Tour de France Guide

Here’s the 2018 Tour de France guide. There’s a profile of every stage with a quick take on the day added. In addition on the morning of every stage there will be a full preview.

Route Summary
If there’s a theme, it’s one of variety. A potential eight stages for the sprinters, their race is front-loaded with five opportunities in the first week. This opening phase matters for the GC too with the Stage 3 team time trial to reward the big squads and the hilly stages in Brittany suiting the punchy riders. The Roubaix stage features far more pavé than usual for a Tour stage, it’s full of trap doors. The Alps are hard, to the point where the 175km Alpe d’Huez stage looks the most straightforward. There are some good opportunities for the breakaway specialists in the second week as the race crosses to the Pyrenees. Finally the Pyrenees hold the key to the race with three hard stages, one introductory stage, one ultra short and one gruelling before a whiteknuckle time trial in the Basque Country. It’s a testing course that has it all.

Stage 1 – Saturday 7 July

A long stage and the first half runs along the Atlantic coast. It’s a summer’s day it’ll be tense at the end but if it’s wet and windy it could be a fraught day out. A sprint royale awaits among the best sprinters finally reunited in one race with the hallowed yellow jersey waiting for the winner.

Stage 2 – Sunday 8 July

One for the sprinters as the Tour borrows roads from smaller French races like the Chrono des Herbiers and the Tour de Vendée.

Stage 3 – Monday 9 July

A 35km team time trial to shape the general classification, hopefully not for good but the recent Critérium du Dauphiné will be on the mind. It’s all on rolling roads to suit the most powerful of teams.

Stage 4 – Tuesday 10 July

195km and almost an out-and-back course the starts on the coast before looping back, and all on the roads of cycling-mad Brittany so expect huge crowds whatever the weather.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 11 July

Game over for the sprinters with a hard stage across the western point of Brittany. After a gentle 50km things get tough for the rest of the stage. Even if the weather is clement this is a hard day with small roads and sharp climbs and even a few cobbles en route. The overall contenders will have a busy day here.

Stage 6 – Thursday 12 July

The race returns to Mûr-de-Bretagne and its tricky uphill finish, this time climbed twice in the finish.

Stage 7 – Friday 13 July

A sprint on Friday 13th, what could go wrong? Actually in France it’s a lucky day and this is longest stage of the race.

Stage 8 – Saturday 14 July

The stage passes to the West of Paris and the Seine valley before heading north to the Somme and a flat finish in Amiens.

Stage 9 – Sunday 15 July

15 cobbled sectors including many from Paris-Roubaix. If they’ve trimmed the hardest sections, for example Mons-en-Pévèle is reduced from 3,000 to 900m it’s still plenty and much more than the usual handful of sectors borrowed when the Tour has ventured onto the pavé before, the last 100km are going to be hectic.

Stage 10 – Tuesday 17 July

A rest day and then a brutal change in rhythm from the cobbles to the cols and a hard stage complete with the Plateau de Glières, hyped because of its gravel section, hard because of the climb to get there. Then a tough finish awaits with the “col” de Romme and the Colombière before a fast descent to the finish.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 18 July

An air of déjà vu with the same route as June’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage won by Pello Bilbao and at just 108km an attack fest to watch from start to finish to enjoy the sport and the scenery.

Stage 12 – Thursday 19 July

A classic day in the Alps with the Madeleine, the Croix de Fer and then the famous hairpins of Alpe d’Huez and the packed crowds.

Stage 13 – Friday 20 July

The peloton turns its back to the Alps to the delight of the sprinters although they’ll need to watch out for the Monts du Matin, the chain of hills late on as there are some long ascents to expose anyone who has come out of the Alps with heavy legs and there’s a chance the Mistral wind gets up too.

Stage 14 – Saturday 21 July

A day for the breakaways, this is mid-mountain stage complete with the tough finish of the Croix Neuve to the Mende aerodrome.

Stage 15 – Sunday 22 July

Another day for the breakaways via the Montagne Noire before a finish in the Disney-style medieval city of Carcassonne. Watch out for the wind in the final too, the vent d’Autan did plenty of damage in the recent Route d’Occitanie race.

Stage 16 – Tuesday 24 July
The plains and then the Pyrenees with three sharp climbs and a trip into Spain before a downhill finish into Bagnères-de-Luchon. Three climbs but arguably the descents are the significant points as they’re twisty and treacherous.

Stage 17 – Wednesday 25 July

Just 65km but 3,200m of vertical gain. Uphill from the start and with three hard climbs including the first ever summit finish on the Col du Portet high above Pla d’Adet where the gravel track has been resurfaced for the race to enable this high altitude finish, a new giant in the Pyrenees.

Stage 18 – Thursday 26 July

A gourmet’s delight as the race passes many sources of gastronomic delight but it’s energy bars and gels for the riders before a sprint in Pau.

Stage 19 – Friday 27 July

A big day in the Pyrenees with plenty of climbing and descending, including the fast drop into the finish in Laruns at the foot of the Aubisque and past a vulture sanctuary, a warning for any nervous descenders although the route is itself a race against time to repair recent flood damage on the final descent in time for the race.

Stage 20 – Saturday 28 July

A time trial around the Basque Country and much harder than the profile suggests, this is as much a test of freshness as it is power and pacing. There’s barely a metre of flat road, the descents twist and turn and the final climb of the Pinodieta is a steep wall. It’s still a course for a time trial bike but the riders will need to consider what gears to use and strong brakes count too. This suits the GC contenders much more than the pure TT specialists.

Stage 21 – Sunday 29 July

A parade that mutates into a criterium but and just 116km. After a suburban start past the dormitory suburbs of Paris the race heads for the swanky Saint Cloud and then the glories of central Paris and the evening finish on the Champs Elysées.

The Jerseys

Yellow: the most famous one, the maillot jaune, it is awarded to the rider with the shortest overall time for all the stages added together, the rider who has covered the course faster than anyone else. First awarded in 1919, it is yellow because the race was organised by the newspaper L’Auto which was printed on yellow paper. Today it is sponsored by LCL, a bank. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for the finish of each stage except the time trials. There are also 3-2-1 seconds at the bonus sprints marked “B” on the profiles above for the first nine stages.

Green: the points jersey, which tends to reward the sprinters. Points are awarded at the finish line and at one intermediate point in the stage and the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Skoda, a car manufacturer

  • Flat stages (Stages 1,2,4,7,8,13,18,21) 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
  • Hilly finish / Medium mountain stages (Stages 5,6,9,14,15,16): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 10,11,12,17,19, 20) : 20-17-15-13-11- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
  • Intermediate sprints: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points

Polka dot: also known as the “King of the Mountains” jersey, points are awarded at the top of categorised climbs and mountain passes, with these graded from the easier 4th category to the hors catégorie climbs which are so hard they are off the scale. In reality these gradings are subjective. Again the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Carrefour, a supermarket.

  • Hors Catégorie passes (9 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points respectively for first eight riders
  • Category 1 climbs (10 in total): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • Category 2 (7): 5-3-2-1 points
  • Category 3 (9): 2-1 points
  • Category 4 (18): 1 point

Points are doubled for the final climb in each of the Stages in the Pyrenees: the Portillon (1st category so 20-16-12-8-4-2 points), the Portet and the Aubisque (both HC so 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4).

White: for the best young rider, this is awarded on the same basis as the yellow jersey, except the rider must be born after 1 January 1993, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Krys, a retail chain of opticians.

Obviously a rider can’t wear two jerseys at once, they’d get too hot. So if a rider leads several classifications, they take the most prestigious jersey for themselves and the number two ranked rider in the other competition gets to wear the other jersey. For example if a rider has both the yellow jersey and the mountains jersey they’ll wear yellow while whoever is second in the mountains jersey will sport the polka dot jersey. If a rider has all the jerseys the priority yellow, green, polka dot then white.

There’s also a daily “most combative” prize awarded every day to the rider who has attacked the most or tried the hardest. It is a subjective prize and awarded by a jury. The rider gets to stand on the podium after the stage and wear a red race number the next day. There will be a final Supercombatif prize with involvement from the jury and social media. It is sponsored by Antargaz, a bottled gas company.

Time Cuts

The time cut depends on the stage in question. Look up the stage and its coefficient on the table above and then match it to the listings below. Note Stage 17, the short distance mountain stage, is fixed at 25% like a time trial stage.

The unmissable stages
This is the Tour de France and there’s always something to watch but there are some stages that matter more than others. If you need to plan ahead and book space in your diary, here are some suggestions for the stages to watch.

  • Stage 1: the sprint finish is the interest, a sprint royale among the top names
  • Stage 5: the Finistère stage with the constant climbs and descents
  • Stage 6: the Mûr-de-Bretagne uphill finish
  • Stage 9: the Roubaix stage with its cobbles, a classic contest for the stage win and survival contest for the climbers
  • Stage 10: the first Alpine stage
  • Stage 11: the short, explosive Alpine stage
  • Stage 12: the Alpe d’Huez summit finish
  • Stage 14: the steep climb above Mende to the airfield
  • Stage 16: the race arrives in the Pyrenees with sharp climbs and tricky descents
  • Stage 17: the 65km ultra-short stage across the Pyrenees, all on hard roads
  • Stage 19: the final mountain stage and a hard day
  • Stage 20: the Basque TT to determine the overall classification

TV Guide
Every stage will be shown live from start to finish. Think of it like the radio, something to have in the background if you can or in a more modern way you can tune in from time to time via your phone in case there’s early action. Typically the finish time is forecast for between 5.00pm-5.30pm CET but check because the timings vary, especially in the first week because of the FIFA World Cup.

The race will be broadcast on a variety of channels around the world. There is no free stream on the internet but you will find a feast of legitimate feeds from local broadcasters and international sources like Eurosport.

The Prizes

  • Each day on a normal stage there’s €11,000 for the winner, €5,500 for second place and a decreasing scale down to a modest €300 for 20th place
  • For the final overall classification in Paris, first place brings in €500,000 and the Sèvres porcelain “omnisports trophy”, awarded “in the name of the Presidency of the French Republic”. The full breakdown is €500,000 for first place, €200,000 for second place, €100,000 for third place and then €70,000, €50,000, €23,000, €11,500, €7,600, €4,500, €3,800, €3,000, €2,700, €2,500, €2,100, €2,000 €1,500, €1,300, €1,200 and €1,100 for 19th place. €1000 for 20th-160th overall

There are other pots of money available in the race:

  • €500 a day to whoever wears the yellow jersey, €300 for the other jersey holders
  • €25,000 for the final winner of the green and polka dot jerseys
  • €20,000 for the final winner of the white jersey
  • There’s also money for the first three in the intermediate sprint each day: €1,500, €1000 and €500
  • The climbs have cash too with the first three over an HC climb earning €800, €450 and €300 and lesser sums for lesser climbs
  • The highest point in the race sees a prize when on Stage 17 the Henri Desgrange prize is awarded at the top of the Col du Portet and is worth €5,000
  • The “most combative” prize is awarded and worth €2,000 each day, the “Super combative” prize is awarded in Paris and the winner collects €20,000.
  • There’s also a team prize with €2,800 awarded each day to the leading team on the overall, as calculated by the best three riders overall and €50,000 for the final winners in Paris. Note the team prize is calculated by adding the time of the best three riders each day rather than the best three on GC. For example if a team has riders A, B and C make the winning break one day then their times for the stage are taken and added together. If riders X, Y and Z on the same team go up the road the next day, their times are taken. So it’s the times of a team’s best three riders each day as opposed to the best three riders overall.

The total prize pot is €2,287,750, meagre for an event of this scale but remember that unlike, say tennis or golf, pro cyclists are salaried and prize money instead is incidental and the money is shared around the team (as well as levied and taxed) rather than pocketed by the winner, it’s quite possible the actual prize winner actually collects 5-10% of the headline sum. In addition, every team that starts gets paid €51,243 to cover expenses. And should a squad make it to Paris with six or more riders they stand to collect an additional €1,600 bonus for each rider.

Downloadable Calendar
iCal Tour de France
You can download or subscribe to the iCal file with all 21 stages for your diary with summary info and a star rating to show the best and most important stages. If you’re familiar with ical files, here’s the URL for the ics file:

https://calendar.google.com/calendar/ical/m6so0i50866lf2fget695r8tu4%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics

If you want to know more or other formats, go to inrng.com/2018/06/tour-de-france-2018-ical/