Notorious passage start for 2018 Tour de France

Notorious passage start for 2018 Tour de France

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Bruno Retailleau (L), French Senator and president of the Pays de La Loire Region, Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme (C), and Vendee department president Yves Auvinet attend a news conference for the regions hosting the departure of the 2018 Tour de France cycling race in Mouilleron-le-Captif, France, on Tuesday. — Reuters
Bruno Retailleau (L), French Senator and president of the Pays de La Loire Region, Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme (C), and Vendee department president Yves Auvinet attend a news conference for the regions hosting the departure of the 2018 Tour de France cycling race in Mouilleron-le-Captif, France, on Tuesday. — Reuters

MOUILLERON-LE-CAPTIF, France — Next year’s Tour de France will begin on a notorious, slippery passageway linking an island off the west coast to the mainland, organizers ASO revealed on Tuesday.

The Grand Depart of the 105th edition of the world’s most prestigious cycle race will start on June 30, 2018 on the 4km Passage du Gois — a natural periodically flooded land-bridge from the island of Noirmoutier to the Vendee department in the Loire region — with a 195km flat stage.

The passage has a infamous place in Tour history as it proved decisive in helping Lance Armstrong win the first of his seven titles — he was later stripped of all of them for doping — in 1999.

Many of the favorites, including Switzerland’s Alex Zulle, crashed on the slippery cobbles and ended up losing six minutes to the American, who would eventually win the Tour by seven minutes. The passage last featured at the Tour in 2011, when it also hosted the Grand Depart.

After a second flat stage of 185km, the third stage on July 2, 2018 will be a 35km team timetrial around Cholet. The race will then leave the Vendee department the following day although the destination of the fourth stage and the program for the rest of the 2018 Tour will not be revealed until October.

In the meantime, the 2017 Tour will start in Duesseldorf, Germany on July 1. Britain’s Chris Froome is the current champion having won the race for the third time last year. — AFP

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