhill finishes, at Le Grand Bornand on stage 10 and Bagnères-de-Luchon on stage 16, which can often be as much of an undoing for some riders as the challenge of the climbs.
Alpe d'Huez makes a return to the race for the first time since 2015, when Thibaut Pinot, who will miss this year's Tour, won the stage.
If all that’s not enough to sort out a winner from the also-rans, a 31km time trial – the only individual time-trial kilometres of this year’s Tour – will decide the final podium places the day before the finale in Paris, where the sprinters will get their eighth opportunity for a stage win, and where the green jersey may well be decided.
For a full preview of all stages, click here to ensure you’re fully au fait ahead of the July 7 start.