Chris Froome: “A 65 km stage is a brand-new speciality

A 3,329km race route, a significant number of kilometres on the cobblestones, a dirt track on the Plateau des Glières, mountain stages with varied formats, including an ultra-dynamic 65km stage finishing on the Col de Portet pass… the highlights of the 2018 Tour de France had the audience present at the Palais des Congrès convention centre in Paris hungry for more and none more so than the expected contenders in July next year.

While the expectations of the 4,000 spectators at the Palais des Congrès convention centre were fixed on the details of the race route for the 2018 edition, Christian Prudhomme prolonged the suspense in beginning his speech with the reminder that “the Tour must be useful”. In this instance, it was above all else, to ensure the safety of all cyclists, supported here via the biggest race in the world. “End the massacre”, challenged the race director before he brandied the jersey of the campaign “La route se partage” (“The route is shared”). The main topic of the ceremony then took over and the spectators reacted with clear enthusiasm to the announcement of a significant number of kilometres on the cobblestones on the Roubaix stage, with seriousness on learning that the peloton will ride to the Plateau des Glières for the first time during the Grand-Bornand stage, and with eagerness when looking back at the footage of Thibaut Pinot’s victory at Alpe d’Huez, where stage 12 will conclude. But the loudest applause was for the mountain sprint that awaits the riders on the Saint-Lary-Soulan stage, with three fearsome climbs and an all-new finish on the Col de Portet pass (2215m) in just 65km.

In agreement with the knowledgeable attendees in Paris, the favourites for next year’s Tour de France were also intrigued and excited about this stage that could be decisive four days before the arrival in the French capital, beginning with the four-time winner of the race, Chris Froome, fresh off of collecting his third Vélo d’Or award. “For me, it is like a new speciality! The race favourites will attack in the opening kilometres and it will be one of the keys of this Tour de France”. The stakes might be a little less important for Warren Barguil who will “not race for the general classification”, but the winner of the 2017 Polka dot Jersey is not indifferent when it comes to this new and thrilling format: “I don’t think I have done a 65km stage since my days competing as a youngster. It is going to be flat out from start to finish and it will be quite a show”. Romain Bardet, who finished runner-up in 2016 and third in 2017, is obviously interested in the consequences this stage may have in the race for the title, with the prospects of a brilliant battle. “The leaders will quickly square off against one another. This will create a lot of space and I am expecting it will be a really crazy race on that day! I wouldn’t be surprised if it produces the largest gaps in this Tour de France”.

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