June 10, 2011 Leave a comment
Alpe d’Huez… the iconic climbing test that every cyclist wants to try at least once! One of the coolest parts about our Europeds Tour Trip is that you will be staying right at the top of l’Alpe d’Huez for 5 nights, in the small alpine resort town. You’ll get the chance test your legs on this legendary climb every day if you want to, right before the pros come thundering up the mountain, during Stage 19, to the roar of the thousands of fans who will line the narrow mountain road like a natural amphitheater.
L’Alpe d’Huez may not be the steepest, longest, or highest climb that is used in the Tour, but it’s definitely the most famous. With it’s numbered 21 hairpin turns (each named after former stage champions), even those who don’t follow cycling have heard of this legendary ascent. From the base of the mountain to the finish line above the town of Alpe d’Huez, it’s 13.8 km at an average gradient of 7.9 percent.
Each turn records the exploits of a legendary champion, from the first winner, Fausto Coppi in 1952, to the likes of Joop Zoetemelk, Bernard Hinault, Andy Hampsten, Marco Pantani, Lance Armstrong, Frank Schleck and Carlos Sastre (the last stage winner, in 2008). The Alpe d’Huez has been included in the Tour 25 times since Coppi first won there, and on 20 of those occasions, the rider who ended the stage wearing the yellow jersey has gone on to win in Paris (as chronicled in the book The Tour is Won on the Alpe). It’s definitely the place to be when the Tour comes rolling through!
There have been many iconic moments on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez, including the famous scene below of teammates Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault finishing the stage arm-in-arm in 1986, the year Lemond won his first Tour. Notwithstanding the smiles in the photo below, their relationship wasn’t exactly what you’d call friendly that year, as Hinault, the defending champion, attacked every chance he got even though he’d pledged to support Lemond in his bid for the yellow jersey (as told in the book Slaying the Badger).
One of the most famous recent memories has to be when Lance Armstrong gave his German rival Jan Ullrich “The Look”. After feigning fatigue on the lower slopes, Lance gave Ullrich this famous backwards glance, and then rocketed away from the German after turn 16 of the climb, just past the church at La Garde. If you join us on the Europeds Tour Trip you can try this trick on your climbing companions, but more than likely you won’t be feigning fatigue at this point of the climb!
There’s still time to book your spot on the Europeds Tour Trip, presented by Performance Bicycle, but there are only a few spots left, so book today! We hope to see you in France, on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez!