Stage 18: A Day For Semi-Rest, And The Sprinters

Stage 18 should be a day for the sprinters - even the breakaway specialists are tired after so many days in the mountains!

By Whit Yost |

Stage 18 – Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse (184.9km) – Thursday, July 20

Even with Monday’s rest day, Stages 13 through 17 were absolutely brutal, with five mountain stages (two of which ended with summit finishes) and an individual time trial that–thanks to a big climb not far from the finish–was basically a mountain stage as well. So the riders are likely feeling grateful for Stages 18 and 19, which bring the race north ahead of one final mountain showdown and then the final stage into Paris.

Thursday’s Stage 18 begins in Moûtiers, a four-time Tour host, and winds its way northwest through the Ain region toward a finish in Bourg-en-Bresse, who’s hosted the Tour six times. It’s an interesting feature of this year’s course, as the route of Stage 18 crosses the route taken by Stage 13 on its way to a summit finish atop the Grand Colombier and ends not far from Belleville-en-Beaujolais, who hosted the finish of Stage 12.

Stage 18 profile 2023 tour de franceThe route itself is rather easy, with a gradual downhill ride to begin the stage, a jagged section in the middle of the race containing two Category 4 climbs, and a rolling run-in to the finish line with an uncategorised “bump” about 15km from the finish in Bourg-en-Bresse.

These two climbs offer just two points in the Tour’s King of the Mountains competition, but with Italy’s Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) trying to hold-off Austria’s Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) and Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and win the polka dot jersey, expect Lidl-Trek to put a rider up the road to try and grab the points on his behalf.

The intermediate sprint arrives a little while after these climbs (in Saint-Rambert-en-Bugey, 52km from the end of the stage), and by this point the peloton–led by Jumbo-Visma and with lots of help from the remaining sprinters’ teams (like Alpecin-Deceuninck and Team Jayco AlUla)–will be bearing down on the breakaway with the hopes of giving their fast men a chance to win the stage.

The run-in to the finish in Bourg-en-Bresse will be fast as the road trends downhill and passes through a few roundabouts, with a left-hander at about 3,300 meters from the line and then a really hard left-hander at about 1,400 meters from the finish line. The fight to be first through this corner will be intense as anyone who loses their spot will need to use precious energy to move back up to the front of the charging peloton.

Once through the 1km to-go banner, the road takes a long, wide bend to the right, at which point the riders will see the finish line about 650 meters ahead of them. The road rises again in the final 500 meters, so teams will get their timing just right: if they launch their sprinters too soon, they could run out of steam before the line; if they launch them too late, they’ll run out of road before hitting their top speeds.

Riders to watch

Sprinters have been dropping like flies, with Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Astana), the Netherlands’ Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quick Step), and Australia’s Caleb Ewan (Lotto Destny) all having left the Tour.

That leaves Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck)–the Tour’s fastest man–as the top contender to win Stage 18 and take his fourth victory in this year’s race. His strongest challenges should come from Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) and Belgium’s Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who’s still trying to win a stage this year.

When to Watch

It’s late in the Tour and anything can happen on a stage like this one, but we’re fairly confident that this one will end with a field sprint. The stage is expected to end around 17h30; tune in about 30 minutes before that to catch all the action in the finale.

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