Stage seven: Tomblaine-La Planche des Belles Filles


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The race hits the mountains. Initially, we were very excited that there was going to be a Planche of Belles Filles waiting for us at the end of the stage, but morbidly, it turns out that the name of the finishing climb comes from a grisly episode in the 1635 30 Years War. Females from the local village leapt to their deaths from a great height into a lake on the plateau, rather than submit to enemy soldiers. To any Tour rider who has a bad day today, don’t do it – there are still two weeks to get the time back.

Mountains! Middle-sized ones! Actually, the hills are no worse than third category through the stage, although there are some nasty uncategorised rises along the route. But the innovation in today’s stage is the short and steep Planche des Belles Filles climb at the finish. It’s only six kilometres long, but its gradient is intimidating. It starts steep, eases slightly for the second kilometre, then rears up again to eight per cent or more until the top. The final few hundred metres are over 14 per cent – it’s like putting the Mur de Huy at the top of the mountain.

Realistically, nobody’s going to let anybody do anything before the final climb, which means we’re going to see a slow-motion sprint to the top between the race favourites. On these kinds of gradients, the best tactic is to treat the effort as a time trial. It’s not necessarily pure climbers’ terrain: Cadel Evans has made a habit of winning races on steep climbs – Flèche Wallonne and Mur de Bretagne in last year’s Tour, for example.

Wooded mountains and attractive valleys

Strong tasting Géromé cheese from the Vosges. It’s the kind of cheese you can smell from a distance of several miles.

The final climb is terrifyingly steep.


– This is the first appearance of the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Tour de France.
– It’s the first category one climb of the whole Tour. In total there are six HC climbs, 10 first-category climbs and eight second-category climbs in the 2012 Tour.
– That makes 24 second-cat and above climbs in 2012. That’s one more than last year, but two fewer than in 2010.
– It’s also the first proper summit finish of the race. 2012 will see three summit finishes. This compares with five in 2011 and 2010, three in 2009 and four in 2008.


La Planche des Belles Filles
Category 1
Start Plancher les Mines
Length 5.9km
Height 1,035m
Altitude gain 503m
Average gradient 8.5%

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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation