The 2018 Tour de France kicks off this Saturday 7 July. We give you a quick run down of the route and the riders to watch.
This year marks the 105th edition of Tour de France and it seems set to be a particularly memorable edition of the world’s most famous bike race.
Over 3,329km of racing, the peloton and its 176 riders will roam through France, battling the elements and fatigue on their quest towards Paris. For Australian cycling fans, it’s one of the best times of the year, and also the most tiring, as we spend three weeks of sleepless nights mesmerised by the race’s majestic procession through the French countryside.
You can catch all the action live on SBS each night with coverage starting from 8:30pm.
The Tour this year traces a clockwise route, split roughly into thirds.
The opening stanza of the Tour ranges from the Vendée’s wild Atlantic coast through France’s northwest, with a team time trial on stage 3 which may prove treacherous for contenders with weaker teams. Stage 9 takes the peloton to the cobbles, racing sectors notorious from the Paris-Roubaix one day classic and finishing in the shadows of the Roubaix velodrome.
After a transfer south and a well-earned rest day, hostilities resume with a brutal stretch through the Alps. Stage 10 brings a tough sequence of climbs – including a partially unpaved ascent of the Plateau des Glières early on and the Col de la Colombières late in the day – and will be the first major showing of who’s in form and who’s not.
While stage 11 is one of the race’s shortest, it will be explosive – it offers this Tour’s first summit finish, and four categorised climbs in total. The next day is a procession through some of cycling’s most famous ascents, as the peloton tackles the mammoth peaks of Col de la Madeleine, Col de la Croix de Fer and finally Alpe d’Huez. There’s then a brief respite as the peloton heads through the south of France towards the Pyrenees, taking the second rest day in the ancient hilltop fortress of Carcassonne.
The final week
The final week of the Tour features what should be a decisive stretch in the Pyrenees. At just 65km, stage 17 is the shortest and most vicious road stage of the Tour. Stage 19, meanwhile, is capped with some of the Pyrenees’ most fearsome ascents. A challenging and technical time trial on stage 20 will provide one last opportunity for the yellow jersey to change hands, before the Tour concludes with its usual pomp on the Champs Élysées, in the shadows of the Arc de Triomphe.
This year’s Tour is one of the most open in years, with several riders likely to figure in the battle for yellow.
Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Chris Froome is defending champion and aiming for a record-equalling fifth win. He also has the strongest team in the sport riding in support. However, he’ll also be tired following a hard-fought win at the Giro d’Italia in May, and has the added psychological toll of a season under close media scrutiny owing to a positive test last season.
Richie Porte (BMC)
Richie Porte is in great form, and fresh off the biggest win of his life at Tour de Suisse. The Tasmanian crashed out of last year’s Tour in sickening circumstances, but will be looking for vindication this year and is backed by a strong team. He’s Australia’s best chance of a Tour win since Cadel Evans.
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
Vincenzo Nibali shouldn’t be discounted, either. His season and team have been structured around this race, and besides Froome, he’s the only other Tour de France winner still racing (Nibali won in 2014).
Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb)
Tom Dumoulin has matured into a fine GC rider and took a breakout win at the 2017 Giro d’Italia. He finished second at the Giro this year behind Froome, so there’s the question of fatigue, but he’s still a likely podium finisher.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Nairo Quintana consistently lands on the podium at grand tours, and has wisely skipped the 2018 Giro to concentrate fully on this race. He’s capable of remarkable things in the mountains. This year, his Movistar team are going in with three leaders – Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde – which will either lead to team glory or infighting. It remains to be seen which one it’ll be.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) is the great French hope, and has finished on the podium the last two Tours. However, there’s considerable depth in the field that will be looking to disrupt this happening again. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) is in great form and is a dark horse for the podium, and goes in as undisputed team leader after years riding in support of others. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) finished second last year and, although he hasn’t had many results of note in 2018, could produce a similar result again. And it’s worth keeping an eye on Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), too. Yates is his team’s great GC hope after an impressive (but ultimately doomed) performance from his twin Simon at the Giro. He’s finished as high as 4th at the Tour before and will be looking to improve on that.
Are you ready?
With these riders and more battling for cycling’s most prestigious title, and the daily subplots of stage results, the green jersey and the polka dot jersey on the line, it’s little wonder that we’re eagerly anticipating the start of the Tour de France.
And in celebration, we’re running a Tour de France competition! One lucky winner will ride out of July with a Trek Domane SL 7 2018 valued at $6,499, thanks to our friends at Cycles Galleria.
Simply sign up for United Energy Around the Bay with the promo code TDF to be in the running.
Inspired by the Tour?
Why not use it as motivation to kickstart your training for United Energy Around the Bay, where you can be part of a peloton and experience the thrill of riding a distance comparable to a stage of the Tour de France, all with the backing of Bicycle Network’s famous support.
In 2018, Melbourne’s biggest one day ride has a new and improved start location, VIP upgrades and for the first time, a 300km ride option taking in Arthurs Seat and Red Hill in addition to the rest of Port Phillip Bay.Go to event