Full details of the 2019 Tour de France route will be unveiled in Paris on Thursday but photographs have emerged on social media of the new steeper, dirt-road finish on La Planche des Belles Filles, with the final kick up to the finish line at 24 per cent.
The climb in the Vosges is expected to be the first mountain-top finish of the 2019 Tour de France, coming on stage 6 next July.
The Tour de France has finished atop La Planche des Belles Filles three times. Chris Froome was the first winner on the steep climb in 2012, while Vincenzo Nibali won in 2014, and fellow Italian Fabio Aru was the latest in 2017.
Race organisers ASO have indicated the Tour de France will include more gravel sections after riders were given a taster on the Plateau des Glières on stage 10 this year and the dirt-road Cole delle Finestre proved decisive in the Giro d’Italia. ASO added dirt sections to this year’s Paris-Tours, and Tour de France technical director Thierry Gouvenou, who rides a gravel bike during his holidays, has promised more innovative race routes.
ASO first hinted in the summer that an extra kilometre of dirt roads would be added to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles. Stephane Boury, who is responsible for stage finishes, posted a picture on Twitter of his notebook and a distance-measuring device. The picture was accompanied by a caption reading, "Here will be considered a new finish for the TDF 2019… moving to 24 per cent... At 100m from the line… there’s going to be some show."
French public radio France Bleu took on what they called a ‘treasure hunt’ to seek out the spot where the Twitter picture was taken and so reveal the new finish climb. Shortly after the asphalted finish area used in 2017, a gravel track veers left and further up the mountain to the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. The dirt road climbs through the trees before two further left turns lead to the foot of the 24 per cent climb to the peak.
In September, the L’Est Republican newspaper published photos of the work being done to widen the track and now a cycling fan called Alié on Twitter has published photographs of the finished road.
The climb through the trees is on a dirt road, while the final 24 per cent kick up to what will be the finish of the Tour de France stage has been asphalted and covered with stone chippings. It seems it was impossible to have a gravel surface due to the steep gradient.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the presentation of the 2019 Tour de France route on Thursday, with stage maps, profiles and exclusive interviews from Paris.