Tour de France Femmes 2022, stage eight
Start location: Lure
Finish location: La Super Planche des Belles Filles
Start time: 12:55 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.25 BST
The final stage of the Tour de France Femmes promises explosive racing despite GC contest which looks under the control of Annemeik van Vleuten (Movistar).
The day sees the race’s only summit finish, atop the formidable Super Planche des Belles Filles – a climb seen most recently in the men’s Tour de France, and a place where yellow jerseys have been won and lost over the years.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 stage eight route
The race rolls out from Lure, a city built around a Benedictine Abbey, in the Haute-Saône region of eastern France. The route heads north and then east for around 50km over rolling countryside that should allow the day’s early break to form, before the green jersey contenders take on an intermediate sprint in Faucogney-et-la-Mer.
From there it’s a short run-in of around 5km to the first categorised climb of the day, the second category Côte d'Esmoulières. At 2.3km, the ascent is relatively short, and steep at an average pitch of 8.5%, which may favour the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten and Marta Cavalli.
It doesn’t get easier from there, continuing uphill for another 10km or so instead of pitching onto a descent, which will hurt the legs as the GC contenders must dig deep to hold any ground they may have gained on the climb.
The route turns south after that and a short descent leads onto a section of false flat as the peloton travels along the Moselle River valley. There really is no respite on today’s stage, and the climb of Ballon d’Alsace is next up. It’s a longer test at 8.7km and the gradient is relatively steady all the way up. Once the women have crested the climb, they begin a long descent heading into the final test of the Tour – La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
It’s one of those climbs where the facts belie the reality – 7km at 8.7% sounds pretty tough, but the average hides within it fearsome pitches of 20% and more. The already daunting ascent has a new twist, with the addition of a gravel sector around 500m from the summit, which will add pressure and increase the difficulty right at the crux of the race.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 stage eight contenders and prediction
The climb suits race leader Annemiek van Vleuten down to the ground, and she should be able to cement her place in yellow here. Second place Vollering and Italian Elisa Longo Borghini are all likely to be up there and challenging on the stage and could perform well on this gruelling uphill slog. The final section soars up at an eye-watering 24% - it’s less than a kilometre in length but it will feel like the longest climb of the riders’ lives, and if any of them have not judged their efforts well, it may prove their undoing.
The route has been planned to deliver fireworks right to the very end, and there’s every chance we could see a few surprises as teams make last ditch attempts to dethrone Van Vleuten.