What is this race and why should I care about it?
For many, the Tour – or la Grande Boucle– is the only bicycle race that matters. Those people, of course, are very wrong indeed, but given the exposure the race is given compared to its less well known Italian and Spanish cousins and the other one-day or week-long races throughout the season this is understandable. Forgivable, even, some may say.
Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, editor of L'Auto newspaper, the Tour is the biggest annual sporting event in the world and has more live spectators than even the Olympic Games or Fifa World Cup.
The Tour may not be the favourite stage race of the cycling cognoscenti – that honour goes to the Giro – but it is one that certainly captures the imagination of the wider sporting public. Along with the crack of leather on willow and old boys taking afternoon snoozes in their linen slacks and loud stripey ties, the Tour for many is the sight and sound of the summer.
When is the Tour de France?
This year's Tour gets under way with a 201 kilometre stage from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendée department of the Pays-de-la-Loire region of west-central France on Saturday July 7, 2018, and concludes a little over three weeks later on Sunday July 29.
How long is this year's Tour de France?
The total distance of the race is 3,351 kilometres – or 2,082 miles if you prefer. As you can see from the below graphic, after setting off from Noirmoutier-en-l’île, the Tour works its way in a clockwise direction around France and crosses just one border into Spain for just 15km of the race during stage 16 before winding its way towards Paris.
Following the unveiling of the route in Paris last year, race director Christian Prudhomme said his team had tried to ensure that July's event would be as exciting as possible. “We especially wanted to emphasise stage variety and the routes that may prove decisive,” Prudhomme said, “whilst combining legendary climbs with brand new ascensions or ultra-dynamic formats, to provide a vision of modern and inspired cycling”.
Where does each stage start and end and when are they?
Stage one, Saturday July 7
Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte, 201km
Stage two, Sunday July 8
Mouilleron-St-Germain to La Roche-sur-Yon, 182.5km
Stage three, Monday July 9
Cholet, team time trial, 35.5km
Stage four, Tuesday July 10
La Baule to Sarzeau, 195km
Stage five, Wednesday July 11
Lorient to Quimper, 204.5km
Stage six, Thursday July 12
Brest to Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan, 181km
Stage seven, Friday July 13
Fougères to Chartres, 231km
Stage eight, Saturday July 14
Dreux to Amiens Métropole, 181km
Stage nine, Sunday July 15
Arras to Roubaix, 156.5km
Monday July 16: Rest day (Annecy)
Stage 10, Tuesday July 17
Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand, 158.5km
Stage 11, Wednesday July 18
Albertville to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo, 108.5km
Stage 12, Thursday July 19
Bourg-St-Maurice Les Arcs to Alpe d’Huez, 175.5km
Stage 13, Friday July 20
Bourg d’Oisans to Valence, 169.5km
Stage 14, Saturday July 21
St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Mende, 188km
Stage 15, Sunday July 22
Millau to Carcassonne, 181.5km
Monday July 23: Rest day (Carcassonne/Bagnères-de-Luchon)
Stage 16, Tuesday July 24
Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon, 218km
Stage 17, Wednesday July 25
Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan, 65km
Stage 18, Thursday July 26
Trie-sur-Baïse to Pau, 171km
Stage 19, Friday July 27
Lourdes to Laruns, 200.5km
Stage 20, Saturday July 28
Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette; individual time trial, 31km
Stage 21, Sunday July 29
Houilles to Paris Champs-Élysées, 116km
How can I watch the race?
Those with subscriptions to Eurosport are in luck, the self-styled 'home of cycling' will be broadcasting every day all the way from France. In addition to Eurosport, ITV and our Welsh cousins S4C will be showing the action on their free-to-air channels. All of the broadcast times and timings of the daily highlights programmes can be found right here.
What teams will ride the Tour de France?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case with the Tour de France all are contracted to race. Here are the teams that will present themselves on the starting line on Saturday July 7 ...
Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale
UAE Team Emirates
Race organisers ASO have also handed wildcard spots to ...
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Each team will start with eight riders. Line-ups are yet to be confirmed, but riders named in team's longlists or expected to be on the starting line can be found here.
Who are the bookmakers' favourites for the race?
Chris Froome: 9/4
Richie Porte: 17/4
Mikel Landa: 8/1
Nairo Quintana: 9/1
Vincenzo Nibali: 11/1
Romain Bardet: 13/1
Geraint Thomas: 14/1
Tom Dumoulin: 14/1
Alejandro Valverde: 25/1
Jakob Fuglsang: 25/1
Odds supplied by oddschecker.com are best available as of June 12
Who do you think will win the Tour de France?