When Monday July 14
To La Planche des Belles Filles
Category High mountains
Where are we?
We are at the scene of Chris Froome’s emergence as a Tour de France contender. It was at La Planche des Belles Filles that he and his Sky team-mates helped pace Bradley Wiggins into the yellow jersey. Froome reacted to an attack from Cadel Evans before jumping clear near the end to win the stage.
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What’s on the route?
There are seven climbs of varying degrees of significance during a short 161.5-kilometre route. This makes it a very testing stage and one that is less easy to control than the days in the big mountains. The second climb of the day is the first-category Petit Ballon after 54 kilometres, followed shortly afterwards by the Col du Platzerwasel. But it is at the end where the overall contenders will need to be most alert with the Col des Chevrères coming after 143.5 kilometres. It’s only 3.5 kilometres long but the second half is steep, with consecutive kilometres at 10 per cent and 14.9 per cent. The final climb is longer, 5.9 kilometres, and has several sections in excess of 11 per cent with a very steep, though mercifully short, 20 per cent section right at the end.
What might happen?
In common with many mountain stages in the Tour, the overall contenders will want to keep everything under control until the final climb. Expect to see an early break reeled in on the lower slopes before Sky (for it will mostly likely be them) start to set a searing pace to discourage attacks. Then it’s a matter of survival, with riders being lost off the back of the front group as it thins down to fewer than a dozen, or perhaps only a handful, of contenders. Don’t be surprised if Froome lays down his marker here.
If you’re there
Enjoy the local speciality — Assiette Comtois. This is a plate of charcuterie, consisting of smoked ham, garlicky sausage and other porky delights, served with boiled potatoes and salad. Follow it with the excellent local cheese, Franche-Comté. It’s not long until we reach raclette country…
We’re still in the Vosges mountains. Legend has it that La Planche des Belles-Filles gets its name because the women of the area fled from marauding Scandinavians during the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s. They ran to the mountains, so the story goes, and jumped in the lake — committing suicide to avoid being attacked.