Roundtable: Our 2018 Tour de France wishlist

Tour de France organizer ASO will announce the race’s 2018 route on Tuesday, October 17. We know a few things by now. It will start in the Vendée region of western France with a road stage from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte, including a ride over the infamous Passage du Gois. Stage 2 is another road stage, from Mouilleron-Saint Germain to La Roche-sur-Yon. Stage 3 is around Cholet, suggesting a team time trial could be back in the Tour. There are also rumors of a return to the cobblestones near Roubaix and a trip up Alpe d’Huez.

The rest of the 21-stage “Grande Boucle” is unknown. That’s where we come in. Our panel of experts is taking this opportunity to dream up our wishlist of ways to make the 105th edition the best Tour yet. Let’s roundtable!

Pick two things you want to see in the 2018 Tour route — one practical idea and one WACKY idea.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: We all know that dirt is cycling’s hot trend. So the Tour de France needs to fire up the Future Bass playlist and live in the now, dammit. I say for 2018, the Tour adds some long sections of the Belgian grass/dirt roads that are used in Schaal Sels for the first week of the race. Then, in week three, there’s a day of big, long, dirt climbs in the Pyrenees.

That final stage of the 2017 Hammer Series was so unorthodox and bizarre, and boy did I love it. So my wacky idea is for the TDF to install a bizarre TTT format where the teams leave the start gate like 30 seconds at a time and then are allowed to group together and attack each other as a full TTT squad. The first five riders across the line win! Nacer Bouhanni is already practicing his left hook.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: I want two mountainous stages that are shorter than 120km, ideally one in the Alps and one in the Pyrenees. If you want to get wacky, let’s also run a team time trial on the Roubaix cobblestones early in the race, but make sure those pavé sectors are nice and long — I’m thinking 40km of racing with 39km of cobbles.

Chris Case @chrisjustincase: I’d love to see a big, painful, uphill time trial. Maybe that’s Alpe d’Huez but probably not this year. Better yet, have them tackle the Galibier or Tourmalet. Yes, I want more agony. But what I really want to see is a team competition interlude à la the Hammer Series, with a climb, sprint, and chase component. The video explaining the rules of the Hammer Series is almost two minutes long, so I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say, it will bring a much-needed wacky respite from the doldrums created by Team Sky’s smothering tactics.

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: OK, so we’re doing this eight-rider per team thing this year. But let’s keep an open mind about it. Teams and riders say it is not good for their job security, or for their ability to finish the race. If safety is the true concern, there is a lot more the UCI and race organizers can do. If major grand tours don’t have a discernable safety improvement after this year, bring it back to nine-man teams.

Wacky: How about making this the Tour of short climbs? We’ve seen that the shorter, multi-climb stages are the most thrilling and decisive. So why not pack this Tour with a lot of them? There still have to be longer stages to make it a race of attrition, but when it comes to the mountains, pack in a string of shorter, 100-125km stages, one after another. Three in the Alps, and two more in the Pyrenees. Remember, short is the new long.

Dan Cavallari @browntiedan: I want super-short, super-steep climbing stages on successive days, followed immediately by short, fast sprinter’s stages. Keep the excitement over the course of four or five days to shake up the race and help prevent that feeling of it being a foregone conclusion during the final week. For my wacky idea, let’s kick it old school: flat pedals only on one stage.