The GC-guys can take it relatively easy in the first week of action. Only the TTT on day three and the cobbled stage ahead of the rest day are important in terms of GC. In the other races the overall contenders just have to be alert.
The second week is something else from the start. Firstly, a mountain stage with a finale on descent before the 11th stage brings the first summit finish after an explosive 110 kilometres race through the high mountains. The following day serves yet another hearty mountain meal with an uphill finish in Alpe d’Huez. At the end of these three high altitude days it is highly unlikely that the winner will have revealed himself, but we definitely know who is not going to win the Tour de France.
The third week kicks off with mountain stage that ends back in the valley in Bagnères-de-Luchon. So an opportunity for fast descenders – Froome, Nibali, Valverde, Roglic? Then the 17th stage is be something to look forward to as it features three tough climbs in merely 65 kilometres. Expect a GC-contender who has seen his overall ambitions turn sour to give it a last shot with a long range attack, thus shaking up the overall at the end of the day. So this compact mountain stage could very well turn out to be decisive. The 19th stage is promising for different reasons: 200 kilometres, almost 5,000 vertical metres (Aspin, Tourmalet, Soulor, Aubisque), and finish after a 20 kilometres descent. The hilly time trial on the penultimate day of action will decide on the final rankings.
The TTT should fancy BMC (Porte) and Sky (Froome), while Nibali made it perfectly clear in the 2014 Tour de France that cobbles don’t scare him and he put time into all the other GC-contenders. On the other hand, Froome crashed out of the race that day. It was raining, which made it a hard race. La Grande Boucle featured another cobbled stage the following year, which went by rather uneventful – all GC-guys finished in the same time. This time however, the number of stretches of pavé is more than doubled. So that’s an opportunity for the Shark to land a blow.
A number of stage end with a descent. Both Nibali and Froome are fast descenders, so we can should expect them to put pressure on the likes of Porte and Quintana when it goes down hill. Yet, a drop down is not the best place to win massive amounts of time. Yet, every second counts. Two years ago, Froome put 13 seconds into his opponents on the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
The best GC-climber has yet to reveal himself this season. None of the favourites has shown their best self yet. Primoz Roglic boasts the most impressive 2018 palmares, winning the overall at the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour de Romandie. Both are races of almost one week though – is he able to prolong it to three weeks? The talent is there, that’s for sure. The Slovenian former ski-jumper is an outstanding time triallist and a good climber.
Normally, Chris Froome would have been the undisputed favourite, but the four-time winner attempt the Giro-Tour double, which was not a very successful combination in the past years. In fact, Marco Pantani was the last rider to win the two events in the same season as far back as 1998. Along with Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche and Miguel Indurain Il Pirata is the only rider to successfully achieve the double. What speaks in favour of Froome, there will be six weeks between the two race in stead in five. Furthermore, as stated earlier, the GC-riders have a relatively easy first week – only the TTT and the cobbles on stage 9.
Favourites Tour de France 2018
***** Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Rigoberto Uran
**** Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet
*** Bauke Mollema, Adam Yates, Primoz Roglic, Rafal Majka
** Ilnur Zakarin, Jakob Fuglsang, Daniel Martin, Alejandro Valverde
* Wout Poels, Thibaut Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo, Steven Kruijswijk
Tour de France 2018: Route maps, and more
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Stage 6: Mûr de Bretagne
Stage 10: Plateau des Glières
Stage 10: Col de Romme en Colombière
Stage 11: La Rosière
Stage 12: Alpe d'Huez
Stage 14: Côte de la Croix Neuve
Stage 16: Col du Portillon
Stage 17: Col de Portet