Tour de France: Mark Cavendish's stage-by-stage guide to 2018 race
|Tour de France, 7-29 July|
|Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. Radio 5 live coverage on Sports Extra and/or website on every stage|
Mark Cavendish's hopes of closing further on Eddie Merckx's record of 34 Tour de France stage wins were dashed on stage 11 of the 2018 race.
The 33-year-old Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider was eliminated after finishing outside the day's time limit.
However fellow Briton Chris Froome could still join Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as a record five-time winner of the general classification.
Cavendish, who was riding in his 12th Tour, compiled BBC Sport's stage-by-stage guide for this year's race - a route he calls "the hardest I've seen in my career".
The 21-stage race will take place almost entirely in France - with just 15km dipping into Spain when it hits the Pyrenees mountains. A total of 176 riders - 22 teams of eight - will set off on the 3,351km (2,082-mile) route, which starts in the Vendee region...
Stage 1: Saturday, 7 July - Noirmoutier-en-L'Ile - Fontenay-le-Comte, 201km
Winner: Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors)
Defending champion Chris Froome crashes late on in a chaotic end to the opening stage. The four-time Tour winner is quickly back on his bike but finishes 51 seconds behind several rivals for the overall victory, but alongside others including fellow Briton Adam Yates and Australia's Richie Porte. Mark Cavendish does not feature in the sprint finish, won by Colombian debutant Fernando Gaviria who takes the yellow jersey.
Stage 2: Sunday, 8 July - Mouilleron-Saint-Germain - La Roche-sur-Yon, 182.5km
Winner: Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe)
Peter Sagan avoids a crash inside the final two kilometres, that delays stage one winner Fernando Gaviria, and then surges past Arnaud Demare on the slight incline to the finish to take his ninth Tour de France stage win and the yellow jersey. Defending champion Chris Froome also avoids the crash as he finishes safely inside the peloton, while team-mate and fellow Briton Geraint Thomas climbs to seventh overall.
Stage 3: Monday, 9 July - team time trial, Cholet, 35.5km
Winner: BMC Racing (US)
BMC secure an impressive victory in the team time trial to put Belgium's Greg van Avermaet into the yellow jersey. Team Sky finish second to help Chris Froome climb the standings and restore parity with most of the overall contenders after losing time in a crash on stage one. Peter Sagan is never in contention to defend the race lead as he is dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates.
Stage 4: Tuesday, 10 July - La Baule - Sarzeau, 195km
Winner: Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors)
Tour de France debutant Fernando Gaviria wins his second stage, kicking twice to deny Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel in a thrilling finish in Sarzeau, after the peloton finally catch a four-man breakaway just before the final kilometre. Mark Cavendish is boxed in and cannot contest the sprint. Greg van Avermaet retains the leader's yellow jersey, avoiding a crash at 5km to go to finish safely in the bunch alongside the likes of Chris Froome and Adam Yates.
Stage 5: Wednesday, 11 July - Lorient - Quimper, 204.5km
Winner: Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe)
World champion Peter Sagan outstays his rivals to win a dramatic uphill sprint finish in Quimper on stage five of the Tour de France. He makes his move with 200m to go, beating Sonny Colbrelli and Philippe Gilbert for his second stage win. Greg van Avermaet stays in the yellow jersey, extending his overall lead with a two-second bonus during the stage.
Stage 6: Thursday, 12 July - Brest - Mur-de-Bretagne, 181km
Winner: Dan Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates)
Ireland's Dan Martin produces a superb late attack to win stage six, kicking with a kilometre to go on the final climb and holding off the late challenge of Pierre Roger Latour by a second. Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is part of a group three seconds behind but climbs to second overall after securing two bonus seconds during the stage, while Chris Froome finishes a further five seconds behind his team-mate.
Stage 7: Friday, 13 July - Fougeres - Chartres, 231km
Winner: Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)
After little drama on the longest stage of this year's Tour, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen blitzes past Fernando Gaviria to take an impressive sprint victory in Chartres, with Peter Sagan third. Team Sky's Geraint Thomas stays second overall but falls to six seconds behind leader Greg van Avermaet after the Belgian grabs three bonus seconds.
Stage 8: Saturday, 14 July - Dreux - Amiens, 181km
Winner: Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)
Report: Groenewegen makes it two in two
Dylan Groenewegen makes it two stage wins in two days, kicking from deep to overhaul Andre Greipel and Fernando Gaviria, who are later relegated for two separate incidents during the finale. That hands Peter Sagan second place and increases his lead in the green jersey points classification, while Mark Cavendish finishes eighth. Team Sky's Geraint Thomas stays in second overall but is now seven seconds off Greg van Avermaet in the leader's yellow jersey after the Belgian grabs a bonus second.
Stage 9: Sunday, 15 July - Arras - Roubaix, 156.5km
Winner: John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)
John Degenkolb sprints to his first Tour stage win from a select group at the end of a crash-packed race across many of the cobbles found in the one-day classic Paris-Roubaix. Greg van Avermaet takes second and extends his lead in the yellow jersey to 43 seconds over Geraint Thomas. BMC's Richie Porte abandons the race after crashing just 10km into the stage, while Chris Froome also crashes but is unscathed and finishes safely in the main bunch.
Rest day: Monday, 16 July - Annecy
Stage 10: Tuesday, 17 July - Annecy - Le Grand-Bornand, 158.5km
Winner: Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors)
Julian Alaphilippe claims his first Tour stage victory with an impressive attack on the penultimate climb to remain clear to the finish in Le Grand-Bornand. Greg van Avermaet gets in the early breakaway and holds on to finish fourth on the stage, extending his lead in the yellow jersey to two minutes and 22 seconds over Geraint Thomas, though still expects to lose the race lead in the Alps. Chris Froome and Adam Yates finish safely in the bunch to move up to sixth and seventh respectively.
Stage 11, Wednesday, 18 July - Albertville - La Rosiere, 108.5km
Winner: Geraint Thomas (Gbr/Team Sky)
Britain's Geraint Thomas became the Tour de France's overall leader with an impressive victory on stage 11. Team Sky rider Thomas attacked with six kilometres left on a frenetic final climb up La Rosiere, to finish 20 seconds ahead of team-mate Chris Froome and second-placed Tom Dumoulin. Belgium's Greg van Avermaet, who had led since the third stage, was well down the field in the main peloton.
Stage 12: Thursday, 19 July - Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs - Alpe d'Huez, 175.5km
Mark's musings: For me this is the hardest stage of this year's Tour de France with 5,000m of altitude gain. It's going to be savage. The Col de la Madeleine takes two hours to climb. It goes up, there's a flat bit in the middle and then it just seems to go on forever. You start this knowing you've got two further HC climbs to come - it's very daunting.
What makes it difficult for the gruppeto is we normally make some time back on descents and flat bits but there's no flat and they are not the type of descents where we can make a lot of time back easily, so we're going to be fighting all day. This is the hardest stage to make the time limit but it's always a quality finish on Alpe d'Huez and hopefully we can get a boost from the fans.
It will be a fight between the climbers for sure - everybody wants to win on Alpe d'Huez and it would be nice to see a French winner.
Cav's one to watch: Romain Bardet (Fra/Ag2r La Mondiale) - He is the home nation's main hope for a first overall winner since Bernard Hinault won the last of his five in 1985.
Stage 13: Friday, 20 July - Bourg d'Oisans - Valence, 169.5km
Mark's musings: A bit of respite from the mountains and it will be a sprint day if we have managed to get through the day before. It's a transition day and at 170km shouldn't be too bad but sometimes down in that part of France the winds can pick up. We can get mistral winds and that can turn it from a recovery day into one of the hardest days of the Tour de France.
But if there is a bunch sprint, we're into the town with about 5km to go. There are a lot of corners to the last kilometre and then a nice boulevard finish. We do have a roundabout with a few hundred metres to go but if you're near the front you should get through that quite safely to start your sprint.
Cav's one to watch: Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) - It's a sprint that provides a long launchpad, so somebody who can go long, somebody who used to ride the track could win.
Stage 14: Saturday, 21 July - Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux - Mende, 188km
Mark's musings: This type of stage is normally gruelling. We're going up and up and up into the Massif Central, rolling through the countryside. On the profile it doesn't look like too many blips but it really does go up and down. There's no let off for the last half of the stage and then a horrible steep climb up to Mende. I remember when Steve Cummings won from a breakaway in Mende on Nelson Mandela day in 2015.
And I think a breakaway will stay to the end this time too.
Cav's one to watch: Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Astana) - This stage suits a rider who is good at getting in breaks and can climb. All of his four Tour de France stage wins have come on similar stages and from being involved in a break.
Stage 15: Sunday, 22 July - Millau - Carcassonne, 181.5km
Mark's musings: There are other ways we could have got to Carcassonne without going over the category one Pic de Nore near the finish, which will break things up for the run-in.
Hopefully the sprinters will be OK to get to that climb and then we can roll in because we won't be looking to do anything but there's definitely guys who can get over this category one climb and come to the finish. If Michael Matthews is on a good day surely he could do it.
Cav's one to watch: Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) - He hangs on with the climbers and then wins the run-in.
Rest day: Monday, 23 July - Carcassonne
Stage 16: Tuesday, 24 July - Carcassonne - Bagnères-de-Luchon, 218km
Mark's musings: Another long stage. We're approaching the Pyrenees now and we hit the foothills at the end of today's stage. You can call them foothills but there's still two category one climbs. The breakaway could go the end again. Or Team Sky might want to get to grips and put their dominance in before the big showdowns in the Pyrenees, in which case they will control it and we'll see an attack from Chris Froome at the end.
Cav's one to watch: Lilian Calmejane (Fra/Direct Energie) - He won a similar stage last year after making a break.
Stage 17: Wednesday, 25 July - Bagneres-de-Luchon - Saint-Lary-Soulan, 65km
Mark's musings: A 65km road stage in the Tour de France is something that is unheard of and they are trying a novel idea with gridding the riders at the beginning because we start directly up the Col de Peyresourde.
I don't think the gridding of the riders will have any affect on the race but we start with the Peyresourde from Bagneres-du-Luchon many times and it's a gruelling climb. It's horrible. And horrible to start your day off with. It will be full gas from start to finish, no matter who you are. Some guys just go faster than others. I think you have to know what you can sustain for those climbs and every single rider in the peloton will be looking at their power metres.
Cav's one to watch: Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) - It needs a team that is able to go strong and knows exactly what they can do. Team Sky is top of that list and will set a tempo that keeps it together until the last climb up Col du Portet.
Stage 18: Thursday, 26 July - Trie-sur-Baise - Pau, 171km
Mark's musings: This provides perhaps another sprint opportunity into Pau unless the big breakaway goes. When we normally do stages around this region it can take a long, long time for the break to go, especially as this is the last opportunity without the big mountains where you see the rouleurs trying to go for it.
But I think the sprint teams will know as well it's the only opportunity before Paris and will want to control the break and bring it back. It is up and down into the finale, which really saps your energy. The run-in to Pau is slightly uphill and its quite technical into the town. There's a roundabout and a left hand turn in the last kilometre but a nice big sprint to finish outside the park.
Cav's one to watch: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data) - You are looking at who survives the mountains in good nick, a sprinter who has been able to save energy. It would be nice to see him get in a break and win from that, like he did late on in last year's race.
Stage 19: Friday, 27 July - Lourdes - Laruns, 200.5km
Mark's musings: The last big showdown in the mountains for the climbers. It's going to be a long old day in the saddle and it's going to be everyone leaving everything they have on the road. If the general classification is not too close you're likely to see a group of riders fighting it out. The likes of Rigoberto Uran, Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil and Dan Martin. But if it is close, Team Sky are likely to throw one last firework.
One to watch: Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) - If he needs to, Froome can make one big attack to the finish.
Stage 20: Saturday, 28 July - individual time trial, Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle - Espelette, 31km
Mark's musings: A 31km test against the clock with a mixture of ups and down on technical roads. It's not going to be someone who can only mash a big gear who is going to win this. It's going to be someone that can make a plan and stick to that. A lot of guys will go off hard and with a little kick in the last 3km are likely to lose a lot of time even though its less than a kilometre long.
Cav's one to watch: Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) - He won British national time trial title in late June and took the yellow jersey after winning the Tour's opening, albeit shorter, time trial last year.
Stage 21: Sunday, 29 July - Houilles - Paris, 116km
Mark's musings: This is easy, easy, easy. It's time for photographs and celebrations before we hit the Champs-Elysees where you get the best sensations ever in cycling when you roll on to the Place de la Concorde and up the Champs-Elysees for the first time. The crowds are incredible. I get goosebumps, not just because it's an opportunity for a sprint finish but also because everybody who reaches Paris is finishing the Tour de France.
This year's route seems to be the hardest I've seen in my career but it will all be worth it if I get to Paris.
The Champs-Elysees is the hardest sprint to get right. It's slightly uphill, it's on cobbles and the finish line comes at a distance from the final corner that if you go from the corner you're going too far out. If you leave it too long, someone will get the jump on you. Time it right and pick the right spot on the road - because it's peppered with potholes - and you'll win the holy grail of sprints.
Cav's one to watch: Mark Cavendish (GB/Dimension Data) - If I make it to Paris I'll be chasing my fifth win on the Champs-Elysees.