It’s summer, the sun is shining, the Giro d’Italia is behind us and the holiday plans are gradually coming together. This can only mean one thing: it’s Tour de France time. And whether you’re spending the three weeks of the Tour stuck in the office, at home in front of the TV or on a campsite in France with a transistor radio clamped to your ear, we’ve picked out a few stages that may well be worth following carefully. Save the dates!
July 9th—team time trial
The Tour de France team time trial is back this year. On the the third day of the Tour all of the teams ride against one another (and against the clock) on a challenging time trial course. The route is 35.5 kilometres long and has quite a few nasty hills in it, which will force the teams to adjust their pace. Will the first serious time gaps between the general classification (GC) contenders be made here? Any team hoping to field main contenders for the podium in Paris will have to take a serious look at this event when selecting their final team of riders.
July 15th—Cobblestones to Roubaix
The ninth stage departs on July 15th in the direction of Roubaix. No, you’re not seeing things. A lot of hard-core fans are talking about a mini version of the one-day classic Paris-Roubaix, but in reality this stage will be nothing like that legendary race. During the one-day classic everyone is fighting for the victory, but during this stage of the Tour all the team leaders will be busy trying to get through the day unscathed and without losing time compared with the other GC contenders.
There are also fewer cobbled sections during this stage than in the Spring classic race: just 21.7 kilometres of juddering, compared with around 55 kilometres in Paris-Roubaix. We do know that former Paris-Roubaix winner, Dutchman Nikki Terpstra, has this stage earmarked, but the Quickstep Floors team interests will determine whether or not he will be permitted to go for the stage win.
July 19th—L’Alpe d’Huez
A classic stage to round off the Alpine chapter of this year’s Tour de France. This stage has three huge peaks to conquer: the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer and finally L’Alpe d’Huez. The 21 hairpin bends on the final climb guarantee a fireworks show between the GC contenders. Will another Dutchman be victorious on “Dutch mountain”?
July 25—The 65 kilometre experiment
The shortest stage in the Tour de France for 30 years. And it’s not only the distance which makes this stage rather special: the riders start the stage in different groups. The first 20 GC riders form the first group, and four subsequent groups start later based on their GC rankings. Not only that, but the start is uphill—up the Col de Peyresourde, no less. A total of 38 of the 65 kilometers are uphill, with the final climb being up the Col de Portet which is 16 kilometres with an average gradient of 8.7%. We’re very curious to see what will happen on this one!
July 28—31 km time trial
31 kilometres. That’s all this year’s Tour de France has to offer the individual time trial riders in 2018. And the route does not favour pure time trial riders, since multiple hills take the pace out of your legs. “A time trial for the men with a punch, or climbers who are still fresh in the third week,” according to the Tour organisers.
July 29—Les Champs Élysées
Dutch fans have their fingers crossed that Amsterdam-based sprinter Dylan Groenewegen can repeat last year’s sprint victory performance, if he’s made it this far. But even if he’s still in the peloton, he won’t be the only sprinter fighting for this classic tour finale, which always looks great on screen thanks to the excellent tracking cameras alongside every cycling fans’ favourite Parisian boulevard.