Alpe d'Huez to return as details of 2018 Tour de France mountains emerge

Report: Gravel tracks to feature on one of three days in the Alps

The Tour de France is set to visit the Alps ahead of the Pyrenees in 2018, with Alpe d'Huez taking centre stage as it returns to the race after a three-year absence.

The route for the 105th edition of the Tour will be officially unveiled in Paris on October 17, but a reliable trace can often be mapped out in the preceding weeks via reports in local French newspapers. Le Dauphiné Libéré, which covers the departments in the Rhône-Alpes region, had the Tour on its pages on Monday, reporting details of three stages in the Alps roughly half-way through the race.

There will be a stage, Le Dauphiné reports, from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand, followed by a stage that will possibly link Albertville to La Rosière, and then a stage from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Alpe d'Huez.

The only part of the route that has so far been officially confirmed is the Grand Départ in the Vendée region in north west France, which will feature two road stages and a team time trial. Stage 4 will start in La Baule but that's where the official information ends. Reports suggest that the race will head deep into Brittany in the very north-west of the country before travelling east towards Roubaix, which has been rumoured to be hosting the finish of stage 9 after covering some of the cobblestone sectors used in Paris-Roubaix.

It is widely predicted that the Roubaix stage will be followed by the first rest day on July 16, which will see the peloton transfer down to the Alps.

According to Le Dauphiné, Annecy will host the rest day and the start of stage 10 on the following day. A detailed report in the paper says the riders will set off from the banks of the lake for a 151km stage that will head over the Col des Fleuries, the Côte de Romme, and the Col de la Colombière before the descent into Le Grand Bornand. One particularly notable aspect is that the route would cover the Plateau des Glières, which features a 1.8km stretch of gravel track that the organisers are said to have no intention of tarmacking over.

Le Dauphiné has fewer firm details about stage 11 the following day, but the newspaper suggests a finish at ski station La Rosière after a start in Albertville. Such a stage could take in the Col du Pré, widely identified in a picture (later deleted) that was posted on the Tour's twitter account alongside the caption 'recce of #TDF2018.'

A return to Alpe d'Huez for the 30th time in the race's history has been rumoured for several months, and Le Dauphiné has it down for stage 12 on July 19. The start would be in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and the finish would be atop Alpe d'Huez, though details of how the two would link together are scarce.

The last finish at Alpe d'Huez was in 2015, two years after a double ascent of the legendary 21 hairpins to celebrate the 100th edition of the Tour. It is unclear whether the stage would take this traditional route, or mix things up with an approach via the Col de Sarenne – as in this year's Critérium du Dauphiné – or Villard-Reculas on the opposite side.

Le Dauphiné reports that stage 13 will depart from Bourg d'Oisans to leave the mountains, with a stage finish in the department of La Drôme, possibly in Valence. The race would then head across southern France towards the Pyrenees, which are set to feature after the Alps – and thus as the denouement in the battle for the yellow jersey – for the first time since 2014.

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