Tour de France riders lunged forward at around 11:30 this morning in 30℃ heat for the first day of the alpine triptych.
The 156 riders still in the race will climb three mountain passes during this 18th stage, 208 kilometres between Embrun and Valloire: Vars, Izoard, Galibier, all above 2,000 meters.
Besides the forfeit of Luke Row (Ineos) and Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) after their clash on Wednesday, the Austrian Lukas Pöstlberger (BORA-hansgrohe) and Dane Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) were not in today’s starting blocks in Embrun.
After Vars (1st category), the race ascends towards the Izoard pass, via its most spectacular angle from the Guil Valley. The out of category ascension, 14.1 kilometres long (7.3%), goes through the classified natural site, the grandiose and lunar desert of Casse, where a stele commemorates the exploits of Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet.
The descent to Briancon precedes the long ascent towards the Lautaret, the footstool of the monumental Galibier, which rises to 2,642 meters. The top of this giant pass gives way to 19 kilometres of rapid and spectacular descent to the finish.
Valloire has only hosted once before a stage finish in 1972 (victory of Eddy Merckx). In 2011, Andy Schleck imposed at the top of the Galibier after attacking as far as from the Izoard.
Julian Alaphilippe, better known as a fighter, than a climber, will still be wearing the yellow jersey as they confront the Alps. The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider holds a 1:35 advance on the Welsh Geraint Thomas (Ineos), the defending champion.