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Video: Tour de France returns to spectacular Passage du Gois for 2018 Grand Départ

Vendée and Pays de la Loire host opening days of next year's 105th edition of the race...

The Passage du Gois on the Atlantic coast, the scene of drama in the 1999 Tour de France when a 25-rider crash caused several pre-race favourites to lose 6 minutes to their rivals, will host the start of next year's 105th edition of the race.

The four-kilometre causeway, submerged by the tide twice a day, last featured in the opening stage of the 2011 Tour de France. As then, next year's race will see the riders set off on their three-week journey to Paris from the island of Noirmoutier, which is connected to the mainland by the Passage du Gois, submerged twice daily by the tide.

Grand Départ du Tour de France 2018 - Vendée et... by tourdefrance

It was the slippery surface of the causeway that caused a major crash on Stage 2 of the 1999 Tour which split the peloton. Lance Armstrong found himself on the right side of the split, and gained time over rivals including Alex Zülle, who would finish second overall, 7 minutes behind the Texan.

The Passage du Gois lies in the Vendée region, which is hosting the 2018 Grand Départ jointly with the Pays de la Loire region which lies to the east, and where a team time trial takes place in Cholet on Stage 3.

Confirmation of the location of the start of the 2018 race means that none of the 10 editions of the race since 2009 will actually have started on the French mainland.

The 2009 race started in the Principality of Monaco, and besides that visit to the Passage du Gois in 2011, there have been Grands Départs on Corsica in 2013 and, last year, at the island monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.

With foreign starts since 2010 in Rotterdam, Liège, Belgium, Leeds, Utrecht and this year Düsseldorf, that means that the last time the Tour de France got underway on the French mainland was in 2008 in Brest.

> Videos: 2017 Tour de France route unveiled

However, in 2011, the peloton rolled over the Passage du Gois in procession ahead of racing starting at kilometre 0 once it hit the coast, and we'd expect the same to happen next year.

Here is the itinerary for the first four stages of next year's race, with the finish town of Stage 4 set to be confirmed along with the rest of the parcours when the full route is unveiled in at the Palais des Congrès de Paris on 17 October.

Saturday, 30 June – Stage 1: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île > Fontenay-le-Comte, 195 km
Sunday, 1 July – Stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint Germain > La Roche-sur-Yon, 185 km
Monday, 2 July – Stage 3: Cholet > Cholet, 35 km (TTT)
Tuesday, 3 July – Stage 4: La Baule > ???

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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