Bold breakaways, crazed pursuits, murderous climbs and breakneck descents – the Tour de France is considered the toughest bicycle race in the world. Whoever reaches the finish line in Paris at all – after three gruelling weeks of narrow hairpin bends, hot asphalt, gravel trails, cobblestone streets, and extreme weather conditions – is basically already considered the winner. Every day, the Tour pushes riders, their bikes and the support vehicles to their limits. This fascinating competition is enthusiastically followed by millions of fans – live beside the route as well as around the world. And it is the perfect presentation opportunity for Continental. Automobile drivers and cyclists alike benefit from the company’s long tradition of developing and producing high-tech tires – and also appreciate the tires’ high safety standards and agility. This year, seven teams at the Tour de France will be relying on tires from Continental, including the team of last year’s winner Christopher Froome.
“The tire plays a key role in cycling,” says Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France. “It’s the only connection between rider and bike and the road.”
Continental will be the official partner of the Tour de France, initially for five years, starting in 2018. Continental will be present on banner ads and in advertising spots for the race and will be an active part of the Tour: providing the tires for the Tour’s official service vehicles. That turns every mountaintop finish – by racing bikes, accompanying motorcycles and service vehicles – into a “summit meeting” for Continental tires.
At 3,351 kilometres in length, the 105th Tour de France is remarkably short. And this is just one of many changes that will make the tour even more attractive – and the riders even more aggressive. Nevertheless, the watchword here is “pace yourself”. After all, on the way to Paris, the professionals have to climb 26 classified mountains. These include 12 in the Alps, 4 in the Massif central, and 10 in the Pyrenees.
This year’s Tour de France is almost 100% French. Except for a short visit of around 15 kilometres in Spain during stage 16 between Carcassonne and Bagnères-de-Luchon, the 105th Tour de France will not leave the borders of France. 36 “départements” will be travelled through, and the Basque country that hadn’t been visited since 2006 is once again on the map of the Tour.
22 racing teams from all over the world compete in the Tour. This year, a team comprises only eight riders, bringing the total number of professional riders to 176. This means more safety for the riders – and more suspense. A single team can no longer dominate the tour to the extent that was possible in previous years.
The official presentation of the 176 riders representing the 22 teams participating in the 2018 Tour de France will take place between 18.30 and 20.00 on Thursday 5th July in La Roche-sur-Yon, Vendée.
The tour consists of 21 stages, interrupted by two days of rest: one in Annecy (16th July) and one in Carcassonne (23th July). The tour starts in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île in the Vendée department, with the usual flat stages for the rolling start. As always, it’s in the five intimidating mountain stages that favourites pull decisively away from the rest of the pack.
The roads of Vendée and Pays de la Loire are intimately linked to the history of the Tour de France. Back in 1919 thanks to a stage finish in Les Sables-d’Olonne, Vendée appeared for the first time on the map of the Tour. Nantes had already been visited in 1903 during the inaugural edition of the event.
After a one-year break, the third stage of the tour offers another team time trial. The fight against the clock in Cholet goes over 35 kilometres. The tour will probably be decided in the individual time trial over 31 kilometres on the 20th stage, from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette.
The ninth stage is considered one of the most spectacular this year. It stretches over 154 km, from the Arras citadel into the Hell of the North to Roubaix. The riders have to master 15 cobblestone segments over a length of 22 kilometres – known and feared from the spring classic Paris–Roubaix.
The riders have to work through 5,000 metres of altitude difference on stage twelve, from Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs to Alpe d’Huez. The agony at the end of the 175 kilometres: the 21 hairpin bends up to Alpe d’Huez. It gets really serious in the fight for the yellow jersey.
Revolution in the tour: the 17th stage from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan is only 65 kilometres long. And the race will start in Formula One style – that is, slightly staggered, depending on the position in the overall standings, with the wearer of the yellow jersey in the “pole position”. The reason: Those in the lead should accomplish at least the first of the three difficult climbs without team support. Constant attacks are to be expected.
The yellow jersey
The leader in the overall standings – that is, the rider who has covered the total distance so far in the shortest amount of time – wears the yellow jersey.
The mountain jersey
Climbing specialists enjoy special recognition during the tour – and use a separate classification system, for which points are awarded at each pass height. The more difficult the mountain (divided into five difficulty categories), the higher the score. The rider who currently has the most points in the mountains classification wears the white jersey with the red polka dots. It’s almost as popular as the yellow jersey.
The green jersey
In tribute to the fastest men, the best sprinter rides in a green jersey. For this purpose, two scores will be tallied and points awarded per stage: after about two-thirds of the course and at the finish.
The white jersey
The best young rider (under 26 years old) in the general classification also stands out daily, as he wears a white jersey.