Tour de France 2018 | Week 2 Preview
After the first rest day, it’s straight into the mountains. The Alps, specifically, after a long transfer down from France’s North-West. A Category 4 climb kicks off the day, but from there it’s the Cat 1 Col de la Croix Fry, the HC Montee du plateau des Glieres, the Cat 1 Col de Romme and the Cat 1 Col de la Colombiere. The finish is in Le Grand Bornand, which comes a couple of kilometres after the descent of the Colombiere. These are some tough climbs, the Colombiere is 7.5km long, and averaging 8.5%, while the Glieres that comes earlier in the day averages over 11%.
This is a bonkers first mountain stage considering haven’t had a transition mountain stage, or even a Cat 2 climb in the race yet. Don’t underestimate the effect of that transfer the day before either, there will be riders we thought would compete, who lose huge time on this stage.
Stage 11 to the ski village of La Rosiere is a carbon copy of Stage 6 from the Criterium du Dauphine. That day Pello Bilbao won, having outlasted his breakaway companions and stayed away. The stage is only 110km long, but includes four categorised climbs; the HC Montee de Bisanne, the HC Col du Pre, the Cat 2 Cormet de Roselend, and the finish atop the Cat 1 La Rosiere. La Rosiere isn’t brutal, averaging only 5.8%, but its long at 17.6km, and it’s going to be tough after such a hard, intense day.
Sightings of Alpe d’Huez aren’t normally found in the second week of Le Tour, so this is a bit of a novelty, but it’s an absolute alpine epic planned. The day’s entrée is the Col de la Madeline, a 25km monster which averages 6.2%. After descending from 2000m, the riders will crest the Lacets de Montvernier, before going all the way back up to 2000 m via the Col de la Croix de Fer. Another long, climb this one is 29km. A long descent leaves only the most famous Alp, as the famous 21 switchbacks will host another epic battle.
After those three days, the riders will be begging for an easy day, and they’ll probably get it with the 170km Stage 13 from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence. With a descent to start the day, two categorised climbs come in the middle of the stage. This looks breakaway friendly, however, with few opportunities for sprinters through the middle of this race, the sprinter's teams will probably find the motivation to bring this one together. If it does come back together for a sprint, there’s a flat final 10km, and a fairly straightforward sprint.
Stage 14 runs from Saint-Paul-Trois Chateaux to Mende, and this one screams breakaway. A rolling opening 100km leads into a hilly finale, finishing with the Category 2 Cote de la Croix Neuve, which climbs for 3km at 10%. That tops out 1500m from the line and finishes at the Mende Airport runway.
Stage 15 from Millau to Carcassone is another breakaway chance. The day’s main challenge is the Cat 1 Pic de Nore, which tops out with 40km to go in the stage. It climbs for 12km at 6.3%, but likely won’t be decisive as it comes so far out from the end of the stage; from the bottom of the descent, there’s still 15km to go on the flat.
It’s an interesting second week, with the hardest stages coming at the start of the week. The three Alpine stages are so hard, there will be blood (metaphorically) right from the start. The Alpe d’Huez stage particularly will be decisive, with around 70km of climbing in total and nearly 5000m of ascent that day. From there, the riders will get a bit of a break before a packed last week; you could well see three breakaways allowed to win on the three transition days.