The 2018 Tour route has twists and sur­prises aplenty as or­gan­is­ers try to ig­nite the race

Procycling - - Prologue -

Take a look at the 2018 Tour de France route

T he big­gest in­no­va­tion of the 2017 edi­tion of the Tour de France was that ev­ery kilo­me­tre was broad­cast live. For the first time ever view­ers could watch each of the 21 stages from start to fin­ish. The wall-to-wall TV cov­er­age, how­ever, left the or­gan­iser ASO and the route glar­ingly ex­posed. Many com­mented that the race, won for the fourth time by Chris Froome, wasn’t ac­tu­ally all that ex­cit­ing. Con­sid­er­ing all the ex­tra tele­vi­sion cov­er­age, the crit­i­cism is likely to have stung.

Much has been made of the idea ASO have tried to de­sign routes in the past with the aim of break­ing Froome and Sky’s stran­gle­hold on the Tour, but for 2018 it seems they’ve ac­cepted that what­ever type of race they con­jure up it will not faze the team. In­stead, they ap­pear to have de­signed a course that is the an­tithe­sis of bor­ing. It’s packed with nov­el­ties and new ter­rain that will keep teams guess­ing. A team time trial, cob­bles, gravel tracks, a short 65km moun­tain stage, new Pyre­nean climbs, a hilly in­di­vid­ual time trial and a new bonus time rule all fea­ture in next year’s 21 stages, pack­ing the route with enough dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to keep the view­ers en­ter­tained.

The 2018 Tour is a race of two halves split across north­ern France and the Alps and Pyre­nees. The sixth Grand Dé­part in the Vendée has long been con­firmed, and the first week has a mix of ter­rains to test the pelo­ton, as the route makes its way east to­wards a show­down on the Roubaix cob­ble­stones. While noth­ing that ap­pears is new to the Tour so far - cob­bles made an ap­pear­ance in 2010, 2014 and 2015, and the short, sharp Côte de Mûrde-Bre­tagne has also ap­peared twice as a sum­mit fin­ish re­cently - each has been di­alled up an ex­tra notch.

This time around the Côte de Mûr-de-Bre­tagne is tack­led twice, the sec­ond time at the fin­ish, and although ru­mours that the Tour would re­turn to the pavé were spot on, few ex­pected 21.7 kilo­me­tres of them on stage nine. Almost like a sum­mer ver­sion of the spring Queen of Clas­sics, the 154km stage packs in 15 sec­tors be­fore fin­ish­ing close to the Roubaix velo­drome.

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