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Famous Tour de France moments on Alpe d’Huez

Dan Alexander
18 Jul 2018

From Coppi to Pinot, some of the most memorable moments on one of the Tour's most hallowed ascents

The Tour de France returns to one of its most iconic battlegrounds as Stage 12 finishes at the summit of Alpe d’Huez. A perennial Tour climb since the first inclusion in 1952, the 2018 edition will be the 30th time the race has tackled the 21 hairpins.

We've had a look at some of the most famous Tour de France moments that have unfolded on the Alpe.

Coppi wins the Tour’s first summit finish

In 1952 the Tour de France used the climb of Alpe d'Huez for the first time. On Stage 10 the riders rolled out of Lausanne before crossing the Swiss border back into France and tackled the ascent at the end of a gruelling 266 kilometre day in the Alps.

An unknown Category 1 climb, Alpe d’Huez represented the first time the Tour had used a summit finish and gave a second stage win of the race to Italian Fausto Coppi.

Coppi entered the Tour in strong form having successfully won a fourth Giro d’Italia a month earlier and took control of the race on Alpe d’Huez.

Attacking six kilometres from the summit the Italian extended his advantage to 1 minute 20 seconds at the finish, giving him the overall race lead from compatriot Andrea Carrea.

Coppi kept the yellow jersey until Paris, winning a further three stages and extending his race lead to 28 minutes. Victory on Alpe d’Huez saw the climb’s first hairpin named after Coppi and was a significant moment in earning a second yellow jersey of his career.

Hinault and LeMond’s truce

Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond’s rivalry shaped the 1986 edition of the Tour. Both riding for the La Vie Claire team, five time winner Hinault had announced he would be retiring at the end of the season and showed little intention of supporting LeMond to a maiden maillot jaune.

Early success gave Hinault a five minute lead over LeMond by Stage 12, however, a series of strong performances in the Pyrenees cut the deficit to just 34 seconds by the time the race reached the Alps.

LeMond took the race lead on Stage 17 and held an advantage of just under three minutes into the Alpe d’Huez stage.

Hinault attacked on the climb and LeMond was the only rider who could follow. The pair reached the summit together and crossed the line arms wrapped round each other as LeMond allowed his teammate to take the stage win, seemingly in an act of truce.

Alpe d’Huez provided a moment of peace for one of the Tour’s greatest rivalries. Regardless, Hinault insisted the race was not over and saw the final individual time trial as the stage to decide the victor.

Hinault won the time trial but could not overcome LeMond’s sizeable advantage with the American’s time just 25 seconds slower, virtually securing the race win.

Pantani records fastest ever ascent

In 1997 Marco Pantani set what is widely regarded as the fastest ever ascent of Alpe d’Huez on his way to winning Stage 13 of the race.

The Italian climber’s blistering pace left the entire field in his wake giving him an emphatic stage win. Yellow jersey Jan Ullrich was 47 seconds slower but could do little to challenge Pantani.

It took Pantani just 37 minutes 35 seconds to cover the 13 kilometre climb, a time that only Lance Armstrong has come close to bettering.

Armstrong’s domination

Another infamous Tour de France moment came on an Alpe d’Huez summit finish as Lance Armstrong obliterated the field on Stage 10 of the 2001 Tour.

Armstrong bluffed his rivals as the stage unfolded on the Hors Catégorie ascents of the Col de la Madeleine and Col du Glandon by sitting at the back of the main group seemingly struggling.

When the race reached Alpe d’Huez Armstrong unleashed hell with a monstrous attack putting big time gaps into the demoralised peloton.

By the summit, the American was two minutes ahead of his closest rival Ullrich with a display of pure dominance. Armstrong took the race lead three days later in Saint-Lary-Soulon and never looked like losing it as he claimed his third Tour de France win in as many years.

Pinot shines as Froome limps to a second yellow jersey

The Tour de France last visited Alpe d’Huez in 2015 on Stage 20, giving Movistar one final opportunity to put Chris Froome under pressure and take the yellow jersey with Nairo Quintana or Alejandro Valverde before the procession in to Paris.

A short 110km stage took the riders up the Hors Catégorie Col de la Croix de Fer followed by a long descent to the foot of Alpe d’Huez in Bour-d’Oisans.

On the early slopes of the climb Thibaut Pinot attacked the main group of favourites. Having lost significant time on General Classification the FDJ rider was allowed to stretch out a healthy advantage and crested the climb solo to take the second Tour stage win of his career.

As Pinot danced up the hairpins, Froome was in trouble and without any teammates he looked vulnerable. Quintana sensed weakness and attacked but could not overcome Froome’s two minute lead as the Team Sky leader rode into Paris the following day in yellow.

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