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2018 Tour to start on slick island passageway

MOUILLERON-LE-CAPTIF, France (AFP) — Next year’s Tour de France will begin on a notorious, slippery passageway linking an island off the west coast to the mainland, organizer ASO revealed on Tuesday.

The Grand Depart of the 105th edition of the world’s most prestigious bike race will start on June 30, 2018 on the 4-kilometer Passage du Gois — a natural and periodically flooded land bridge from the island of Noirmoutier to the Vendee department in the Loire region — with a 195km flat stage.

The passage has an infamous place in Tour history as it proved decisive in helping Lance Armstrong win the first of his seven titles in 1999. He was later stripped of all of them for doping.

Many of the favorites that year, including Switzerland’s Alex Zulle, crashed on the slippery cobbles and ended up losing six minutes to the American, who would eventually win the Tour by seven minutes.

The passage was last featured at the Tour in 2011, when it also hosted the Grand Depart.

After a second flat stage of 185km, the third stage on July 2 will be a 35km team time trial around Cholet.

The race will then leave the Vendee department the following day, although the destination of the fourth stage and the program for the rest of the race will not be revealed until October.

In the meantime, the 2017 Tour will start in Duesseldorf, Germany on July 1.

Britain’s Chris Froome is the current champion having won the race for the third time last year.

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