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After three tough days in the mountains, the peloton can look forward to an easier day on the road to Valence.
The finish should suit the sprinters, but don’t write off the chances of a breakaway.
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The second half of the second week sees the race traverse France, including an uphill finish into Mende where Steve Cummings won in 2015.
Alpe d’Huez returns to the race for the first time since 2015, but before the riders get there they have to get over the other hors-categorie climbs of the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer, as well as the spectacular Lacets de Montvernier ise back in 2016.
The famous 21 hairpins of the Alpe will then decide the stage winner, with the GC riders having no excuses to hold back with the race heading out of the mountains the following day.
Although the Col de la Colombière, which is crested just 15km from the finish, is probably the best known, the Montée du Plateau des Glières is arguably the toughest, averaging 11.2 per cent for six kilometres, and riders being greeted with a couple of kilometres of gravel roads after the summit.
The finish into the spectacular walled city of Carcassonne is flat, but it is preceded by the 12.3km, 6.3 per cent climb of the Pic de Nore, which the riders will crest just over 40km from the finish.
When the race last started in the Vendée back in 2011, there was a team time trial, and the discipline returns in 2018, with a 35km test starting and finishing in Cholet that could see a few GC contenders lose time if they’re on weaker teams.
Likely to be another stage for the sprinters, although with a smattering of Breton climbs that will trouble any riders who are short of form.
The uphill finish the the aerodrome at Mende is a Tour de France regular, with Steve Cummings being the last victor here in 2015.
The steep climb of the Côte de la Croix Neuve averages more than 10 per cent for its three kilometres, before a flat finish on the aerodrome runway.