Chris Froome predicting difficult 2018 Tour de France course

Title holder Britain's Chris Froome launches the official route of the 2018 Tour de France
Title holder Britain's Chris Froome launches the official route of the 2018 Tour de France
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Briton Chris Froome 
anticipates an all-round test in his bid for a fifth Tour de France title next summer.

Organisers unveiled the 3,329-kilometres route – one of the shortest of the 21st 
century - in Paris yesterday. The race starts on July 7 and concludes on July 29, 2018.

The 105th edition will return to Alpe-d’Huez, feature the cobbles of northern France and a hilly time-trial in the Basque Country could be decisive on the penultimate day.

Tom Dumoulin of Holland is anticipated to be one of Froome’s biggest rivals.

Dumoulin won last May’s Giro d’Italia before Froome won both the Tour and then the Vuelta a Espana to show his status as the pre-eminent rider of his generation.

The 32-year-old said of the route announcement in Paris: “We’ve got a massive 
challenge for next year, it’s a Tour de France that really tests every aspect of cycling.

“We’ve got gravel roads, cobbles, a lot of windy dangerous stages in the first half, then obviously we go into the Alps and the Pyrenees for some brutal mountain stages as well.

“It’s still very early to say exactly what we’re up against, but I wouldn’t expect anything different from the organisers.”

Alpe-d’Huez is not likely to be as decisive as it was in 2015 when Froome won overall by one minute 21 seconds.

Team Sky’s Froome clung on to claim a second Tour victory, after his 2013 triumph and crashing out of the 2014 edition, when struggling with a chest infection on Alpe-d’Huez, where Colombia’s Nairo Quintana’s attack up the 21-hairpins almost brought him victory.

The 2018 Tour will see a reduced peloton, with team sizes going from nine riders to eight in Grand Tours in a bid to make the racing less controllable. Some suggested it was specifically targeted at Froome’s dominant Team Sky squad.

Froome has won four of the last five editions of the Tour, while Sir Bradley Wiggins won the yellow jersey in the 99th edition of the race in 2012 to give Team Sky five victories in six years.

It was already known the race will begin on Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile and the peloton will cross the Passage du Gois causeway. The 2011 race had the same start in the Vendee region of western France.

Just 15km of the race takes place outside of France, in Spain on stage 16, while a team time-trial on stage three could play to the strengths of Froome and Team Sky.

There is a very short 65km mountain stage in the 
Pyrenees which is the 
shortest road stage since the 
elimination of half-stages.

Froome received the prestigious Velo d’Or award – the Velo magazine rider of the year prize – for the third time, following wins in 2013 and 2015.

Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) also announced that the fifth edition of La Course by Le Tour, the women’s race, will take place on stage 10, prior to the men’s passage along the same route. Stage 10 is the 118km route to 
Grand-Bornand.