Alpe d'Huez

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Alpe d'Huez
Elevation 1,860 metres (6,100 ft)

Alpe d'Huez is a famous ski resort 1850 metres / 3330 metres (6,069 ft / 10,924 ft) high. Alpe d'Huez was and still is a mountain pasture in the Central French Alps, located on the territory of the commune of Huez, in the Isère département.

Tour de France

Alpe d'Huez is the most famous mountain climb in the Tour de France. While the tour route varies from year to year, l'Alpe d'Huez has hosted a stage finish almost every year since 1976. The Tour de France first finished a stage on l'Alpe d'Huez in 1952. That stage was won by the Italian road racing cyclist Fausto Coppi.

The climb up Alpe d'Huez is 13.8 km at an average gradient of 8.1% with 21 hairpin (les 21 virages) bends marked with panels honouring the winners of each stage that has finished there. Having finished there for the 22nd time in 2001, the authorities had to start again at the bottom with a double panel honouring Fausto Coppi and Lance Armstrong.

As the most legendary climb in recent Tour history, the Alpe has been the scene of chaotic crowds in the past 10 years. In 1999 Giuseppe Guerini won the stage despite being knocked off his bike by an over-enthusiastic spectator who stepped into his path to take a photograph (the photographer later sought out Guerini to apologize). The 2004 Tour de France route featured an individual time trial up Alpe d'Huez, which became a chaotic scene crowded with nearly a million fans, some of whom could not resist pushing their favorite rider toward the top. Armstrong won the stage and his time was only 1 second slower than the official record set by the late Marco Pantani of 37 minutes, 35 seconds.

Alpe d'Huez is also known as the "Dutch Mountain", a Dutchman having won there 8 of the first 14 finishes. Approximately one of every three fans on the mountain is from the Netherlands. The Dutch have won none of the last 11 stages finishing on Alpe d'Huez however; 6 climbs were won by Italian riders, 3 by American riders, one by Basque rider Iban Mayo, and the most recent by Fränk Schleck of Luxembourg.

The peak also serves as the finish of La Marmotte, a one-day, 175-km road cycle ride with well over 5000 m. of climbing. It is also used for downhill, or Alpine skiing.

Winners of the Alpe d'Huez stage at Tour de France

Panorama of the famous 21 bends towards Alpe d'Huez with outline
Year Name Country Bend
2006 Fränk Schleck  Luxembourg 18
2004 Lance Armstrong  United States 19
2003 Iban Mayo  Spain 20
2001 Lance Armstrong  United States 21
1999 Giuseppe Guerini  Italy 1
1997 Marco Pantani  Italy 2
1995 Marco Pantani  Italy 3
1994 Roberto Conti  Italy 4
1992 Andrew Hampsten  United States 5
1991 Gianni Bugno  Italy 6
1990 Gianni Bugno  Italy 7
1989 Gert-Jan Theunisse  Netherlands 8
1988 Steven Rooks  Netherlands 9
1987 Federico Echave  Spain 10
1986 Bernard Hinault  France 11
1984 Luis Herrera  Colombia 12
1983 Peter Winnen  Netherlands 13
1982 Beat Breu   Switzerland 14
1981 Peter Winnen  Netherlands 15
1979* Joop Zoetemelk  Netherlands 16
1979* Joaquim Agostinho  Portugal 17
1978 Hennie Kuiper  Netherlands 18
1977 Hennie Kuiper  Netherlands 19
1976 Joop Zoetemelk  Netherlands 20
1952 Fausto Coppi  Italy 21

*In the 1979 Tour de France, there were two stages at l'Alpe d'Huez.

Fastest Alpe d'Huez ascents

Profile of Alpe d'Huez

The climb has been timed since 1994 so earlier times are subject to some discussion. From 1994 to 1997 the climb was timed from a point 14.5km from the finish. Since 1999 a photo-finish system was used from 14km to the finish. Other times have been taken from 13.8km from the summit, which is the corner which marks the start of the climb. Other timings have also been taken from the road junction approximately 700m from the start of the climb. [1]

These variations in the distance for timing the climb have led to an ongoing debate as to the fastest times. For example, the 'official' record of Marco Pantani of 37'35" has been cited by sources such as UK-based Procycling magazine, and World Cycling Productions - publishers of the Tour de France series of DVDs hosted by Phil Liggett and the magazine Cycle Sport. In his biography of Marco Pantani (Rendell, Matt (2006). The Death of Marco Pantani – A Biography. Weidenfeld & Nicholson. ISBN 9780297850960.), Matt Rendell notes the following for Pantani's times: 1994 - 38'00"; 1995 - 38'04"; 1997 - 37'35". The Alpe d'Huez tourist association describes the climb as 14.454km and also lists Pantani's 37'35" as the record. [2]

Other sources, however, list Pantani's times from 1994, 95 and 97 as the fastest, based on alternate - and argued to be more accurate - timings adjusted for the 13.8km. [3] Such sources list Pantani's time in 1995 as the record at 36'40". In Blazing Saddles, Rendell has changed his view and lists it as 36'50" (Rendell, Matt (2007). Blazing Saddles. Quercus (United Kingdom). ISBN 9781847241559.), as does CyclingNews [4]). Second, third, and fourth fastest are Pantani in 1997 (36'45"), Pantani in 1994 (37'15") and Jan Ullrich in 1997 (37'30"). Lance Armstrong's time from 2004 (37'36") makes him only the fifth fastest, highlighting how the 1990s saw notably faster ascents than other eras.

A number of cycling publications have cited times prior to 1994, although distances for the time are typically not included, making comparisons difficult. For example, Fausto Coppi has been listed with45'22" for the first ascent in a Tour de France in 1952.[5]

Alpe d'Huez was climbed extensively in the Tour from the 1980s, where Gert-Jan Theunisse, Pedro Delgado, Luis Herrera, and Laurent Fignon rode in times stated to be faster than Coppi's, but still not breaking the 40'. Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault have been reported as having the times of 48'00" in 1986. [6]

It was not until the 1990s, starting with Gianni Bugno and Miguel Indurain in 1991, that times faster than 40' were reported, including times in the 39' range for Bjarne Riis in 1995 and Richard Virenque in 1997. For the 2006 Tour, Floyd Landis was listed at 38'34" and Andreas Kloden at 38'35" in the 19 July 19 2006 edition of L'Équipe.

Procycling listed the time of the stage winner in 2006, Fränk Schleck, as 40'46", the first time that the stage winner took more than 40 minutes since 1994. The increase in climbing speed in the 1990s had been attributed to the use of doping products, primarily Erythropoietin or EPO. A number of riders with sub-40' times, such as Alex Zülle, Riis, and Virenque, have confessed to using such products during this time. Strong evidence also exists that Pantani's records were also achieved with the assistance of EPO. [7] - and see also Rendell, Matt (2006). The Death of Marco Pantani – A Biography. Weidenfeld & Nicholson. ISBN 9780297850960.

Skiing at Alpe d'Huez

Alpe d'Huez
Location Alpe d'Huez, France
Nearest city Alpe d'Huez, France
Vertical 2224 m (7299 ft)
Top elevation 3330 m (10925 ft)
Base elevation 1120 m (3674 ft)
Skiable area 236 km² (58318 acres)
Runs 121
Longest run 16 km
Lift system 84 (6 cable cars, 10 gondolas, 3 access lifts, 24 chairlifts, 41 drag lifts)
Lift capacity 95,000 skiers/hr
Snowfall 5.48 m/year (216 in./year)
Snowmaking 64 km² (15814 acres)
Night skiing Limited, 1 lift, 2 days/week
Website Alpe d'Huez
Skiing the Couloir des cheminées de Mâcle above Alpe d'Huez resort

Alpe d'Huez is one of Europe's premier freeskiing venues. The site of the Pomagalski's first surface lift in the early sixties, the resort gained popularity when it hosted the bobsleigh events of the 1968 Winter Olympics. At that time the resort was seen as a competitor to Courchevel as France's most upmarket purpose built resort but the development of Les Trois Vallées, Val d'Isère, Tignes, La Plagne and Les Arcs saw Alpe D'Huez fall from favour in the 1970s and early 1980s.

With 236km of piste and 84 ski lifts, the resort is now one of the world's largest. Extensive snowmaking facilities helped combat the ski area's largely south-facing orientation and helped Alpe d'Huez appeal to beginner skiers, with very easy slopes. The expansion of the skiing above the linked resorts of Vaujany, Oz-en-Oisans, Villard Reculas and Auris boosted the quantity and quality of intermediate grade slopes but the resort is mostly known for freeskiing, drawing many steep skiing enthusiasts to its high altitude terrain.

Aside from the Tunnel and Sarenne black runs, the latter the world's longest at 16km, many Off-piste opportunities exist both from the summit of the 3330m Pic Blanc and the 2808m Dome des Petites Rousses. These include the 50-degree Cheminees du Mascle couloirs, the open powder field of Le Grand Sablat, the Couloir Fleur and the Perrins bowl. Up to 2200m of vertical descent are available with heli drops back to the resort's altiport. The proximity to the exclusively off-piste resort of La Grave as well as tree skiing at Serre Chevalier and the glacier and terrain parks of Les Deux Alpes have made Alpe d'Huez a popular base for skiers looking to explore the Oisans region.

1968 Winter Olympics

At the 1968 Winter Olympics in neighboring Grenoble (65 km (40.4 miles) away), it hosted th bobsleigh events.[1] Costing FRF 5,500,000 to complete and constructed during the spring of 1966, the track hosted the 1967 FIBT World Championships though the four-man event was cancelled to thawing ice which led to modifications in the spring of that year.[1] These modifications included adjusting the refrigeration systems to turns 6, 9, 12, and 13; turn 12 was covered with stone and earthwork to prevent concrete from coming up, freezing turn 12 with liquid nitrogen, and putting shades up on turns 6, 9, 12, and 13 to prevent the sun from melting the track.[1]

Physical statistics[1]
Sport Length (meters) Turns Vertical drop (start to finish) Average grade (%)
Bobsleigh 1500 13 140 9.33

No turn names are given for the track.

Sister cities

Alpe d'Huez's sister cities are:

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d 1968 Winter Olympics official report. pp. 104-105. (in English) & (in French) - accessed February 27, 2008.

45°03′N 6°02′E / 45.050°N 6.033°E / 45.050; 6.033