Tour de France Pre­view

Pre­view 2018

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by Tim Le­feb­vre

The rid­ers will face six mountain stages, three of which are sum­mit top fin­ishes, one 35km TTT on the third day, a 31km ITT on the penul­ti­mate day, eight flat days and five mod­er­ately hilly days for a to­tal of 3,229 kilo­me­tres in to­tal.

This 2018 race route will gift the rid­ers two rel­a­tively flat routes in the first two days and then test their legs with the al­ways en­ter­tain­ing team time trial in Cho­let. From here, the race will head to­ward Brit­tany, which can be fa­mous for its wind, and, again, one can only hope to be en­ter­tained with some cross­wind ac­tion. The Mur de Bre­tagne will pro­vide ex­cite­ment at the con­clu­sion of Stage Six be­fore the rid­ers face an old ad­ver­sary in the sto­ried cob­bles of Paris-Roubaix. This in­tense stage will throw 15 sec­tions or 21.7 kilo­me­tres of cob­bled roads at a tired pelo­ton who will be ever vig­i­lant in pro­tect­ing their key men on this cru­cial stage. It was three years ago that the rid­ers had to face such ad­ver­sity in a route, with Ger­man Tony Martin tak­ing the day.

Après a much-de­served rest day in An­necy, those who are left will now en­joy some mountain time. Be­gin­ning with three Alpe stages in suc­ces­sion, which in­clude a down­hill fin­ish into Le Grand Bor­nand, fol­lowed by sum­mit fin­ishes at La Rosiere and the in­fa­mous Alpe d’Huez day (where rid­ers must tackle the Col de Madeleine and the Croix de Fer first), all told, it is more than 5,000 me­tres of ver­ti­cal climb­ing in a sin­gle day. The world will be watch­ing this day, not only for the fire­works of the race, but also for how the Tour or­ga­ni­za­tion will deal with the mas­sive crowds on the mountain. Con­tin­u­ing across the south, the race will head to­ward the Pyre­nees af­ter the sec­ond rest day in Car­cas­sonne.

In­ten­sity will once again re­turn with a down­hill fin­ish in Bag­neres de Lu­chon, fol­lowed by an amaz­ing 65km stage that will be­gin up the Col du Peyre­sourde and fin­ish on the Col de Portet at 2,215 me­tres. This is fol­lowed up by the fi­nal mountain stage that en­com­passes the Aspin, Tour­malet and Au­bisque mountain passes and one more 31km ITT in the Basque re­gion be­fore the fi­nal sprint into Paris.

There will be 22 teams com­pet­ing this year, but each will be restricted to eight rid­ers in­stead of the usual nine, leav­ing 176 rid­ers to bat­tle for con­tention. The over­all win is with­out a doubt open to a num­ber of con­tenders, pro­vid­ing an un­usual air of ex­cite­ment as the race ap­proaches.

The lead story is the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Team Sky cap­tain Chris Froome. Fresh off a con­tro­ver­sial Giro win that he stole in the fi­nal week­end, the Brit has yet to have his Salbu­ta­mol-pos­i­tive case from the 2017 Vuelta re­solved. This has led to many, in­clud­ing leg­endary rider Bernard Hin­ault, to ques­tion his par­tic­i­pa­tion in this year’s event. Chas­ing a record-equal­ing fifth title, the de­fend­ing cham­pion has a very strong Sky team at his dis­posal to once again don yel­low in Paris.

Could we witness the re­turn of the 2014 Tour cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali, who has skipped the Giro d’Italia and in­stead trained at an al­ti­tude camp on Mount Teide for sev­eral weeks? The 33-year-old will race the Dauphine as fi­nal prepa­ra­tion be­fore head­ing to the Tour.

Many Tour con­tenders are also par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Tour de Suisse as prepa­ra­tion. Th­ese in­clude such mountain threats as French­man Ro­main Bardet and Ir­ish­man Dan Martin of UAE Team Emi­rates. Oth­ers who can def­i­nitely vie for con­tention are Richie Porte of BMC, the ever-present Nairo Quin­tana of Mo­vis­tar, Rigob­erto Uran of Can­non­dale-Dra­pac and Thibaut Pinot, who will lead his FDJ team on home soil.

At press time, it’s not clear if any Cana­di­ans will be at the Tour this year. Both Michael Woods (Team EF Ed­u­ca­tion First-Dra pac p/b Can­non­dale) and Svein Tuft (Mitchel­ton-SCOTT) com­pleted the Giro, and Tuft is ru­moured to be rac­ing at the Tour de Beauce in what looks to be his fi­nal year as a Pro. Antoine Duchesne (QC, Groupama FDJ) and Hugo Houle (As­tana Pro Team) are other pos­si­ble con­tenders.

The Tour prom­ises to be an ex­cit­ing race played out on a course that has blended tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion. The world con­tin­ues to be fas­ci­nated by the Tour de France, and this year will be no ex­cep­tion.

Can Chris Froome (GBR, Team Sky) shrug off his Salbu­ta­mol-pos­i­tive case and win a record-equal­ing fifth Tour title?

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