After the celebration of Bastille Day the prior day, another big day in France is the presence of the Tour de France in the mountains. It’s the second week of racing for the riders and they are today approaching (or have already ridden) the Alpe d’Huez. It is the most frequently used climb in the race, and it is said that this is where the Le Tour is won or lost.
The Alpe is in the French Alps. It has seen human occupation since the Middle Ages. In those times, it had a castle, church, cemetery, and village and was used for mining copper during the Bronze Age.
Today, the Alpe is considered a historical monument by the French National Centre for Scientific Research and has been excavated many times since 1977. The Alpe is also the site of the first ski lift, a precursor of the more contemporary chair lift skiers use to get to the top of a slope, designed by Jean Pomagalski.
Viewed as Europe’s predominant skiing destination, Alpe d’Huez’s highest elevation is 10,925 feet. The Alpe has featured on a regular basis in the Tour de France since 1952. The first cyclist to have a stage victory on the Alpe was Fausto Coppi in the same year. And it has been the stage finish since 1976.
Marco Pantini still holds the record for the fastest ascent of the 8 mile climb at 37 minutes. The only rider who has come close to Pantini’s record is Lance Armstrong who climbed the mountain in 38 minutes in 2001. But that achievement was scratched from the record books due to Armstrong admitting to doping during all 7 of his tour victories. In 2013, the riders had to climb the mountain twice.
The climb up Alpe d’Huez usually occurs toward the end of the race, then the riders participate in a team or individual time trial the following day. On the last day of the race, the peloton does a casual ride into Paris because the race is mostly over.
However, because the Tour de France is the most prestigious race in pro cycling, the organizers make sure to alter the route year to year. That usually means the mountain stages occur in the middle of the race instead of toward the end. And that is the case for the 2022 edition of Le Tour.
Have you ever visited the Alpe d’Huez? Have you ever seen any of the Tour de France in person, especially the mountain stages. Have you ever ridden this most famous of Tour de France climbs on your bike? Please like, comment, and share if you enjoyed reading this post.
We are now at the midpoint in July and in the summer, but there is still lots of good riding weather ahead. So get out this weekend and enjoy an invigorating ride and imagine you are on the roads going to the ski station on the Alpe d’Huez.