Stage 18: Gap - l'Alpe d'Huez
Because once isn't enough
Sixty-one years on from the Tour's first encounter with Alpe-d'Huez, the 100th edition of the race returns for the 28th time – or the 29th to be precise, as for the first time ever the riders will climb the Alpe's 21 hairpins twice in a stage. It's all thanks to improvements to the road that climbs from the resort to the Col de la Sarenne. From there it's a sharp drop to the Chambon dam, just a few kilometres along the valley from Bourg d'Oisans, to which the riders will return before making that historic second asent. This is a short stage with barely any flat at all – the kind of day that's now a trademark of Tour director Christian Prudhomme and his routefinder general, Jean-François Pescheux. The final 60-odd kilometres pack a real punch, although they won't be an over-the-top challenge for riders who would usually come to the Alpe via the Croix de Fer/ Glandon or the Galibier. In a race packed with great moments, this will surely be the most memorable – and probably the most important.
Stephen Roche: "Climbing the Alpe twice should add some spice, although I hope they don't just ride over it the first time and wait until the last 5km of the stage to attack. It's the change of rhythm that makes the Alpe so hard, the first six or seven bends are very steep, only then does it ease of a bit."
French hopes of overall success have not been as high for years, based on the performances of Thomas Voeckler, Thibault Pinot and Pierre Rolland. The latter was the last rider to win on the Alpe in 2011, outwitting and outriding Contador and Samuel Sánchez. Could he win again? And could he take yellow?
Maps and profiles courtesy of ASO
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