Seven kilometers to salvation, seven kilometers uphill that will push the Tour de France riders to the limit. The first mountain finish of the 109th Tour of France is spectacular. The Super Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges has steep climbs at the end.

Overall leader Tadej Pogacar wants to win the 176.3-kilometer stage that starts in Tomblaine: “Of course I want to win there. This is a special climb for me.”

The final seven kilometer uphill battle will draw a crowd of onlookers who will be screaming at every rider. The challenge after almost 170 kilometers is great: On the one hand, the steepest sections with 20 and 24 percent come at the very end. And to make things a little more difficult, they didn’t pave the entire driveway. A driveway that is actually designed as a ski slope. So the pros have to struggle over a few meters of gravel.

Ten years ago, the ski slope was discovered by the tour organizers and included in the program for the first time. The ascent to the Planche is not only special for Pogacar because of the requirements. In 2020 he won the Tour de France there by winning a stage in the time trial on the penultimate day. And this Friday, too, the motivation should fit. “My girlfriend will be at the finish line and my parents will be there too,” Pogacar said. Girlfriend Urska Zigart is also a professional cyclist.

But it is also the chance for the German Lennard Kämna. At this year’s Giro d’Italia he won the first mountain finish. The 25-year-old could now pull off a similar coup on the tour. His Bora-hansgrohe team wants to send a rider into a breakaway group, and Kämna is predestined for this with his qualities on the mountain.

This year, many teams are expecting a breakaway to pull through. Since the terrain before the climb is not too challenging, it is also assumed that the distances between the classification riders will be small. “It’s more about seconds than minutes,” says Rolf Aldag, head of sports at Bora-hansgrohe.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar won the sixth stage on Thursday with a phenomenal performance on the final climb and thus also took over the yellow jersey. The Slovenian won the 219.9 kilometer longest part of this tour from Binche in Belgium to Longwy in front of Australian Michael Matthews and Frenchman David Gaudu, thus ousting Belgian Wout van Aert from first place overall. After a long breakaway attempt, Van Aert had to give up ten kilometers from the finish.