ROSHEIM, France (VN) — The final two stages of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift are looming large, literally.
With six day of racing in its legs, the peloton is approaching the mountains of stage 7 and 8 with both fatigue and great anticipation.
After stage 6 on Friday, the current GC situation was one of seconds separating riders. After Saturday’s seventh stage, “it’s gonna be all about the minutes and not the seconds anymore,” said Canyon-SRAM’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma.
While stage 8’s notoriously steep Super Planche des Belles Filles summit finish has tended to command much of the attention, stage 7 contains the most cumulative climbing. At over 3,000m of ascent on the day, the stage packs huge climbs — both in distance and grade — into a short 130k of racing.
The Petit Ballon (9.3km at 8.1 percent) is the first peak of the day and has only been featured in the Tour de France once — in 2014 when Vincenzo Nibali (then Astana Pro Team) extended his race lead. The climb begins steeply with a 10 percent grade in the first kilometer before the road evens out slightly to 6-8 percent.
After a very short descent, the road rises again up the Col du Platzerwasel – another category 1 climb 7.1km long with an average gradient of 8.9 percent.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Femke Gerritse is one of many riders whose team has reconn’ed the route ahead of Saturday’s stage.
“I think tomorrow will be more of a big deal than Sunday,” she said.
Gerritse, currently in the climber’s polka dots, said she has never raced a climb as long as Saturday’s first two peaks.
“My ambition for that day is to see how I’m riding on those big climbs because I’ve only done that in training, never in racing.”
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 29, 2022
Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) has also ridden the stage and said that Saturday — rather than Sunday — could determine the GC.
“It’s totally brutal,” she said. “It’s not the last climb, it’s the first and second climb that come very quickly after each other.
“Depending how Annemiek is with her apparent sickness, when we first reconned it that was a stage I could see her going for the first climb. Because you can do a lot of damage with those first two. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the true climbers and I believe it will be a solo. I think the GC will be more made on that stage than the final stage.”
Kristen Faulkner, one of Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s mountain goats, agreed that stage 7 could have impacts beyond the day.
“I think so,” she said. “I think tomorrow there’s enough climbing that if someone gets away they could gain enough time. Say they gain a minute or two minutes then they could stay with the GC riders on day 8. I think that anything can happen. Anything can happen on stage 8 so just leaving it up to one stage is a dangerous thing for GC riders.”
Trek-Segafredo’s DS Ina Teutenberg said that to win the overall, someone has to tackle the two mountain days with equal finesse.
“I think it’s just as important [as stage 8],” she said. “So yeah the Planche des Belles Filles s is gonna be a hard finish climb but tomorrow’s an extremely hard stage altogether. I for sure think you have to be really good tomorrow to win this on Sunday, too.”