I dedicate the yellow jersey to the whole country. Stage 1 winner, Colombian, Fernando Gaviria
Starting in the Vendée
By Roger Childs
July is the month for the most famous cycle race in the world.
From the 7th to the 29th eight riders from each of 22 teams will travel 3351 km, mainly round northern and southern France.
In recent years the early stages have been in countries like Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Britain, however in 2018 the Vendée region in western France has been the host region for the start of the prestigious event.
A familiar sight along the course in Stages 1 and 2, has been tens of thousands of locals waving the distinctive red and white flag of the region.
The usual mix of stages
There are 21 sections in the race and two rest days. Variations are provided in gradient and terrain with cater to different skills and specialties.
- 8 flat stages which favour the sprinters
- 5 hilly stages
- 6 mountain stages which cater for the specialist climbers
- A team time trial and one for the individuals
In the latter cyclists go off at one minute intervals and it is basically a race against the clock.
Froome and Sagan are back
Winner of the last four tours, Englishman Chris Froome, tested positive in the last year’s Vuelta a España for Salbutamol; a drug used to treat and alleviate the symptoms of asthma and is part of a group of drugs known as Beta-2 agonists.
The drug opens the airways in the lungs to help sufferers breathe. Froome was recently cleared by World Drug Agency to compete in the Tour, however there are sceptics who feel the Kenyan born cyclist should have not been able to take part.
Peter Sagan, the Slovak sprinter was controversially thrown out of the Tour last year for allegedly pushing another rider in a finishing sprint. Most observers thought that the punishment was unfair.
Anyway he’s back, and Sagan celebrated in Stage 2 by winning the sprint to claim the leaders’ yellow jersey.
Plenty of drama
The opening stage was uneventful, until the last 10km. Then there was a series of crashes including one where Froome went off the road into a ditch. 23 year old Fernando Gaviria won this first stage and along the way recorded the fastest speed of the day: 74.6km!
Another major pile-up on a tight corner 2.5km from the finish marred the second stage and only 12 riders actually competed in the sprint to the line.
New Zealand has four riders taking part, and one of them, Dion Smith, from the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team claimed the King of Mountains polka dot jersey in Stage 2. He is first Kiwi ever to wear a leader’s jersey.
Enjoying the spectacle
Tens of millions around the world watch the tour on the francetvsport feed and not only see all the action stage by stage, but also
- the magnificent French scenery: mountains, coastlines, rivers and forests
- the countryside, towns and cities
- churches, abbeys, castles and chateaux
- wonderful tour displays in the fields, on buildings and along the side of the roads.
Entertainment, excitement and action are guaranteed!