Giantkiller and legend maker: L'Alpe D'Huez and its history

Climbed just 24 times in the history of the Tour de France, l'Alpe d'Huez is nevertheless the...

Climbed just 24 times in the history of the Tour de France, l'Alpe d'Huez is nevertheless the legendary climb, with only Mont Ventoux rivalling its reputation. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes takes a look at some of the facts and figures associated with the mountain.

Today's fifteenth stage of the Tour de France is notable for a couple of reasons. It's the first in the Alps, it's the first real test for yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro and the next big opportunity for Floyd Landis and all the overall challengers. But most of all, it is notable as the race is heading to l'Alpe d'Huez, probably the most famous climb in cycling.

The mountain was first used back in the 1952 Tour de France and the dominant stage win achieved there by Fausto Coppi set a precedent which is almost always the case. Whoever wears the yellow jersey after the stage to the 1860 metre summit is, historically, almost guaranteed to win the Tour. This has been done 19 times, with the rule being broken on just five occasions. Exceptions include Laurent Fignon's maillot jaune in 1989 and François Simon's spell in yellow in 2001; however, if a superstitious rider is in yellow tonight, he'll be feeling reassured with those stats.

Coppi dominated in 1952 but the crushing nature of his win – and the suspense-killing effect it had on the race – meant that it was a full 24 years before the race returned. Joop Zoetemelk topped the podium in 1976 and started a dominant period by riders from the Netherlands, with eight out of the thirteen finishes there between that year and Gert-Jan Theunisse's 1989 victory falling to competitors from that country.

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