The 2018 Tour de France starts on an island in Vendée near the Passage du Gois, a tidal causeway that spends much of the day underwater. Early in the 1999 Tour, its slippery asphalt caused a crash that ruined the chances of many pre-race favorites. To prevent a similar mishap, this year’s peloton will pass by, not over, the causeway a few kilometers after the stage officially begins in Noirmoutier.
Overall, the riders face 201K of flat, coastal roads, with a late Category 4 climb that will determine the first rider to wear the polka dot jersey. A breakaway filled with riders hoping to grab the KOM should spend most of the day out front, but expect the sprinters’ teams to reel in any remaining escapees just before the finish in Fontenay-le-Comte—especially if there’s a headwind once the race turns north following the Bonus Sprint in Maillezais.
The run-in to the finish line isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great, either. Riders will face three roundabouts in the last 3K, with a tight right-hander just before the red flag that identifies the final kilometer, which itself is flat, wide, and pretty straight.
Whoever wins the stage will earn the first yellow jersey of the Tour. For overall contenders like Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, and Romain Bardet, it’s a day to stay out of trouble. Despite the reduced peloton—this year’s Tour begins with only 176 riders, 22 fewer than last year—everyone will be nervous, and crashes always happen in the opening days. Luckily, the weather forecast calls for sunny skies and warm temperatures.
Riders to Watch
Stage 1 is a day for pure field sprinters like Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, and Mark Cavendish. Quick-Step Floors has probably the best lead-out of any team in the race, but its sprinter, Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria, is riding his first Tour and might need a day or two to adjust to the pressure.
When To Tune In
Flat stages are a great chance to tune in late, and this one saves almost all of the action for the final hour, with the Category 4 climb and Bonus Sprint coming inside the final 30K. Tune in around 9 a.m. EST to catch the moments worth seeing.
Article Source: Bicycling