Experience the first mountain stage as the battle for the yellow jersey begins in the Vosges mountains.
The first mountain stage
The Vosges mountains are much softer than any other mountain range in France. Naming peaks for the tour has to do with the terrain, a “côte” climb sits on the side of a mountain and are common in the Central Massif. A “col” climb is typical of the Pyrenees or Alps and is a pass between two peaks, thereby connecting two valleys. Multiple junctions at the summit may be called a “croix” or cross.
Unique to the Vosges, peaks have a rounded shape raising the term “Ballons” or rounded summits. Most of the terrain is densely covered in conifer and beech forests. Germany’s black forest is not far from here. It is a beautiful area to ride, shaded roads and climbs are more manageable than the Alps or Pyrenees. We will ride the Grand Ballon today and watch the race over the summit. Our easier option is a flat ride to watch the stage start and the possibility of visiting the motor museum in Mulhouse.
We will return back to our hotel in time to see the summit finish of today’s stage, before dinner. The road to La Planche des Belles Filles is known for producing exciting finishes in the Tour. Organisers have insured its inclusion with the additional gravel and steep ramps. For the record a “Planche” is a “board” or table-top, like a plateau.
TODAY IN THE RACE
Stage 6: Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, Mountain, 157 km
Today will be the first showdown for race favourites. Until now, the first mountain stage, they will have been minimising their efforts to limit any time loss. La Planche des Belles Filles has appeared regularly over the last 10 years, having setup the Tour lead for Froome and Nibali before reaching Paris. Today’s finish has an extra 1km sting with 2 steep pinches and some gravel, a stage for the highlights reel.