Where in the world is the Tour?
Possibly the most photogenic stage of this year's Tour; Stage 18 takes in three départements in the Hautes Alpes, Isère and Savoie and a debut climb that will take both the peloton's and spectator's collective breath away.
That climb is the category two, 3.4 kilometre, 8.2% Lacets de Montvernier. Translated it means "shoe laces". The Lacets provides an extremely narrow set of switchbacks for the riders to attack just 10 kilometres before the finish line. The riders slowly snaking up this marvel of road building could well become one of the defining images of the 2015 Tour.
Before the Montvernier there are six categorised climbs including the HC Col du Glandon, which the riders will also see on Stage 19 on the way up to the Croix de Fer. The Glandon is a whopping 21.3 kilometres long in total and with a very long descent back down to the valley floor at Saint Etienne de Cuines, the tougher gradients at the top of the climb could provide the perfect launchpad for a GC contender ambush.
Team bus tactics:
The only Alpine stage without a mountain top finish, Stage 18 could be mistakingly classed as one of the easier of the Alps. However, when you look at the route its dearth sections and ample opportunity for attacks means it will be warily ridden by many in the peloton.
It will be a tough day in the saddle for Chris Froome as both the Glandon and Montvernier will likely see numerous attacks. For Froome the best defence could be to go on the offensive.
Packed full of seven categorised climbs, en route to Saint Jean de Maurienne, this stage will also be important for those riders seeking the polka dot jersey. There are 46 points on offer today for the King of the Mountains classification.
While that is not as many points as Stages 12 and 20, which offered/offer 75 and 85 respectively, the very quick succession of climbs in the first half of the route could provide a good buffer for a plucky rider in a break.
With his GC hopes dashed on Stage 16's dicey final descent, Tony Gallopin, the 27 year-old Lotto-Soudal rider, will now be in search of a stage win. His Lotto-Soudal team have had a great amount of success in this year's Tour with their beefy sprinter Andre Greipel taking three stages so far.
A win in the mountains for Gallopin would mean this would be counted as a successful Tour for the Frenchman who spent two days in the maillot jaune last year.
Let us know who you think will be victorious in Stage 18 in the comments section below.
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