The 2018 Tour de France starts tomorrow, in a sense, with the official route announcement, which starts the planning phase for the World Tour teams and the (Frenchiest) pro-Conti teams that gain wild card invitations. This may sound like an exaggeration, but consider this: Tom Dumoulin’s presence is about 90% of what will separate the expectations for next year’s Tour from the dull repetition of the last few Chris Froome victories.*
*Yes, his riding isn’t literally dull, nor have the Tours themselves been. I’m merely calling dull the presence of a dominant repeat winner.
By all rights Dumoulin has positioned himself as the character most likely to disrupt Froome’s streak and take over as the next big thing -- which is to say, it’s at least 30% likely, which is more likely than any other “next big thing” scenario you can conjure up. But he has cautioned that he won’t decide to ride the ‘18 Tour until he sees the course, hinting that one bereft of time trial miles might not be worth his while. So tomorrow we find out for sure what’s in there, and Dumoulin starts to make up his mind. As do people like Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana, the Yates boys, Esteban Chaves, Mikel Landa, Richie Porte (OK, that’s an easy one), Fabio Aru, Thibaut Pinot, and whoever else I am leaving off. [Not Romain Bardet, there will never be any mystery about his plans for summer.]
CyclingNews has a short roundup of likely highlights to the route, but the real source of information is VeloWire, which uses a variety of things like people’s hotel reservations and rumors floating around to try to pin things down. They have a blog post on the entire route, collected over months, and I will commend you to that post for detailed reading. I don’t want to be rude and repeat a lot, but here are just a few highlights.
- The start is in the Vendée region, where there will be two road stages and a team time trial.
- From there they will head north to Bretagne, another cycling-mad region, known for punchy climbs and intriguing coastal areas. Expect one stage for the climbers in here.
- There will be cobbles! And there may even be a stage that starts in Compiègne and finishes in Roubaix, though with only a few of the major Paris-Roubaix pavé secteurs included, and definitely not 260km.
- Week 2 will hit the Alps, with Le Grand Bornand, Rosière and Alpe d’Huez as finish areas.
- The penultimate weekend will be more transitional with the Pyrenean phase happening after the second race day. Something about “four days in Pau” and maybe a climbing time trial.
I don’t want to repeat any more of their good work, head over there to read it. And come back here to this post tomorrow to watch as the actual confirmed Tour details are revealed.