The race heads away from the Pyrenees with a stage that starts in Blagnac, location of Toulouse airport and the headquarters of Airbus, and another one that looks likely to end in a bunch sprint but which throws several categorised climbs into the day’s route – perfect preparation for Box Hill in eight days’ time, in other words.
Brive-La-Gaillarde, best known in sporting circles for its rugby union team, European champions in 1997, is the domain of the sprinters when the Tour hits town, with Mario Cipollini the last winner there in 2008, and another notable victor being Barry Hoban, who held the record of eight stage wins by a British rider until it was eclipsed by Mark Cavendish. In taking that stage win in 1969, the Yorkshireman, who had won 24 hours earlier in Bordeaux, also became the first Briton to win back-to-back Tour stages, a feat subsequently achieved twice by Cavendish.
Geraint Thomas says: It’s a full on bunch sprint here and it depends who is finishing their Tour the best. I think we’ll also have a good idea of who is going well for the Olympics too. Whoever is coming off the Tour struggling, it’s going to be a big ask to pick themselves up for the Games. I think it will be the usual sprinters up there again. Especially being Stage 18, it will be whoever’s got the legs to get over the climbs easily and still have the power at the end.
Fantasy Cycling Tour de France Stage 18 transfer window closes at 10.05am UK time.
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