Organizers Unveil 3,300km Route For '18 Tour De France, Promise 'Inspired Cycling'
An "ultra-dynamic" 2018 Tour de France route was announced at the Palais des Congres in Paris, "the highlights of which are a return to the Roubaix cobblestones," a summit finish on Alpe d’Huez and the "shortest stage in recent memory," a 65km "hop" from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the Col de Portet (altitude 2,215m) in the Pyrenees, according to Cary & MacLeary of the London TELEGRAPH. The entire route "comprises barely 3,300km," with organizers declaring they intend to "provide a vision of modern and inspired cycling." The 105th edition of the race, which will be held from July 7-29, will see Chris Froome "attempt to win his fifth Tour crown." To triumph, Froome will have to "contend with the cobblestones of northern France again." It was "approaching the pavé that the Team Sky leader famously crashed twice in foul weather" in '14, fracturing his wrist. A reduced peloton of 176 riders (each team will be allowed eight rather than nine riders next year in an attempt to make it "less easy to control the race") will start in the Vendée region on the west coast of France. Other highlights of the '18 race are a "partly unpaved climb" to the Plateau des Glières on the Le Grand Bornand stage on July 17, a return to Alpe d’Huez on July 19 and a return to the Mende airstrip where Steve Cummings "famously won" for South African team Dimension Data on Mandela Day in '15 (TELEGRAPH, 10/17).
SPICING IT UP: REUTERS' Julien Pretot reported every year since he took over from Jean-Marie Leblanc in '06, Tour de France Dir Christian Prudhomme "has tried to spice up the route with new climbs to make the race more exciting." Prudhomme said, "It will be interesting from a sporting point of view, but also from a historical point of view." The Plateau des Glières "features the national monument of the Resistance as the limestone plateau was used by Maquis group of resistance fighters" during World War II. The site "had been in Prudhomme’s mind for a few years but it was only included very recently" in the '18 Tour, leaving "little time" for race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation to set up the route. Prudhomme: "We have a lot of ideas but they don’t necessarily come to fruition right away" (REUTERS, 10/16). The AP reported Prudhomme said, "A contest between Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, two riders with similar qualities, wouldn't displease me. It would force one of the two to try something different to surprise the other. We're looking at a new generation that wants to entertain." The race starts on July 7, "a week later than usual because of the World Cup in Russia." The Tour route, "which goes clockwise," features 25 mountain climbs -- ranging from the "relatively difficult" Category 2 to Category 1 and the "daunting" Hors Categorie (beyond classification). Eleven are in the Alps, four in the Massif central region and 10 in the Pyrenees (AP, 10/17). CYCLING NEWS' Daniel Benson reported Froome "looked stunned as Prudhomme unleashed an almost shock-and-awe barrage of stages." Froome: "It’s tough and I wouldn’t expect anything else from the Tour de France organizers, especially the first eight or nine days. It’s going to be very dangerous in the northwest of France, before we hit any of the big mountains. The wind could be a massive factor up there and with the GC [general classification] being so close, we could see the race torn to pieces up there. There’s the inclusion of quite a substantial cobble stage and we could see a lot happening. Then there’s the stage with a gravel section and there’s a lot to get ready for in that sense" (CYCLING NEWS, 10/17).