Dan Martin: Why there won't be Tour de France GC fireworks at Planche des Belles Filles this time

Will riders and teams remain cautious on the race's first mountain day?

Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty)

The Tour de France's last visit to Planche des Belles Filles has become a 'where were you?' moment, being the site of one of the most memorable days in the race's history when Tadej Pogačar incredibly superseded his compatriot Primož Roglič in yellow with just a processional stage in Paris to go.

A little under two years later, the Tour is revisiting the small ski station in the Vosges on stage seven of the 2022 edition, with the current general classification favourites separated by 76 seconds, with the exception of Roglič who dislocated his shoulder on Wednesday's cobbled stage.

While there is likely to be a reordering of the GC this time and some riders with aspirations of at least the top-10 will fall by the wayside, former Irish pro Dan Martin believes that there will be no repeat of fireworks for a multitude of reasons

The final kilometre of the seven kilometre climb takes place on a rough section of road with gravel, the same stretch that was used in the 2019 edition when the main GC riders all finished within 18 seconds of one another.

"There won't be anyone attacking until the gravel," Martin, who retired at the end of last season, told Cycling Weekly. "It's a sitting duck situation until that final, steep section. It's so early in the race to attack.

"Generally, with the teams there, the tempo will be super-high, but quite controlled. It's a case of holding on. The Tour de France is not won now - Tadej might think differently - but it's a race of attrition and there are so many mountain stages. This one is to attack on in the last kilometre only.

"As soon as you hit the gravel, it's every man for himself. It's better to be up front as it's you, alone, until the finish. It's all about positioning on gravel as if you have to pass someone on that terrain it's quite tricky. It's two cars-wide and you don't want to be in the deeper gravel on the side as it's not easy there."

Spectators may be wanting teams to throw caution to the wind and attack early to put Pogačar and his UAE-Team Emirates on the back foot, but Martin explained that the opening mountain test of the race is never the place to try something risky.

"The first thing with the first mountain stage is that you find out who is good, who your competitors are," Martin added. "People will figure out where they are themselves, whereas before they won't have known if they had the legs to attack or not.

"You're also questioning yourself as there's a lot of trepidation going into the first mountain stage. You felt good at home, you went well in training, but two weeks of no climbing, and not knowing how good the other guys are...you have no idea what they're like. This is why no-one will be attacking, as they have to find their own feet."

Dan Martin

The Irishman with Romain Bardet and Chris Froome on the climb's upper slopes

(Image credit: Getty)

The race began in the lowlands of Denmark and resumed across the flat plains of northern France, meaning that the GC riders have had to bide their time on terrain that isn't conducive to putting substantial time into their rivals.

Having ridden in nine Tours and 18 Grand Tours in total, Martin remembered that GC riders often struggle when the first climb of note comes into view.

"They won't have done a climbing threshold effort for almost two weeks, because they would have arrived in Denmark on the Monday or Tuesday before the start," he added.

"The body will now be used to different torques, gears and pedalling. It's always the biggest problem in the Tour: you get there four days before and it's a week of racing until the first climb.

"Some guys don't cope with that and it makes it tricky. It's a different position on a bike to what they've been doing.

"Planche des Belles Filles is better as it's not a long effort; it's not as if you're going straight into an Alpine effort. If it was the Alps you'd see a bigger difference, but that first mountain is still a shock to the system."

With his predictions of a tame general classification tussle, Martin predicted that a rider from a breakaway will win, just as they did on stage five when Simon Clarke was victorious.

"I'm pretty sure we'll see a breakaway of 15-20 guys up front going for the stage," he continued. "We won't see the GC teams [up front] because no-one knows if they have got the legs to win it, and I don't see a team burning too many matches and chasing down a breakaway as no-one in the break will be close enough on GC."

Getting the main hitters to the climb, however, could cause some tension. He added: "The battle for the first climb in the race is always one of the hardest in the whole race as almost every team has a GC guys who wants to be at front. After the first climb, half of those 25 guys will have their tails between their legs and know that a top-five isn't going to happen. That will set the tone, calm the peloton down and put people in their place."

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