The 2018 Tour de France Grand Depart will include two road stages in the Vendée region, an official start at the often submerged Passage du Gois road from the island of Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, followed by a 35km team time trial around Cholet on stage 3.
It is the sixth time the Vendee region has hosted the Grand Départ and comes seven years after the 2011 Grand Départ in the 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 Puy du Fou theme park hosted the Grand Départ in 1993, when Miguel Indurain won the 6.8km prologue time trial and went on to win the race in Paris.
In 1999 the Tour de France covered the Passage du Gois during stage two, with crashes and echelons splitting the peloton. Alex Zulle (Banesto), Ivan Gotti (Polti) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) lost more than six minutes.
The race last set out from the Vendée six years ago, when Thomas Voeckler from local outfit Europcar went on to have an inspired Tour de France, wearing the race leader's yellow jersey for ten days and finishing fourth overall in Paris. The 37-year-old Frenchman plans to retire after this year's Tour de France.
Stage 1 covers 195km between Noirmoutier-En-L'Ïle and Fontenay-Le-Comte, with much of the stage following the twisting Vendée coastline after the riders cross the Passage du Gois. Crosswinds and echelons could be an immediate problem for the overall contenders. The finish is close to the home to Jean-René Bernaudeau and the headquarters of his Direct Energie team.
Stage 2 is an 185km inland loop between La Roche-Sur-Yon and Mouilleron-St-Germain. The 35km stage 3 team time trial starts and finishes in Cholet and covers a twisting route to the northwest of the town.
Stage 4 starts in the coastal village of La Baule near Saint-Naziare and will head north into Brittany for a still to be revealed finish location.
The full route for the 2018 Tour de France will be revealed on October 17 at the Palais des Congrès de Paris. The 2017 Tour de France starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with a 13km individual time trial.
Grand Départ stages of the 2018 Tour de France:
Saturday, 30 June: stage 1: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île - Fontenay-le-Comte, 195 km
Sunday, 1 July: stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint Germain - La Roche-sur-Yon, 185 km
Monday, 2 July: stage 3: Cholet - Cholet, 35 km (TTT)
Tuesday, 3 July: stage 4: La Baule – To be confirmed.
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