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Tour de France 2018: A return to the mythical Alpe d'Huez on Stage 12

Joe Robinson
19 Jul 2018

The famous mountain returns for Stage 12 of the Tour de France in 2018, on Thursday 19th July

The mythical Alpe d'Huez will play host to the final alpine climb of the 2018 Tour de France as Stage 12 travels 175km from Bourg-Saint Maurice to the summit of the Alpe on Thursday 19th July.

After a three-year hiatus, the infamous mountain will make a return to La Grande Boucle in its rightful place as a summit finish.

In a what looks like a classic Tour de France stage, the peloton will also have to negotiate the famous Col de la Madeleine and Col de la Croix de Fer en route.

The Col de la Madeleine

The stage departs from Bourg-Saint Maurice heading downhill for 30km before hitting the slopes of the Col de la Madeleine, a long 25km climb that averages 6.2% in gradient. This is where we can expect the day's break to escape.

Sustained sections of 9% in the latter half of the climb should ensure that the day's break consists of some of the peloton's best climbers who do not harbour General Classification ambitions, or those who have already lost enough time to be out of contention.

Read more - HC climbs: Col de la Madeleine

The Col de lan Croix de Fer

The peloton will then descend into the valley taking on some rolling roads before meeting the Croix de Fer. 

This mountain will be the second occasion of the day in which the riders will pass 2,000m of elevation as they climb for 28km at 5.2%.

However, this average gradient is reduced by the fact the climb contains two descents.

The climb includes sections that surpass double figures in gradient and should help whittle down the field, especially if a particular team is pushing the pace.

Read more - HC climbs: Col de la Croix de Fer

Alpe d'Huez

After the Croix de Fer comes the showpiece of the stage, Alpe d'Huez.

Unfortunately with the Alps coming before the Pyrenees this Tour it is unlikely to have the explosive attacks from General Classification riders we have seen in the past.

Nevertheless, victory on the famous mountain will be a coveted prize for any climber.

Its snake-like hairpin bends are a famous sight of this great race and it the mountain has produced some iconic scenes since its debut in the Tour in 1952.

Read more - Alpe d'Huez: Orange disorder on Dutch Corner

The last time the race visited the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d'Huez in 2015, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) ran away victor in an impressive solo ride, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) defending his yellow jersey despite multiple attacks from Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

One of the most memorable moments on the mountain came in 1986 in a battle between two teammates, one American and one Frenchman, Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault.

Hinault won his fifth Tour in 1985 promising the young American that he would support his efforts of glory the year after. However, with the temptation of history, Hinault lived up to his badger-like spirit.

Despite being teammates, the two riders constantly attacked one another throughout the race, even with Hinault suffering from an injured knee and time loss earlier in the race.

This theatrical performance culminated with the two riders climbing Alpe d'Huez separate ahead of the pack, finishing hand in hand in the town of Huez with Hinault being given the stage as a gesture from LeMond.

A mythical mountain calls for a mythical rider, enter Marco Pantani. 

The late Italian was a master of this Col taking two consecutive victories at the 1995 and 1997 Tours de France. The man they called the pirate was also the quickest to scale the mountain at the 1994 Tour.

Pantani still holds the climbing record for this 13.8km climb with a time of 36.40 set 23 years ago in 1995. This gave the late rider an incredible average speed of 22.58km/h.

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