A few hours ago, the Tour de France unveiled the 2018 route. My goal here will be to take a very quick look at the 6 big mountain stages. I may edit this on the go in an attempt to get something up quickly.
My initial reaction? Not bad at all.
2017 was only the second Tour since World War 2 to not include at least one of Alpe d'Huez, Col du Tourmalet, or Col d'Aubisque. All three will appear in the 2018 Tour.
There are three Alps mountain stages, all are challenging and beautiful.
In keeping with recent years, the Tour is continuing to try and dispel the myth that French roads aren’t steep. This stage is tough. Oh, and there’s a little bit of gravel here too.
Three big climbs. First, Col de la Croix Fry is my favourite winter climb (13kms; climb profile). My twitter avatar:
Then Plateau des Glières! This is a debut of a climb on our “Ignored by the Tour” list. Well done M. Prudhomme. On the north edge of the Alps, the east side has one of the steepest 5.8 kms paved stretches anywhere (11.5% average). Ouch!
The last easy 2 kms to the Col are gravel. This will get much “Strade Bianche” publicity and I think it’s great. But this is smooth gravel.
I love this place. It has beautiful cross-country skiing in winter and a famous past. It was one of the largest bases of the French resistance in WW2 and the site of a large battle when 12,000 Germans surrounded 500 “maquis.” At the summit is the Monument National à la Résistance. Also, there is a museum and a well-signed hiking tour. Prediction: President Macron will visit the monument, perhaps attending the stage.
Bottom right in the photo is the monument. I believe it represents a dove flying from the sun, and not a round-headed guy waving.
Ending this stage, the Tour will take a 3rd, super tough way up Col de la Colombière via Col de Romme, (remember, Colombière is in the Alps and is NOT the Jura climb Grand Colombier of the 2016 TdF). Col de Romme’s only other Tour appearance was 2009. I beat the pros to the summit by several hours:
The final three kms of Colombière are steep.
Wow, that is a monster stage. And while it’s a downhill finish to Le Grand Bornand, it’s not far from the final summit. For cyclo-tourists, this stage will be the Etape du Tour stage.
Some smart route planning here. Three big climbs and the first mountain-top finish of the Tour.
First, the Tour will climb for only the 2nd time what it is calling the Montée de Bisanne (it’s known locally as Signal de Bisanne, but the Tour skips the final 2 brutal kilometres). But this is still steep.
Next, from Beaufort, they will climb the fantastic Cormet de Roselend, part of the Routes des Grandes Alpes. BUT, importantly, they will take the best, alternate 3rd route, via Col du Pré (I believe for the first time). This makes the climb far tougher, and far more beautiful. Col du Pré offers towering views of Lac de Roselend and its dam.
And the peloton will ride over the dam! Fun.
It’s a huge descent of Roselend (remember Johan Bruyneel’s fall over the edge here? If not it’s reenacted by my wife below). Then a final climb to La Rosière ski station (part way up to Col du Petit St. Bernard (and Italy).
I love this stage! Well designed. Beautiful.
This is a more traditional Alps stage including three of the more famous big French alpine climbs. Don’t be fooled, Alpe d’Huez is the easiest of the three.
It starts with the east side of Col de la Madeleine (quieter, more beautiful than the two west sides).
After descending Madeleine, the peloton will quickly visit Les Lacets de Montvernier. While only 2.5 kms long, these stunning hairpins make almost any cyclist drool.
Next, is the main east route of Col de la Croix de Fer. A 30 kilometre slog, with a stunning final 6 kilometres.
And finally, Alpe d’Huez. I like these three Alps stages so much that I won’t even complain about Alpe d’Huez. In fact, it should be fun with the big crowds.
Other Hilly Stages
Note: Stages 14 and 15 look like interesting hilly stages too. But in an effort to keep this focused, and finished quickly, for the moment I will skip them.
But the Mende finish is usually exciting (stage 14).
Stage 16 has small but interesting enough mountains.
Portet d’Aspet is ultra steep (17% stretch). It was here that Fabio Casartelli sadly crashed and died during the ‘95 TdF. His monument:
Col de Menté is a pleasant medium difficulty climb. After Menté the route sneaks into Spain, then returns to France. The summit of Col de Portillon is the exact border with Spain.
This is the Pyrénées stage that has me excited. Edit: It’s only 65 kilometres long and will be the highest finish ever in the Pyrénées. After Col de Peyresourde (for perhaps the 1000th time) and the Col de Val Louron-Azet (a great cow col), the Tour will make its first visit to Col de Portet.
Think of Col de Portet as Pla d’Adet on steroids. I was never a huge fan of Pla d’Adet, but nearing its summit one can continue much higher on a quiet road full of hairpins. Note, it is 100 metres of ascent higher than Tourmalet. Woohoo, what a stage finish.
There were rumours that the best climb in the Pyrénées, Lac Cap de Long, might be included. This was surprising given it’s protected status. But people must have confused it with the nearby Portet.
Is Portet still gravel? I didn’t hear it mentioned but it was gravel when I cycled it several years ago. (edit: sounds like there are plans to pave most of the top 8kms of gravel).
A fun new Tour climb! A+.
This is a very traditional Pyrénnées stage. Aspin, Tourmalet, and Aubisque and then a downhill finish? I wish I had a euro for every time there’s been a stage like this.
I like the ladies that live atop the lovely climb to Col d'Aspin.
Col du Tourmalet will climb the less beautiful (Mongie!) east side. So we get the Eugène Christophe forge story at the start of the climb (drink!).
2018 will climb through La Mongie ski slopes:
But there is an interesting twist to the route. The tour will climb Col d’Aubisque via the scenic quieter Col des Bordères versus the usual main road to Col du Soulor. Nice route planning.
This traditional stage is still quite challenging, and hopefully, the downhill finish doesn’t prove too far from the summit of Aubisque to make all this climbing pointless.
Please excuse the whirlwind tour of these six climbs, I thought speed of publication would allow us to more quickly discuss and debate the route in the comments.
I like these stages. I especially like the decision to take a 3rd more interesting option on several climbs (Colombière via Romme, Roselend via Pré, Aubisque via Bordères).
Plateau des Glières is a local climb for me. A favourite. It has long been ignored by the Tour. I am thrilled to see it finally make its debut.
Phew, I am tired after all that writing. #viveletour