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Stage 1, Tour de France 2018

Passage du Gois

Passage du Gois, by Tudre, Licence CC BY 2.0

The 2018 Grand Départ will take place in the Vendée (85) in western France, over 4 days.

Stage 1 of the Tour de France 2018 begins in Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, on the Ile de Noirmoutier and in the département of the Vendée, on Saturday 7th July 2018. The race rejoins the mainland via the Pont de Noirmoutier. The Tour de France then heads south along the Vendée coast via les Sables-d'Olonne, before turning inland for a finish at Fontenay-le-Comte. This looks like a classic sprint stage, albeit one that could be affected by crosswinds.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: stage highlights

These are the highlights from Stage 1, on a day when Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) won, and Froome, Adam Yates, Nairo Quintana, and Richie Porte lost time:

The Hedgehog Stage 1 diary is available too

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: facts, figures, and map

Stage classification Flat
Distance 201km
Intermediate sprint La Tranche-sur-Mer
Bonus pointMaillezais
Climbs Côte de Vix (Category 4)

This is the official map of Stage 1, Tour de France 2018.

The the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 1:

Profile of Stage 1, TDF 2018

Profile of Stage 1, Tour de France 2018, © ASO/Tour de France

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: date & timings

Stage 1 takes place on Saturday 7th July 2018.

According to the Ile de Noirmoutier website, the teams will arrive on the island between 1h30 and 1h10 before the riders set off from la Prée au Duc. The publicity caravan sets off at 0900, and the peloton at 1100. The estimated average speeds are 41, 43, and 45kmh. Depending on which is most accurate, the riders will arrive at the finish in Fontenay-le-Comte between 1538 and 1604.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: marginal gains

On a day for the sprinters, will an aerodynamic hairstyle make all the difference?

Answer: probably not, under a cycle helmet.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Mark Cavendish's prediction

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish riding for Dimension Data, by Iggy, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Mark Cavendish looks forward to the Tour de France for the BBC, and names his 'one to watch' for each stage - his prediction for the win.

'Normally on the Atlantic coast - this stage spends more than 100km by the sea - crosswinds can be a factor, but the temperature looks great, and the forecast looks fine, so we might not get them...My Dimension Data team will be looking to control the riders who get in the break, although we have to look out for the time bonus sprint only 15km from the finish. That can upset teams trying to set up their lead-out trains. There is a right-hander with just over one kilometre to go, but then a nice straight run to the finish.'

His one to watch? Himself. When you've got 30 stage wins already, you can get away with that.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: the route

Stage 1, Tour de France 2017: the start at Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, by Aoudot25, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The stage starts at Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, to the north of the Ile de Noirmoutier. Vendée Tourisme has the programme of events in the build-up to the race. On the evening of Friday 6th July, there'll be bikes to test, clowns, a circus parade, and a blues concert; and on Saturday 7th July, there are more activities and events at place de la République, where a big screen will show the race live.

The ceremonial start is at la Prée au Duc at 1100. The riders travel south south east down the island via l'Epine and la Guérinière, and the flag goes down and the racing starts between those settlements. They continue to Barbâtre, then to the Pont de Noirmoutier, which they cross to rejoin the mainland. (For security reasons, people won't be allowed on the bridge to watch the race - it will close at 7am on Saturday 7th July, and the Passage du Gois will close at 5.30pm the day before).

Pont de Noirmoutier

Pont de Noirmoutier, by Audrey le Sager, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The organisers originally intended to cross the Passage du Gois, a place described by Christian Prudhomme as '...imbued with magic. Its particular aesthetic stems from the coming and going of the tides, which orchestrate the disappearance and rebirth of this bit of road linking the Ile de Noirmoutier and the continent.' That was when Stage 1 was scheduled for 30th June 2018, but after it was put back to 7th July, they couldn't use the Passage du Gois because low tide isn't at the right time. It's a shame, because the Passage du Gois has been used in the past, and made for a nice spectacle.

Passage du Gois

Passage du Gois, Ile de Noirmoutier, by Patrick Despoix, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

This French TV report shows the spectacle of the Tour de France on the Passage du Gois in 2011:

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Ile de Noirmoutier to les Sables-d'Olonne

Les Sables-d'Olonne

Les Sables-d'Olonne, by mphb45, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After crossing the Pont de Noirmoutier, the riders are on the mainland, and go through Beauvoir-sur-Mer and la Barre-de-Monts. They work their way south down the coast via Saint-Jean-de-Monts, Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, Bretignolles-sur-Mer, and Brem-sur-Mer, to les Sables-d'Olonne. The Vendée coast here is called the Côte de Lumière.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: les Sables-d'Olonne to Fontenay-le-Comte.

Maillezais, Cathedral Saint-Pierre

Maillezais, Cathédral Saint-Pierre, by Pierre André Leclercq, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

From les Sables-d'Olonne, Stage 1 continues south east to Talmont-Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard, and Longeville-sur-Mer (a village surrounded by pine & holm oak forest, and marshes which are home to birds including storks).

La Tranche-sur-Mer

La Tranche-sur-Mer, by Minou85, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The riders pass close to la Tranche-sur-Mer, and the intermediate sprint takes place there, then they veer inland to Saint-Michel-en-l'Herm, Triaize, Champagné-les-Marais, Chaillé-les-Marais, Vouillé-les-Marais, and le Gué-de-Velluire.

Leaving le Gué-de-Velluire, the road climbs a little. It's nice to launch the King of the Mountains competition on the first day of the race, and so this modest ascent is categorised and called the Côte de Vix. It's 700m at 4.2%, and reaches a vertiginous 30m at the top. Then it's downhill to the village of Vix.

Maillé is next on the route, and after that, the riders head north to Maillezais, which is the bonus point on Stage 1: there are time bonuses of 3, 2, and 1 seconds for the first three riders to cross the line here; this is not an intermediate sprint, so there are no green jersey points on offer; the new bonus feature will appear on stages 1 to 9.

The hamlet of Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux comes just after Maillezais, and now the peloton is closing in on the finish in Fontenay-le-Comte.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: the finish at Fontenay-le-Comte

Fontenay-le-Comte & Vendée river

Fontenay-le-Comte on the Vendée river, by jmdigne, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The stage finishes in Fontenay-le-Comte.

The riders arrive on the D23, and turn left off it through an area called Saint-Médard-des-Prés. There's then a right turn onto the D938T avenue Francois Mitterand/boulevard Hoche/boulevard Duguesclin. The finish line is on boulevard Duguesclin at its junction with rue Sigisbert Gandriau.

This is Fontenay-le-Comte's programme of events for Stage 1. The Mayor says that they are expecting 50,000 people in town to watch the finish of the stage.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: favourites for the stage win

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel, by filip bossuyt, Licence CC BY 2.0

There are time bonuses for every mass start stage (10s, 6s, and 4s for first, second and third), so Stage 1 is a chance for one of the sprinters to take the first yellow jersey of the 2018 Tour. 

Likely candidates for the stage win include Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Démare, Fernando Gaviria, Dylan Groenewegen, and André Greipel, but perhaps the provisional favourite is Marcel Kittel.

Update 29th June 2018: Kittel (Team Katusha) hasn't been in his most scintillating form so far in 2018, but I'm sticking with him as my pick for the stage win.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: comments

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Stage 2, Tour de France 2018

Château de Tiffauges

Château de Tiffauges, by Jibi44, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 2 of the Tour de France 2018 is 183km from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to la Roche-sur-Yon. It's another stage for the sprinters.

Read about Stage 2 of the 2018 Tour de France.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: towns, sights and attractions

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Ile de Noirmoutier & Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, by Aoudot25, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The Ile de Noirmoutier is an island off the Atlantic coast of France. It is about 18km long, and between 500m and 12km wide.

The name Noirmoutier derives from the Latin in herio monasterio, meaning the monastery of Her (a part of the island). It was the monk Saint Philibert who came to the island in the year 674, and founded a monastery.

Noirmoutier is also known as the Island of Mimosas - the temperate climate allows the mimosa tree (acacia debealta) to flower year-round.

The landscape is made up of sand dunes, salt marshes separated by banks, and holm oaks. It was the monks who first set up the salt pans and organised the harvesting of salt.

Salt pans, Ile de Noirmoutier

Salt pans, Ile de Noirmoutier, by Patrick Despoix, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The island has been connected to the mainland by bridge since 1971. The other link is by the Passage du Gois, which is a paved-over sandbank, 4.5km long, and flooded twice a day by the high tide.

The biggest part of the economy today is tourism. There's also fishing, and an offshore wind farm is being developed near the island, which is expected to be commissioned in 2021.

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile

Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, the town on the north east of the island, is the historic capital. The population is around 4,800 people, and it has a church and a C12th château. The fishing and pleasure port is part of the commune of Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: les Sables-d'Olonne

Aerial view of les Sables-d'Olonne

Aerial view of les Sables-d'Olonne, by Florian Pépellin, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Les Sables-d'Olonne is a seaside resort in the Vendée, with a population of about 14,000.

It was founded in 1218, when the Olonne harbour was developed by Savary 1st of Mauléon. Its port has always been important,exporting local wine and salt. In the C17th, it became the largest cod-fishing port in France, with 100 boats.

Les Sables-d'Olonne

Les Sables-d'Olonne, by Andre Bianco, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The first bathing establishments here were created in 1825, and les Sables-d'Olonne began to attract aristocratic visitors.  There was a casino, les Bains de Mer. The railway line reached Sables-d'Olonne in 1866, and contributed to a wider popularity with tourists.

The Vendée Globe yacht race takes place every four years, and starts and finishes in les Sables-d'Olonne.

Les Sables-d'Olonne is twinned with Worthing (UK).

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Fontenay-le-Comte

Fontenay-le-Comte

Fontenay-le-Comte seen from the pont des Sardines, by Jmdigne, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Fontenay-le-Comte is a small town on the Vendée river, which used to be the capital (préfecture) of the Vendée, before it was moved to la Roche-sur-Yon by Napoléon in 1804.

The name Fontenay stems from 'fountain', and refers to the fontaine des Quatres Tias, rebuilt in 1542. 'Le Comte' is a nod to Alphonse de Poitiers, who received the Poitou area from his brother King Louis IX in 1242.

Fontaine des Quatre Tias

Fontaine des Quatre Tias, Fontenay-le-Comte, by Trebmuh, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The Counts of Poitiers built a fortress here. During the Middle Ages, Fontenay thrived due to cloth and leather production, but it was occupied by the English for 11 years, during the Hundred Years War, and was badly damaged during the fighting.

Fontenay blossomed again during the Renaissance, but suffered at the time of the Wars of Religion (late 1500s and early 1600s).

During the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries wanted to wipe out all traces of the ancien régime, Fontenay became known as Fontenay-le-Peuple.

Fontenay was the 1996 winner of the prix national de l'art de vivre! I never knew there was such a thing. I'm imagining an inspection over two days, where the candidate town asks its citizens to read the paper insouciantly at pavement cafés, while drinking espresso accompanied by macarons, and the judges decide if they have done it with sufficient panache.

Frédéric Mazzella, the founder of Blablacar, is from Fontenay.

Noirmoutier-en-l'IleLes Sables-d'OlonneFontenay-le-Comte

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