Alpe d’Huez – who has won a Tour de France stage on the climb and how many switchbacks does it have?

WITH its iconic hairpin bends, punishing gradients and roadsides crammed ten-deep with fans, Alpe d'Huez has become a true legend of the Tour de France.

The world's biggest bike race is grinding its way up the imposing mountain again in 2018 – here's how it became cycling's greatest climb.

 Chris Froome attacks Nairo Quintana on Alpe d'Huez at the 2013 Tour

AFP
Chris Froome attacks Nairo Quintana on Alpe d'Huez at the 2013 Tour

Where is Alpe D'Huez?

L'Alpe D'Huez is a mountain situated in the Western Alps, towering over the small town of Le Bourg-d'Oisans about 60km from Grenoble.

The site has been occupied since the Middle Ages, but rose to prominence when it was established as one of France's earliest major ski resorts in the 1930s.

It remains one of Europe's premier skiing destinations, with a top elevation of 3,330 metres and a skiable area of almost 60,000 acres.

As a cycling climb it has become truly iconic due to its close affiliation with the Tour de France.

Starting from Le Bourg D'Oisans, the snaking road climbs over 1,000m up through 21 sharp switchbacks, each named after a rider who won a Tour de France stage there.

The 13.8km climb has an average gradient of 8.1 per cent, but reaches 13 per cent in its most treacherous sections.

 Fans overlooking Dutch corner – riders from the Netherlands have enjoyed huge success at Alpe d'Huez

AFP – Getty
Fans overlooking Dutch corner – riders from the Netherlands have enjoyed huge success at Alpe d'Huez

When was it first used in the Tour de France?

The climb was first used in the Tour de France in 1952, with the legendary Italian Fausto Coppi the first to conquer the mountain.

It was almost a quarter of a century before it featured again in 1976, but it became a near permanent fixture, visiting in all but five editions of the Tour until the end of the century.

Six out of the first nine Tour de France stages at Alpe d'Huez were won by Dutch riders, leading to it being nicknamed "the Dutch Mountain".

Although a climber from The Netherlands hasn't triumphed there since 1989, switchback No.7 remains "Dutch corner", crammed with exuberant orange-clad cycling fanatics whenever the Tour is in town.

The number of fans who cram onto the winding roadsides for the world's biggest bike race has been estimated between 300,000 and a million.

 Marco Pantani made the three fastest ascents of Alpe d'Huez, but his achievements are tainted with doping

Corbis – Getty
Marco Pantani made the three fastest ascents of Alpe d'Huez, but his achievements are tainted with doping

2018 will be the 30th time the Tour de France has visited Alpe D'Huez, including twice in 1979, and a memorable stage in 2013, when hapless riders had to climb it twice in one day as part of the race's centenary commemorations.

The late, tragic Italian climber Marco Pantani made the three record-fastest ascents of the mountain's 13.8km, with his quickest time around 36 minutes and 40 seconds.

However, almost all of the times at the top of the list were ridden during the 1990s, when the sport was riddled with the doping scandals that tainted the careers of Pantani and his rivals Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong.

 Thibaut Pinot's 2015 victory made it three in a row for French riders

Getty – Contributor
Thibaut Pinot's 2015 victory made it three in a row for French riders

Who has won at Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France?

A victory at the summit of Alpe d'Huez during the Tour de France is enough to write a cyclist's name into the history books among the greats of the sport.

Riders to have won there twice include Dutch climbers Joop Zoetemelk, Hennie Kuiper and Peter Winnen, and Italians Gianni Bugno and Marco Pantani (Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his two wins).

On the last three occasions the race has visited the day has been won by a Frenchman, with Thibaut Pinot taking victory in style on the most recent stage in 2015.

Here are all the riders who have won a Tour de France stage on Alpe d'Huez:

  • 1952 Fausto Coppi
  • 1976 Joop Zoetemelk
  • 1977 Hennie Kuiper
  • 1978 Hennie Kuiper
  • 1979 Joaquim Agostinho
  • 1979 Joop Zoetemelk
  • 1981 Peter Winnen
  • 1982 Beat Breu
  • 1983 Peter Winnen
  • 1984 Luis Herrera
  • 1986 Bernard Hinault
  • 1987 Federico Echave
  • 1988 Steven Rooks
  • 1989 Gert-Jan Theunisse
  • 1990 Gianni Bugno
  • 1991 Gianni Bugno
  • 1992 Andrew Hampsten
  • 1994 Roberto Conti
  • 1995 Marco Pantani
  • 1997 Marco Pantani
  • 1999 Giuseppe Guerini
  • 2001 Lance Armstong (Vacated)
  • 2003 Iban Mayo
  • 2004 Lance Armstrong (Vacated)
  • 2006 Fränk Schleck
  • 2008 Carlos Sastre
  • 2011 Pierre Rolland
  • 2013 Christophe Riblon
  • 2015 Thibaut Pinot

Daredevil jumps over Tour de France peleton on BMX in crazy stunt on stage 10 into the Alps

WITH its iconic hairpin bends, punishing gradients and roadsides crammed ten-deep with fans, Alpe d'Huez has become a true legend of the Tour de France.