The build-up to the 105th edition of the Tour de France is almost over. After months of wondering if Chris Froome would get to start and nearly a year of fans dreaming about the exciting course, the race will finally get started tomorrow, Saturday, July 7th.
2018 Tour de France by the Numbers
The Tour de France turns 115-years-old, but 2018 is only the 105th edition. The Tour took a break from 1915-1918 and 1940-1946 during World War I and World War II. All told, there have been 2,121 Tour stages completed to date.
The 2018 race will cover 3,351 kilometers (2,082 miles). The longest Tour, in 1926, covered 5,745 kilometers (3,570 miles) and the shortest, in 1904, was just 2,420 kilometers (1,504 miles).
The longest stage of this year’s Tour is stage seven at 231 kilometers (144 miles). The shortest is stage 17 at 64 kilometers (40 miles).
The peloton is a little smaller than last year, this year it will consist of just 176 riders from 22 teams. The slimming of the ranks is due to each team only being allowed to start eight riders instead of nine. The youngest rider on the road is Egan Bernal at just 21-years-old. The oldest rider is Franco Pellizotti who is 40. At 39, Sylvain Chavanel will break the record for the most Tour starts, 2018 will mark his 18th Grande Boucle. The record was previously held by Jens Voigt and Stuart O’Grady, each with 17 starts.
The 2018 Tour de France Course
Last year’s Tour de France started in Dusseldorf, Germany. This year year festivities will start back in France. The Vendée region on the country’s western coast will host the Grand Départ.
Two sprint stages will kick things off, both will likely see strong winds which will ensure things stay together for a group sprint finish. Stage 3 is a 35km team time trial, expect to see team Sky take serious time out of the competition over the course. On stage 4 the riders will head north into Brittany for three days of riding: a sprint stage (4), and two uphill finishes (5 & 6). The Mur de Bretagne (2km at 6.9%) on stage 6 will be a very fun finish to watch.
From there the race will head east then further north over three stages. Sprinters will get two more chances for stage wins on stages 7 and 8 before riders tackle one of this years pinnacle days, stage 9. The stage features 15 cobblestone sectors with a finish in Roubaix. The GC rankings could be rattled by the end of the day. Overall, that’s one of the most action packed first weeks the Tour has had in some time.
After stage 9 comes the the first rest day of the Tour, everyone will travel 800km to the south east and the race will enter the Alps. Stage 10 is the first true mountain stage, with five categorised climbs. Stage 11 and 12 will feature back-to-back mountain-top finishes, the later of the two finishing atop the legendary Alpe d’Huez.
Stage 13 will most likely go to the sprinters, and stage 14 is a rolling day with four climbs that transitions the race to the Pyrenees. Stage 15 comes before the second rest day and looks like another opportunity for the sprinters (the last climb is 41km from the finish).
The race heads into its final block with stage 16, with a brief visit to Spain and five climbs. If you can only watch one stage this year, stage 17 should be it. The incredibly short 65km stage features three back-to-back climbs (along with a very weird grid start). Stage 18 will be for the sprinters and stage 19 is the final opportunity for a GC contender to shake things up with six climbs, the last of which is Col d’Aubisque at 20km from the finish.
Stage 20 is the only individual time trial of the race and it’s lumpy with 900m of climbing at 10.2% just 3km from the line. Finally, everyone will fall in line for the finish in Paris including the traditional ride down the Champs Élysées.
The GC Battle
You truly have to be a complete rider to win the 2018 Tour de France. This race won’t be won with one good day in the mountains or a single time trial. Whoever wins will need to get through the tough opening week and then excel in the mountains through to the finish.
A strong team will be a huge component, starting with the team time trial, in which several minutes could be lost or gained very early in the race. The Tour won’t be won in those opening nine days, but it could be lost. The rough cobblestone farm roads to Roubaix could easily claim a GC contender or two.
Stages 11 and 12 with their back-to-back uphill finishes will show us who’s climbing well halfway through the race. Stage 17’s super short mountainous profile will be hectic, an attack could shake things up. Finally, the stage 20 individual time trial could be the last chance for a GC contender to make up time.
Chris Froome (Sky)
Froome’s salbutamol case has been decided and he’s cleared to race, whether or not the stress he’s been carrying has also fallen off waits to be seen. Regardless, the Briton is probably still the rider to beat. Winning this year would give him a record-equalling five Tour wins, so there’s no doubt the motivation is there. If he pulls it off, it would also make him the winner of the past four consecutive Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France). It would also make him the first man to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year since Marco Pantani in 1998. That’s a huge feat, but with the extra time between the Giro and Tour thanks to the World Cup, this might be the best shot he’ll get.
Richie Porte (BMC)
Froome’s former teammate is now one of his biggest rivals at the Tour. Porte is coming off an impressive win at the Tour de Suisse. He’s got a strong team, but BMC will be looking for a new sponsor after the 2018 season and Porte will be moving to Trek-Segafredo. So, it’s hard to say how hard the team will be riding for him versus riding for their own skin in hopes of a stage win or other strong showing now that they’ll be looking for new jobs.
Regardless, this might be Porte’s best shot at winning the race. He was doing well before he crashed out last year, if he can keep his bike rolling he might have a shot.
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
Vincenzo Nibali’s victory at Milan-San Remo is the one highlight in an otherwise mediocre season. But Nibali absolutely has a shot to win the Tour de France. He has four Grand Tour titles to his name, with a Tour win in 2014. When Nibali won the Tour in 2014, he was the quickest and most confident rider over the cobblestones.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
It’s hard to see Yates besting riders like Froome, Nibali and Porte, but he’s finished the Tour in fourth before and the course looks crazy enough that anything might be possible. Coming off a second-place fihinsh at the Dauphine, the podium might be within reach.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac)
Rigoberto Uran was barely a part of the conversation before the Tour last year, then he nearly won the thing. Coming into the Tour with great performances at Colombia Oro y Paz and the Tour of Slovenia, it’s possible he could have suprise up his sleeve.
Someone from Movistar
Most teams have just one GC contender. Movistar has three; Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
I’m leaning towards this strategy ending in disaster, but maybe it will work out. If one or two of the three crashes out they’ve still got a shot.
Just About Anyone Else
This years Tour is going to be exciting. The course is wild and things could get very scrambled. Some more names to keep an eye on: Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic), Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates).
Americans in the 2018 Tour de France
Five Americans will ride in the 2018 Tour de France, two more than 2017. Tejay van Garderen brings the most experience, with 11 Grand Tours under his belt and eight starts at the Tour de France. Once a GC hopeful, Van Garderen has now moved into a support role, as will his four compatriots; Taylor Phinney, Lawson Craddock, Ian Boswell and Chad Haga. Still, there could be a chance for a stage win or two from this ‘Merican group.
Must Watch Stages of the 2018 Tour de France
If you don’t have time to watch it all, here are the stage I think will be worth the effort:
- Stage 3: Team Time Trial! I love the TTT, teams working in harmony, the coolest new tech, insane speeds. Just incredible to watch.
- Stage 9: Cobblestones! Two shows in one: the cobblestone kings duke it out for the stage and the GC contenders try not to lose the whole race.
- Stage 11: The race’s first mountain-top finish.
- Stage 12: Alpe d’Huez.
- Stage 17: 65km (40 miles) with three climbs. Attack after attack, fireworks, tears, agony!
- Stage 19: Final mountain stage.
- Stage 20: Individual Time Trial. If the race is tight after stage 19, this could be a lot of fun to watch. Man vs. clock when it matters most.