Organisers ASO have confirmed that Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, Mark Cavendish, Warren Barguil, Thibaut Pinot and recently retired Alberto Contador will be amongst the 4000 guests at the presentation at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.
Froome is expected to aim for record-equalling fifth Tour de France title in 2018 but will face a determined challenge from Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Richie Porte (BMC), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) with Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) also likely to line out in July.
The 2018 Grand Depart has already been confirmed in the Vendee area, with Noirmoutier-en-l'Île hosting the opening stage. The following two stages are likely to feature bunch sprints before an important 35km team time trial in Cholet.
Starting on Saturday July 7 - a week later than usual due to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the Tour de France is expected to visit Brittany in the opening week before heading east for a taste of the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The first rest day will allow the peloton to transfer south with the Tour to resume in the Alps, with a return to Alpe d'Huez extremely likely. From the Alps, the race is likely to head west via Mende for a block of decisive mountain stages in the Pyrenees and a final hilly time trial in the Basque Country of France before. The winner will be crowned in Paris on Sunday July 29.
Few secrets remain
ASO tries to keep the race route a secret until the official presentation but local authorities and local media are known for revealing details of each stage. The Velowire website has again collated the many reports and cross-checked them with hotel bookings and other rumours, to produce an outline of the 2018 race route and information on the key mountain finishes.
The 2018 Tour de France appears set to be a race of two halves, with nine stages in the north as the race crosses from Vendee, via Brittany to the northeast, then from the Aix-les-Bains in the Alps across southern France for the finale in the Pyrenees, with Pau a central point and base for the racing.
The first week of racing will include a finish in the home town on new UCI President David Lappartient and almost certainly a finish on the Mur de Bretagne climb that was used in 2015 and 2011. The stage could even climb the short but steep climb twice, increasing the risk of time gaps for the overall contenders.
The race heads east towards Paris but then north towards Belgium for a taste of the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The stage is expected to start in Arras and possibly finish in the Roubaix velodrome, with the Carrefour de l'Arbre, Gruson and Camphin-en-Pévèle sectors included in the 150km stage that will recall the 100th anniversary of the armistice of the First World War.
Up to L'Alpe d'Huez
The riders will fly south to the Alps on Monday July 16 for a first rest day in Aix-les-Bains before heading into the high Alps for three testing mountain stages. The stages are expected to finish atop Le Grand-Bornand, at the La Rosière-Montvalezan ski station and then to L'Alpe d'Huez, possibly with two climbs of the legendary hairpins.
The transfer west towards the Pyrenees includes a hilltop finish above Mende, with the race climbing from a new road to avoid congestion in the town. The riders will spend the second rest day in Carcassonne with a view of the mountains that remain on the road to Paris.
There has much talk of the Tour de France spending four nights in Pau. While teams and the race caravan may well sleep in the city and stage finish there too, the racing is expected to head deep into the Pyrenees, with finishes likely in Pla d'Adet, Luchon and Luz Ardiden. The stage to Pla d'Adet could be short but packed with climbs, while the Tourmalet could also be included on one of the stages in the Pyrenees.
Time trials are again expected to be limited in the 2018 Tour de France, with no mid-race individual time trial. The 35km team time trial on stage 3 and a final hilly 29km individual time trial in the Basque Country on Saturday July 28 appear to bookend the race before a long transfer to Paris for the traditional evening parade stage on the Champs Elysees.
The local Sud Ouest newspaper has reported that the town of Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle had been successful in its bid to host a stage start, with Espelette hosting the finish. The route does not include a major climb but the rolling roads will be the last chance for a rider to gain time or defend their overall position before Paris.
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