2020 Tour de France stage 20 preview

Stage 20: Lure - La Planche des Belles Filles

Date: September 19, 2020 

Distance: 36.2km 

Stage start: 13:00 / 1:00 p.m. CEST

Stage type: Individual Time Trial

The final GC stage of the 2020 Tour combines the individual race against the clock with one last steep summit finish, the Planche des Belles Filles. 

The Planche des Belles Filles gets its name from a legendary tragedy of the ladies of a local village, the eponymous belles filles, who drowned themselves in a lake rather than allow themselves to fall victim to a marauding horde of foreign invaders. As with all classic tragedies, it’s the juxtaposition of terrible events with a beautiful place that has the biggest impact.

La Planche des Belles Filles has cast itself as the kingmaker in several Tours, making its inaugural appearance in 2012. That year, and then in 2014 and 2017, in spite of its early appearance in the race, the rider who wore yellow at the top, Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali and Chis Froome, respectively, went on to win the Tour. Giulio Ciccone ruined that run last year, but there will be very little to prevent the resumption of the trend for 2020, given that the effective finish line of the GC race is at the top. 

This is Thibaut Pinot’s local climb, so the desired narrative is a clear one. The route passes through Pinot's home village of Melisey and could give the Frenchman the chance to overcome his heartbreaking withdrawal during the 2019 race. The ideal plan will be for the French rider to have built enough of a lead over the first 19 stages of a race for this to be his homecoming triumph. However, he’s an erratic time trialist, and has historically suffered in the final days of a Grand Tour. 

The 36.2km time trial will include some valley roads that will help better time trialists but the final steep kilometres will surely offer a physical and mental crescendo to the race. That physical crescendo is the 5.9km climb of Planche des Belles Filles that tops out at a 20 per cent gradient just before the finish line. 

In short, this will be the Thibaut Pinot show. Circumstances will dictate whether it turns out to be an unlikely triumph or just another tragedy in a beautiful setting.

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