We've picked out six key stages that will surely play their part in shaping the final general classification, as well as providing top-class entertainment for spectators.
Stage six, Brest to Mûr de Bretagne, 181km
Thursday, July 12
With the Grand Départ in the Vendée region concluded and the team time trial out of the way, the race heads north to Brittany for the first taste of hills. The sixth stage features two ascents of the Mûr de Bretagne in the final 16km, including a climb to the finish line. This will provide opportunity for attacks and a first chance for the GC contenders to test their legs – and gauge the form of their rivals. Though time differences will not be huge, a few seconds could decide who takes the race lead and a morale boost.
Stage nine, Arras to Roubaix, 154km
Sunday, July 15
For many fans, this will be one of the biggest highlights of the 2018 race. The stage to Roubaix takes in 15 cobbled sectors adding up to 21.7 kilometres of the 154km route. That is a significant portion and could spell disaster for unprepared riders, rendered worse if the weather is wet and windy. Mechanical problems and crashes could easily see riders losing minutes – and possibly spelling the end of their chances for overall victory.
Stage 12, Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Alpe d’Huez, 175km
Thursday, July 19
It's incredibly hard to pick out the key stage in the Tour's visit to the Alps in the second week. Stages 10, 11 and 12 could all potentially lead to a GC reshuffle, with all featuring high mountains. We're picking stage 12 to Alpe d'Huez, namely because any status quo between the GC riders in the preceding two days will be blown apart on the legendary hairpin-strewn climb. Which of the contenders wouldn't want to stamp their authority on the race with a good performance on Alpe d'Huez?
Stage 17, Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan/Col-de-Portet, 65km
Wednesday, July 25
Race organiser ASO is evidently expecting fireworks on this extraordinarily short mountain stage in the Pyrenees. Just 65km of racing means that this is the shortest Tour stage in 30 years, but it still packs in three tough climbs including a new one at the end – the Col-de-Portet, offering 16km of ascent at an average of eight per cent gradient with gravel section at the top. If there isn't a full-on GC battle on the final climb, then it'll be a major disappointment.
Stage 19, Lourdes to Laruns, 200km
Friday, July 27
Coming at the end of the third week, stage 19 is the final climbing stage of the 2018 Tour – and what a stage it is. Starting in Lourdes, the riders will then tackle the Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque. There's no summit finish, but instead a plunging descent from the top of the Aubisque to the finish in Laruns. An exciting and frightening prospect in equal measure.
Stage 20, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette, 31km ITT
Saturday, July 28
The only individual test against the clock of the 2018 race is left until the penultimate day. Evidently, ASO were happy with the way the stage 20 time trial panned out in the 2017 race, and have replicated the formula. This one is far from straightforward, with a lumpy profile that will not necessarily favour outright power TT riders such as Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb). It will, however, favour defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky), who will likely be satisfied with the route as a whole and have his eye on a fifth Tour victory.
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