FEATURE: Dissecting the 2018 Tour de France routeFri 20 Oct 2017
Cobbles, dirt roads, mountain top finishes and the return of the team time trial and intermediate bonus seconds all form a part of the 2018 Tour de France route announced this week in Paris and the 2017 white jersey winner Simon Yates was there for ORICA-SCOTT.
The 105th edition of the ‘Grand Boucle’ promises to be one of the most dynamic in recent years and also one of the shortest. Starting in the Vendee region for the first time in eleven years and covering 3329kilometres with a race deciding individual time trial over rolling terrain in the French Basque country on the penultimate stage.
The first nine stages are billed as for the sprinters and the puncheurs as the race traverses the Atlantic coastline of Northern France with the team time trial making a return to the race on stage three for the first time since 2015.
A potentially iconic cobbled stage nine from Arras to Roubaix bringing to a close the flatter stages and paving the way for a stage ten start in Annecy and the beginning of the high mountain tests.
Three tough days in the Alps come to an end with a historic finish atop the legendary Alpe d’Huez before the curtain is brought down with four days of suffering in the brutal Pyrenees with the only respite coming on stage 18 into Pau and a last chance for the sprinters before Paris.
“It’s a testing route, as always,” said Yates. “I think that the first week could be decisive for the general classification and that’s before we even get into the mountains, a lot can happen on those open roads especially if the wind takes hold. Personally I would prefer the climbs to arrive earlier.”
At 25-years of age and with five Grand Tours in his legs Yates is no longer wondering what it’s all about and after a seventh-place finish in 2017 and the addition of another white jersey for the family collection the Briton is under no illusions of the challenges that lie in wait for those who line up come next July.
“It goes without saying that to do well at the Tour you need a strong team,” continued Yates. “Not only in the team time trial, but throughout the entire race so that you can protect the leader from the wind and any dangerous moments.”
“We have a really solid history when it comes to team time trials and I’m really confident regarding that pursuit, ORICA-SCOTT has one of the strongest teams on paper for that. Even if we only bring a few of our main guys for the TTT we are still going to be up there and challenging for a result.”
Head Sport director Matt White spoke of the dynamism of the route and the chances of an eventful first week of racing.
“It’s a real race of two halves this time around,” said White. “With one of the most dynamic openers to a Tour de France that I’ve ever seen which will guarantee a very stressful first week.”
“With the majority of early stages on the coast and the possibility of strong winds it will be an action packed opening few days. Especially with the vast majority of opportunities for sprinters coming early on the pressure will be incredibly tense.
“When you throw in a solid team time trial on stage three and an epic cobbled stage on stage nine there will be enough drama before we even get into the mountains.
“I like the course, it has a bit of everything and as ever it will be really exciting, racing I am happy with the characteristics of the route. I am sure we have a group of riders who will be up for the challenge come July.”
ORICA-SCOTT will await the Giro d’Italia route reveal before making final decisions on goals and leaders at the three Grand Tours in 2018.
Photos courtesy of ©TDWsport.com