Date: Friday July 8
Finish: La Super Planche des Belles Filles
Distance: 176 km
Here we go then, the first mountain test of the race. After the exposed bridges, the perilous cobbles, and the troublesome little bergs comes a challenge where luck gives way to legs.
Two third-category climbs provide something of a warm-up before the first summit finish of the Tour up La Super Planche des Belles Filles – the highest bit of road at the only ski resort in the Haute Saône region. It’s 7.6 km in length at an average gradient of 8.2%, and it’s where we will hopefully see the first blows exchanged uphill between the GC riders. Will the Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma be able to isolate Tadej Pogačar or will the Slovenian simply demolish the competition yet again?
The middle section of the climb is the most relentlessly steep with gradients of around 10%, before another final ramp of above 12% near the finish line, which comes at the end of a short stretch of gravel – where we get ‘Super’ from.
Who will win stage 7?
A very good climber, surely. And the way he’s going, who else but Tadej Pogačar?
That said, there’s been barely any let up since the Tour made landfall in France, so a breakaway might get their chance. The last rider to win on La Planche des Belles Filles – before Pogačar’s 2020 TT triumph – was Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) at the Tour in 2019, the same year Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) won here at the Tour Alsace.
France is yet to get a home win, so look out for Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic) and local man Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who lives in nearby Mélisey and probably knows the last climb better than anyone.