Some intriguing stages including cobbles, gravel and a big final week in the Pyrenees

The route of the 2018 Tour de France has been announced today in Paris with race director Christian Prudhomme promising an open and exciting race but also emphasising the safety of riders.

Highlights will include some tough stages during the opening week, a visit to the cobbles on the way to Roubaix, an ascent of the Alpe d’Huez, and what should be a thrilling short stage in the Pyrenees, where there will also be an unprecedented summit finish on the Col du Portet.

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The race will get underway on Saturday 7 July in the Vendée region, with more than half of the 189km opening stage from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte raced along the coast, exposing the peloton to the  threat of crosswinds. Stage 3 meanwhile features a 35-kilometre team time trial starting and finishing in Cholet.

On the 40th anniversary of the first of Bernard Hinault’s five Tour de France victories, the race heads into his native Britanny after four days in the Vendée.

Stage 5 from L’Orient to Quimper is billed as providing a taste of an Ardennes Classic, while the following day’s Stage 6 includes a double ascent of the Mur-de-Bretagne, which hosts what previous editions suggest should be an exciting summit finish.

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One of the most eagerly anticipated stages will be the ninth one from Arras to Roubaix, which will include 15 cobbled sections covering 21.9 kilometres in all.

A first rest day in Annecy will be followed by Stage 10 to Le Grand Bornand, including a 2 kilometre stretch on gravel roads. That stage will also provide the parcours for next year's Etape du Tour.

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The race remains in the Alps for the following two days, with summit finishes at La Rosiere and Alpe d'Huez.

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A second rest day in Carcassonne is followed by the race heading into the Pyrenees, including an unusually short 65-kilometre stage finishing on the Col d'Aspet which will see attacks from the start.

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The only individual time trial of the race takes place in the Basque Country on the penultimate day and with a 900 metre climb at an average gradient of 10.2 per cent ahead of a descent to the finish in Espellette that could prove influential for the overall title.

The race will finish in Paris on 29 July.

Here's a look back at this year's race.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

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