What a great stage today was, it was nail biting watching to see whether or not Chris Froome could keep hold of the yellow jersey. It all came down to the last climb of the stage, and it seems fitting that the final places of the GC this year should be decided on the Aple d’Huez.
Alpe d’Huez probably isn’t the most difficult or picturesque climb in the tour but the battles that have taken place on this mountain are what make it stand out from the rest. In 1997 Marco Pantani attacked three times and only Ullrich could match him until he cracked and Pantani soloed to win in record time up the Alpe. In 2001 Lance Armstrong faked his vulnerability, gave Ullrich “the look” and rode away from the field.
Alpe d’Huez first featured in the Tour De France in 1952. That year the stage was won by Fausto Coppi. He attacked 6 km from the summit and dropped his competitors. This effort probably turned the Alpe into an instant classic because this was the first year the television motorcycle crews came to the tour, and brought live images to television sets. This stage was also the Tour’s first mountain top finish.
The iconic climb is famous for its 21hairpin corners that snake up the mountain, each bearing the name of riders who have won on this fearsome climb.
Toward the bottom of the 21 hairpins, several corners belong to the Belgian fans, but the one corner commanding a higher level of fame and notoriety is corner number seven, Dutch Corner. All of the Belgian fans combined are unlikely to match the energy at Dutch Corner where hundreds of orange-clad fans camp by the side of the road. They come for up to two weeks before the stage and camp out across from the church. It is said to have all started back in the 60’s when a Dutch priest named Father Reuten helped build the church, he was also a mad cycling fan. He would be out there cheering on the riders and encouraged many of the Dutch to do the same.
Whilst the Belgians come for the cycling. The Dutch come for a party. “If you're Dutch, one fan has reported, then at some time in your life, you have to go Alpe d'Huez."
The Dutch have had much success on the Alpe having won 8 of the first 14 finishes, and since they have no mountains in the Netherlands, they’ve adopted Alpe d’Huez as their own.
Alpe d’Huez climb in figures
- Bends: 21
- Departure: 2,351 feet
- Arrival: 6,100 feet
- Difference in height: 3,749 feet
- Length: 8,89 miles
- Average steep: 7,9 %
- Highest steep: 14 %
- Climb record: 37’35’’, average speed of 14,34 miles/h (Marco Pantani in 1997).
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