Everyone remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. Orica-GreenEdge’s Baden Cooke remembers the day very well because he won stage 6 of the Tour de l’Avenir. The Mercury team he rode for at the time were folding and he was desperately looking for a contract, a situation that pushed him to challenge the climbers and he eventually beat Denis Menchov and Eladio Jimenez to earn a spot at Française des Jeux. It happened atop La Mauselaine, a ski resort above the charming town of Gérardmer in the Vosges mountains.
The same uphill finish - with a short section towards the end to make it tougher - will give the climbers their first opportunity to show their form at the end of stage eight of the 2014 Tour de France. La Mauselaine is 1.8km long with an average gradient of 10.3% and a maximum of 15%.
When he went to study the venue on October 3rd with a handful of media, including Cyclingnews, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme looked over the ski slopes with the idea of asphalting one of them in the coming years as has been done at the Planches des belles Filles with an evident success for the local economy.
“La Mauselaine is a wonderful place for the Tour de France," Prudhomme said. “The view on the lake of Gérardmer will deliver beautiful TV shots as well as a very exciting race.”
That will be the case, thanks to Thierry Gouvenou, who is the new director of the sport department at ASO.
The stage eight finish will be preceded by the Col de Grosse-Pierre, which is nothing new to the Tour de France, from Lucien Petit-Breton leading the race at that point in 1913 to Chris Anker Sorensen crossing the third category climb as first in 2012. It is not a particularly difficult climb, with 5.7km of climbing at an average of 5.4%, but short cut will make a huge difference. Called the “traverse de La Roche”, it is a narrow and steep 1.2km stretch at 12% with a section at 16%. The new section will be perfect for the aggressive climbers.
“It’s something like the Mur de Huy at the Flèche Wallonne," said Gouvenou, who found the road via Google Earth.
Locally this part of the Col de Grosse-Pierre is known as “the impossible climb”, thanks to the name of the popular hill climb motorbike race that takes place every year in July in La Bresse. The summit is only 12km away from La Mauselaine.
It’s likely to create more damage among the favourites than the cobblestones in northern France three days before.