Britain's Chris Boardman won his third Prologue and captured the yellow jersey. Sprinters then dominated the opening week of racing. Defending champion Jan Ullrich again found himself in the yellow jersey after winning the Corrèze time trial. He held it in the Pyrénées, but continued attacks by Italian climber Marco Pantani finally broke Ullrich on the stage to Deux Alps. Ullrich lost over seven minutes and the lead. He fought back to win the next stage into Albertville as well as the final time trial, but he could not threaten Pantani's overall lead as Pantani became the first Italian since Felice Gimondi in 1965 to win the Tour.
Before the Tour even started news broke that a Festina team car had been found loaded with performance enhancing drugs on the French/Belgian border. Soon the news became known as "The Festina Affair." When team director Bruno Roussel confessed to systematic doping of the riders, the entire team was expelled from the race. Further drug inquiries prompted two sit-down strikes by the Tour riders and marred the 1998 race.
Tour starts in Dublin, Ireland for the first time.