Tour de France 2013: Alpe d’Huez – so good they’re climbing it twice

Tour breaks new ground today with double ascent of iconic mountain to mark 100th birthday 

Chorges

Some of the Tour de France’s best-known mountain climbs are more difficult than Alpe d’Huez, like the Mont Ventoux. Others, like the Galibier or Tourmalet are much longer and higher. But none are more emblematic than Alpe d’Huez – and as the centenary Tour’s way of underlining just how  important it is, today, for the first time, the Alpe will be tackled twice on the same stage.

Already ridden 27 times in the Tour’s history since it first put in an appearance in 1952, Alpe d’Huez is significant not just because it has seen race-winning moves, most recently in 2008, when Spain’s Carlos Sastre broke away to claim the stage win and the lead. Nor is it  because some of those who have raised their arms in triumph after passing through the short tunnel in a ski station at its summit include the greatest riders of the race, such as Italy’s Marco Pantani, winner there in 1995 and 1997. Nor is it important just because it is the one climb of every Tour guaranteed to be packed with fans along all of its 13.8 kilometres – more than a million, for example, were said to be there in 2004.

The reason for Alpe d’Huez’s pre- eminence in the Tour is very simple. It has become the ascent that every climber in the peloton dreams of winning. Victory there automatically puts you in the realms of greatness – although, as Lance Armstrong, who triumphed in 2001 and 2004, has discovered, it does not automatically keep you there.

For proof of how deeply engrained the Alpe d’Huez is in the Tour’s collective consciousness, on each of its 21 hairpins there is a plaque with a name of one of the riders previously to have won on the climb – something no other mountain ascent has in France. Alpe d’Huez also always marks a watershed in the Tour. In 2003, for example, it was where it  became clear that Armstrong was in for the toughest Tour of his career.

“For me the toughest things about the Alpe d’Huez are the hairpin bends,” said Graham Jones, the former Peugeot pro and BBC cycling analyst who rode up the Alpe in the 1981 and 1983 Tours. “They flatten off and then kick up again and that breaks your rhythm. It’s not as hard, physically, as the Ventoux, but the crowds encroaching on you make it much more difficult to race.”

As for doing it twice, with a vertiginous descent off the short Col de Sarenne in between, Tour director, Christian Prudhomme, told The Independent: “We already wanted to do that in the 2011 race.”

Apart from the historical justification for doing the climb twice, another reason, added Prudhomme, is “that way TV viewers will see both the ‘crazy’ side of the Alpe, and the other side, where [on the descent] the race will be plunged into total silence and there will be no fans at all. No press cars, I imagine, and certainly no publicity or guest cars. It’ll be a real contrast.”

There is one drawback: both Chris Froome and world time-trial champion, Tony Martin, have said the descent of the Sarenne, prior to tackling the Alpe again, is dangerous. For Prudhomme it is “sinuous but not too complicated”.

As for going up the Tour’s most hallowed climb twice, for most of the riders, while special, it will not make more  demands on them than any other  ascent. “For riders climbing the Alpe twice is no more complicated or easy than doing any two other cols,” Jones said, “but what makes it stand out as a climb is the whole mystique and sense of theatre surrounding the Alpe d’Huez. And the atmosphere.

“Tour photographers are already tweeting that there aren’t many fans on [yesterday’s] time trial because they’re all on the Alpe. It’s going to be very special.”

Suggested Topics
Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Move from Audit to Advisory

£45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

£35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

Secondary Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

£36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?