Stage 18: Gap to Alpe-d'Huez
L’ALPE D’HUEZ TODAY
L’Alpe-d’Huez was dubbed the mountain of the Dutch and the fans from Holland indeed turned the resort into their highest sumit. While they flock by the thousands on the 21 corners of the climb during the Tour de France – and especially on #8 which they have annexed as their own – the Dutch do not shun Alpe d’Huez for the rest of the year. One of the most popular events on the climb is l’Alpe d’HuZes, held every year to raise funds for the fight against cancer. In 2012, some 32 million euros were collected by the foundation in charge of the organisation. About 8,000 cyclists rode up the climb, up to six times, to convince TV viewers and sponsors to make donations. In 2013, l’Alpe d’Huzes took place on June 5 and 6. Since last year, the event has had to take place over 48 hours because of its success. On the Saturday, some 3,000 riders tackled the most famous climb in cycling. The next day, 5,000 people rode or walked up the hill. L’Alpe d’HuZes was launched in 2006 and raised 370,000 euros at the time, while only 66 pioneers rode the ascent.
Within seven years, the initiative became a national event attracting Dutch celebrities and cancer-affected persons wishing to test themselves against the 21 corners. The collected funds are entirely handed by the organisers to the KWF Kankerbestrijding Foundation.
The Tour is in its 39th edition when, for the first time in 1952, the course tries a new challenge, the 21 turns of l’Alpe d’Huez. The 262-kms Lausanne - Alpe d’Huez stage is the first mountain finish of the edition and was as such particularly feared by the riders. In spite of the victory by Fausto Coppi, who became the first man to achieve the triple feat of winning the stage, taking the yellow jersey and finally winning the tour, the climb did not impress the fans or organisers as much as it does today.
Coppi might be to blame. He climbed so comfortably that the organisers may have thought that the climb was finally too easy.
“If you were on Friday on the steep slopes leading to l’Alpe d’Huez and you saw Coppi ride past, straight up on his bike, the hands up on the handle-bars, you might have told yourself: I have been lied to! This road is flat!,” wrte Max Favalelli, a special-envoy on the stage.
The campionissimo chose the tactics which his followers emulated. He left Geminiani and Robic break away early to the point of exhaustion before attacking. Even former Tour winner Andre Leducq was impressed: “I was watching him climb the turns of l’Alpe d’Huez with Robic, whom he had just caught after his attack at the foot of the climb, in his wake. His cheeks were pink, his stare clear, his leg light. Behind him only suffering men were left. It must be fantastic the feeling of gliding, to have everybody else at one’s mercy.”
At the finish, Coppi unwittingly started a tradition. Three Italians were topping the GC, Coppi, Carrea and Magni. With seven stage victories in l’Alpe, the Italians are only one short of the Dutch and can rightfully claim the climb as their own too.
The site of the highest medieval village in Europe stretches over 5 ha. It comprises a castle, overlooking the village by 40 metres, a parochial church with its necropolis, 80 houses, open air and underground mines, metal-works and hydraulic systems. The site is open for guided or free visits.
Notre-Dame des Neiges church
In the warm-up to the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, the idea came about to replace the small wooden chapel of L’Alpe d’Huez by a bigger church from which the La Meije glacier could be seen. Spurred by Dutch priest Jaap Reuten, who was the church curate from 1964 to 1992, the Notre-Dame des neiges church was funded by donations and inaugurated in1969. It is remarkable by its architecture in the shape of a tent, its organ like an open hand and 13 stained glass windows paintedby Arcabas.
Pic Blanc Panoramic View
At an altitude of 3,300 metres, the Pic Blanc panorama offers a 360 degrees view over the Ecrins National Park and all the surrounding massifs: Mont Blanc, Aiguilles d’Arves, Vercors, lChartreuse, Belledonne.