Noirmoutier hosted the Tour de France before. The island off the Atlantic coast of France is connected to the mainland by bridge, yet La Grande Boucle prefers to use the Passage du Gois, which is a paved-over sandbank. Twice a day the 4.5 kilometres passage is flooded by the high tide. In 1999, the slippery surface caused a fall in the peloton, resulting in a six-minute split. It was the 2nd stage, but the crash ended the hopes of pre-race favourites Zülle and Gotti and many others.
The organisation didn’t shy away from the Passage du Gois after this notorious incident. On the contrary, in 2005 the Tour de Tour France started with an individual time trial from mainland Fromentine to Noirmoutier-en-l’Île – a race won by David Zabriskie. The Grand Départ of 2011 took in the Passage du Gois, too. Luckily without incidents and at the end of the day Philippe Gilbert was welcomed in the yellow jersey.
The 1st stage in the 2018 Tour de France leaves from the village Noirmoutier-en-l’Île. Following the passage on the Passage du Gois stage 1 runs in 195 kilometres to Fontenay-le-Comte. Much of the route follows the twisting Vendée coastline, so cross winds and echelons could be lurking during the entire day.
The finish is in Fontenay-le-Comte, a village that never hosted the Tour de France before. The stage winner will be applauded three times as he takes both the yellow and green jersey, too.
Tour de France 2018 stage 1: Route maps, and more
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