The organisers of the Tour de France have confirmed that the 2018 race will begin in the Vendee department and Pays de la Loire region on the western coast of France.
Further details on the Grand Depart for the 105th edition of the Tour de France will be revealed on February 28 during a special press conference. It will be the sixth time the Tour de France starts in the Vendee and the ninth for the wider Loire area.
The first edition of the Tour de France back in 1903 passed through the area during the key stage between Bordeaux and Nantes. The 2017 Tour de France starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with a 13km individual time trial. Chris Froome (Team Sky) will be targeting a fourth victory.
No stage details were revealed, but 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.
Dirt roads in Brittany?
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.
The Vendee – home to Jean-René Bernaudeau's 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.
Six years ago Thomas Voeckler had an inspired Tour de France, he wore the race leader’s yellow jersey for 10 days and finished fourth overall in Paris. The 37-year-old Frenchman plans to retire after this year’s Tour de France.
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 1:20 in a late crash and would only finish fifth overall, almost four minutes down on overall winner Cadel Evans.