Preview: What you need to know about stage 18 of the 2021 Tour de France

The last mountain stage of the race.

by Dane Cash

Date: Thursday July 15
Start: Pau
Finish: Luz Ardiden
Distance: 130 km

A short stage at just 130 km, but a tough one nonetheless. Sure, the first 75 km are easy enough, but like the previous day, the action is all in the back half, this time in the form of two HC climbs. First it’s the Col du Tourmalet (17.1 km at 7.3%) followed by a descent and then the climb to the finish at Luz Ardiden (13.3 km at 7.4%).

This is the last mountain stage of the race. There should be fireworks.

What to watch for: Barring disaster, Tadej Pogačar’s yellow jersey should be safe, but will his rivals at least try to attack him or will they focus on finishing on the final podium? The polka dot jersey is also fully in play. Expect the mountains classification hopefuls to fight hard to get into the break – and then to give it their all trying stay away from Pogačar, who is suddenly in the picture for the polka dots.

Who’s it for: It’s another coin toss between the break and the GC riders. The overall contenders finally contested a mountain stage on Wednesday. Will they do it again on Thursday, or will they allow the escapees to stay clear?

Dane Cash’s picks: Tadej Pogacar is the safe and obvious pick out of the GC riders. He seems quite happy to put his strength on display in the mountains, and it’s hard to see anyone besting him on the Luz Ardiden finishing climb, although perhaps he’ll give Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz some breathing room if they attack this late in the race. If the stage goes to the break, KOM hopefuls like Wout Poels, Nairo Quintana, and Mike Woods are good picks to contest the win, considering the points on offer at the hors categorie finish. Also keep an eye on Miguel Ángel López and David Gaudu.

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