A start at breakneck speeds is to be expected as the first 17 kilometres run false flat downhill. The riders then enter the first and longest climb of the day, Col du Festre, which starts out at moderate gradients and gradually gets steeper. The Festre totals 13.8 kilometres and the average gradient sits at 4.3%. A long downhill then leads to the foot of the Côte de Corps (3.3 kilometres at 4.5%), and on it goes to the Côte de Costes (2.6 kilometres at 6%).
The riders are 75 kilometres into the race after the Costes. In fact, from the Festre onwards they are on the parcours of 2020’s 4th stage, which went to ski station Orcières-Merlette and was won by Primoz Roglic in a group sprint ahead of Tadej Pogacar.
The route goes its own way after moving through Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur and then enters the Col de Manse (6.3 kilometres at 3.7%). A long descent brings the riders back in the valley before they climb to Chorges and continue onto the Côte de Saint-Apollinaire (7.9 kilometres at 5.2%). Right after the descent they cross a reservoir, Lac du Serre-Ponçon, before the Côte de Demoiselles Coiffées (6.4 kilometres at 3.8%) presents the umpteenth obstacle.
A rolling section of 5 kilometre precedes a short descent and flat section along the Ubaye. After crossing the river the route climbs for 2.7 kilometres at 4.5% before the rest of the route follows the rivers further upstream at very shallow gradients. This final section is almost 25 kilometres long – most of it is false flat, although the last 5 kilometres are effectually flat.
Barcelonnette never before hosted a Tour de France stage finish.
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Tour de France 2024 stage 18: route, profile, videos
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