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Preview: Tour de France 2017 Stage 5 - the first mountain stage

Today's climb of La Planche des Belles Filles should see the first major GC shakeup

Joseph Delves
5 Jul 2017

Somehow the Tour de France organisers appear to have snuck a huge great mountain past a peloton of watchful riders, along with a legion of fans.

Very few of either group seem to have noticed the severity of the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles which looms over the finish of today’s Stage 5.

Coming at the conclusion of a 161km route, the 5.9km climb averages 8.5%, with ramps of up to 14%. These figures are enough to give it a first category rating.  

Included for the third time in the Tour de France, the climb already has a history of affecting the race in a manner apparently disproportionate to its modest altitude gain of 453 metres.

La Planche des Belles Filles (roughly: 'Board of the Beautiful Girls') made its first appearance in the 2012 Tour de France, providing the finish to Stage 7.

The first proper test of that year’s race, it saw Team Sky bulldoze the field, leaving Chris Froome to shepherd his team leader Bradley Wiggins to the line.

Faithful Froome

Froome took the win and looked the stronger of the pair, yet remained in the role of domestique. His win on the summit set the tone for a fractious Tour which concluded with Wiggins’ historic overall victory. 

In 2014 La Planche des Belles Filles returned as the conclusion to Stage 10. With both Froome and Alberto Contador already out of the race by that point, Vincenzo Nibali won, on his way to crushing the race. 

The climb might provide equal drama today. Riders could certainly lose time, yet unless they crack utterly the length of the climb means it shouldn’t put paid to any contender’s race.

However, while early ascents are often ridden conservatively in a three week Grand Tour, Richie Porte (BMC) has already show his inclination to attack. He tried to make time on the hilly finish to Stage 3, and could go again today. 

At only 161km today’s stage is relatively short, and features just one third category climb before the uphill finish. Its length is likely to designed to encourage fast and attacking riding.

It’s hard to say how big any time gaps are likely to be, however with the climb finishing on a brief but brutally steep ramp of 14% there’s little chance of the riders finishing as one. 

Local rider Thibaut Pinot (FdJ) has described the climb as uniquely disconcerting, claiming its varying gradients make it difficult to settle into a rhythm.

Yet with plentiful experience riding up it he could be a good bet for a win. And with a chunky time deficit of nearly 4 minutes already, he might not be chased down as a top-level GC threat.

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