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These are the 4 remaining Tour de France stages you absolutely have to watch

Here is your all killer, no filler guide to the best stages of the 2018 Tour de France.

I adore the Tour de France, but it can be a lot. The world’s most famous cycling competition will begin with 176 riders this year hoping to survive nearly 2,100 miles over the course of 23 days. Stages often start at 5 a.m. and finish around noon, and in that time the action comes in fits and spurts, and you have to rely on the dulcet tones of announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen to keep you occupied.

I’m OK with that. I am perfectly content looking at the French countryside and the colorful fans by the side of the road in the long, quiet spaces between the massive crashes and the sudden, unexpected attacks on the peloton. The Tour de France is much more than a competition to me; it’s a celebration of country and will.

But I’m not everyone, and I would understand wanting just the good stuff, the straight shots of mayhem, legendary climbs, and history-in-the-making moments that also make the Tour one of the best and most compelling competitions in the world.

And what a Tour we have in store. Chris Froome is as vulnerable as he has ever been since his yellow jersey dominance began in 2013, with his Giro d’Italia win still sitting in his legs from May and a doping scandal looming over him. Romain Bardet of France, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, and Nairo Quintana of Colombia lead the favorites capable of stopping Froome from winning the general classification for a fourth straight year.

If you were me, you’d watch every second of it. But you’re not, so let me help you. Below is the all killer, no filler experience: the five remaining stages you absolutely have to watch if you want to catch the biggest moments of this year’s Tour de France. Allons-y.

The 4 remaining stages you absolutely shouldn’t miss during the 2018 Tour de France

Stages 10, 11, and 12 — The Tour goes right to the Alps off a rest day and that’s terribly mean

Tuesday, July 17. 158.5 kilometers from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand

Wednesday, July 18. 108.5 kilometers from Albertville to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo

Thursday, July 19. 175.5 kilometers from Bourg-Saint-Maurice les Arcs to Alpe d’Huez

I’m lumping these stages together for two reasons: 1) They are all hard and potentially Tour-defining, and 2) They are all lined up after the first rest day, which is particularly cruel.

From a physiological standpoint, the second week may be the hardest of the three-week Tour. Riding a bike as fast as you can for hundreds of miles on successive days is a shock to the body, and after the first week, Tour riders are in a state of near-trauma — they’re losing muscle mass, they can’t possibly put back in all the nutrients and calories they lose, their immune systems tank, and so their bodies quite literally fight back against them. It is common for many riders to abandon the Tour due to illness on the first rest day.

So imagine feeling like absolute shit — perhaps the worst you have ever felt in your life — then being told you have to climb this:


Followed by this:


Followed by this:


On back-to-back-to-back days.

I can’t tell you which of these three stage will be the most decisive. Any or none of them could swing the yellow jersey competition. And all of them are special in their own ways.

Stage 10 features a devilish new climb — Montée du Plateau des Glières — that averages an 11.2 percent gradient for six kilometers, and gets as steep as 20 percent. The cherry on top is the gravel road to greet riders at the summit. [Update: Julian Alaphilippe won Stage 10 with a brilliant solo attack. It was awesome.]

Stage 11 is a shotgun blast — at 108.5 kilometers, it’s the second shortest stage of the Tour — with scarcely any flat road, which means that riders will have to be on constant watch for attacks from the outset. [Update: Geraint Thomas won the stage to secure a healthy lead on the yellow jersey over his teammate, Chris Froome. It was … interesting.]

Stage 12 completes the triumvirate with three of the Tour’s most iconic climbs: the Col de la Madeleine, Col de las Croix de Fer, and, of course, Alpe d’Huez for a :chef’s kiss: finish. Among the giants, however, is my favorite climb of the Tour, the Lacets de Montvernier. Lacets translates roughly to shoelaces, which makes sense once you take one look at the climb.

These three days are going to be as gorgeous as they are mean.

Stage 17 — A cannonball stage with an F1 start

Wednesday, July 25. 65 kilometers from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan

I called Stage 11 a “shotgun blast,” which fits. Most other years, it would have been the shortest stage of the Tour. This year, however, organizers decided to do something supremely weird.

Stage 17 is not only the shortest stage of this year’s Tour de France at 65 kilometers, it’s the shortest non-time trial stage in 30 years. Which, mind you, doesn’t mean it’s easy.


Riders will be in a constant state of ascending or descending, and given that it should be one of the last few decisive days of the Tour, expect a popcorn-worthy stage, complete with brave and/or foolish solo attempts towards the final mountain top finish at the highest point of the race.

And because somehow all that’s not enough, riders will be starting the stage in an F1-style grid, in which the yellow jersey will be given pole position at the front of a staggered start based on each rider’s ranking in the general classification.

It’s hard to tell what effect the grid will have on the racing. Will leaders wait for their teammates to catch up behind them so that they don’t have to tackle the opening climb alone? Will it favor the stronger teams that may have several riders among the top 20? Or will it favor the solo artists who won’t have to bother fighting through a pesky peloton to make their inevitable move? Isn’t this kind of stupid and potentially ruinous for sprinters who need all the help they can get not to miss the disqualification time?

Nobody knows! Cycling is big and stupid and wonderful, but above all stupid.

Stage 19 — The Queen Stage?

Friday, July 27. 200.5 kilometers from Lourdes to Laruns

The Queen Stage refers to the most demanding, and potentially decisive stage of the Tour, and at 200.5 kilometers with two Hors Catégorie climbs, it’s hard argue that Stage 19 doesn’t have bona fides. But I’ll be honest, I just got really excited writing about all of the compact fun of the last four stages, and I don’t know if Stage 19 can live up to that hype.

That said, get a load of this.


Stage 19 is an old school monster, with the long and steep and potentially llama-infested Col du Tourmalet smack dab in the middle. Col d’Aspin and Col d’Aubisque are nasty in their own right, and a descent finish could ensure a thrilling conclusion to the Tour’s last day of climbing.

With riders like Froome and Tom Dumoulin likely to take full advantage of the individual time trial the next day, expect the pure climbers — Bardet, Nairo Quintana, and the like — to go for broke to try to secure the yellow jersey with a healthy cushion.

Stage 20 — A time trial and a coronation

Saturday, July 28. Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette

Yes there’s still one stage after this, but the champagne-sipping ride to Paris is for sentimentalists only. The yellow jersey competition of the Tour de France effectively ends on the last Saturday, and it should be decisive with gobs of time available in the time trial.

If Chris Froome is in the lead heading into the stage, it will be near impossible to rip the yellow jersey off of him. Last year, he finished fourth in the Stage 20 time trial, six seconds off the lead and well ahead of any general classification challengers, to win the Tour de France. If he is to be dethroned, he will have to have suffered in the mountains and be needing precious seconds back.

The good news for those challengers is that at 31 kilometers, this year’s time trial is very short, and an up-and-down parcours capped by a steep 900-meter climb near the finish should give the pure climbers a boost. (If you haven’t noticed, the French course designers may really want Bardet to win).


These solo final exams, after three very long weeks, are always compelling to watch. After thousands of miles of agony, the Tour comes down to a bunch skinny dudes, their bikes, and nothing else in their way except the will to push their screaming legs just a few more meters.

And then, mercifully, it ends.

Honorable mention

Consider these the B-sides.

Stage 14, Saturday, July 21 — Yep, another fun profile, but a stage that may or may not actually affect the yellow jersey. The Category 2 climb to the finish is no joke though — three kilometers at 10.2 (!) percent.

Stage 15, Sunday, July 22 — Climbier than Stage 14, but a long descent before the finish probably ensures that no one with GC aspirations is able to take much time. It should be a great day for a breakaway to go the distance, however, especially coming just before the second rest day.

Stage 16, Tuesday, July 24 — Two big climbs within the last 50ish kilometers make this a good stage to flip on late. Before that, though, is about 160 kilometers of … not much. There is an extant chance that a yellow jersey contender makes a move, but given what’s to come on Stage 17, most riders may opt to save their spray.

Stage 21, Sunday, July 29 — That’s it! It’s all over! Wake up early and drink champagne with the victor, enjoy the sights along the Champs-Élysées, work up a sweat during the 30 seconds at the end when the racing is actually interesting, then slip into a long, deep, and peaceful Sunday nap. You’ve earned it.

PREVIOUSLY

Stage 3 — A team time trial to raise the stakes

Monday, July 9. 35.5 kilometers in Cholet

BMC Racing won the stage, putting classics-specialist and defending Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet in a much-deserved yellow jersey. Richie Porte (BMC), Chris Froome (Sky), and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) all made up a significant chunk of the time they lost on Stage 1 crashes. It was a whole lot of fun. Here’s a full recap.

Stage 9 — COBBLESTONES

Sunday, July 15. 156.5 kilometers from Citadelle to Roubaix

A hectic day of crashes and dust was capped with a beautiful stage victory for John Degenkolb. The German rider who had suffered a horrific training accident in 2016 was moved to tears after the victory, which he dedicated to a close friend who had passed away recently.

It was a much worse day for BMC Racing, which lost Richie Porte to a crash early in the race, then saw assumptive team leader Tejay Van Garderen lose minutes to crashes and mechanical errors of his own. Education First-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran was another big loser, shipping nearly two minutes on the stage because of a late crash. It was wild, touching, and a whole lot of fun. Here’s a full recap.

Stage 10 — Brutal Alps stage Pt. 1

Tuesday, July 17. 158.5 kilometers from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand

Just two days after France won the World Cup, Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe soloed away from the field with 30 kilometers remaining in the Tour’s first mountain stage and won handily, securing the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey in the process. Farther back, little changed in the general classification. It was still a whole lot of fun. Here’s a full recap.

Stage 11 — Brutal Alps stage Pt. 2

Wednesday, July 18. 108.5 kilometers from Albertville to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo

Geraint Thomas won the stage with an attack with five kilometers to go, overcoming Tom Dumoulin and securing the yellow jersey. Teammate Chris Froome finished 20 seconds behind, setting up palace intrigue going forward with the Sky teammates now the best positioned riders for the yellow jersey. It was a whole lot of fun. Here’s a Full recap.

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