Alpe d'Huez: Classic climbs of the Tour de France

Information on Alpe d'Huez, the iconic Alpine climb that has regularly shaped the outcome of the Tour de France - Photos by Graham Watson/Yuzuru Sunada

The Tour de France at Alpe d'Huez on stage 18 of the 2013 Tour de France
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

The word ‘iconic’ is often over-worked in cycling, but its application to the wiggling climb up Alpe d’Huez is entirely justified, with this fearsome climb set to make its 30th Tour de France appearance in the 2018 edition.

The 13.8-kilometres of tarmac slithers its way from Bourg d’Oisans to the ski resort of Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps, navigating 21 hairpin bends along the way. From the air, the road is instantly recognisable - as is its relentless turns and gradient when you are travelling up it or watching a race unfold on its slopes.

>>> Tour de France 2018 route: What we know so far

Although Alpe d’Huez is a regular fixture of the Tour de France now, it wasn’t used in the race until 1952, providing the location of the Tour’s first ever summit finish. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t branded a success by the race’ organiser at the time - the sea of spectators spilling onto the road that we are used to seeing now did not exist.

The climb wasn’t used by the Tour again until 1976, when both the sport and the resort had rapidly developed. Since then, the climb has made Tour champions, and broken the hearts and bodies of many others - and not just racers. The climb has become a ‘must do’ ascent for cyclists, and is a mecca for bike-bound pilgrims every year when the snow melts away.

Alpe d'Huez stats

Location: Alps, France

Distance: 13.8km

Average gradient: 8.1 per cent, steepest part 11.5 per cent

Maximum elevation: 1850 metres

Fastest recorded ascent: 37 minutes and 35 seconds by Marco Pantani during 1997 Tour de France

 

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Alpe d'Huez photos

GRAHAM WATSON'S B & W ARCHIVE

THE TOUR DE FRANCE AT ALPE D' HUEZ

(Image credit: Watson)

Alpe d'Huez has been a regular feature of the Tour de France for decades, and has always been a magnet for spectators.

TOUR DE FRANCE - STAGE NINETEEN

A GROUP CLIMBS THE ALPE D'HUEZ ON STAGE NINETEEN OF THE 2011 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Watson)

There are more cameras now, but the scene on Alpe d'Huez remains the same: fans grabbing a glimpse of their favourite riders and a party atmosphere

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

BERNARD HINAULT CLIMBS ALPE D'HUEZ IN THE 1981 AMSTEL GOLD RACE

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Bernard Hinault looking in control on Alpe d'Huez during the 1981 Tour. Although he won overall by a sizeable margin, the stage to Alpe d'Huez was taken by Peter Winnen, who would eventually place fifth behind Hinault.

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

JOOP ZOETEMELK CLIMBS ALPE D'HUEZ IN THE 1986 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

World champion Joop Zoetemelk during the 1986 Tour de France. Bernard Hinault won the stage, and Greg LeMond went on to win the race overall

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

STEPHEN ROCHE AT ALPE D'HUEZ IN THE 1987 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Ireland's first and only Tour de France winner, Stephen Roche battles in the yellow jersey during the 1987 Tour. Spaniard Federico Echave took the stage win

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

ROBERT MILLAR LEADS RONAN PENSEC IN THE 1990 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Scotsman Robert Millar paces Z team-mate Ronan Pensec up Alpe d'Huez during the 1990 Tour de France. Gianni Bugno won the stage. Despite Millar's efforts in the Alps, Pensec would lose the race lead to Claudio Chiappucci after the following day's time trial

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

GREG LEMOND AT ALPE D'HUEZ IN THE 1989 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Greg LeMond on the Alpe during stage 17 of the 1989 Tour de France. The stage was won by Gert-Jan Theunisse, and LeMond would lose the race lead to Laurent Fignon before sensationally snatching it back on the final stage in Paris.

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

ANDY HAMPSTEN RACING TO VICTORY AT ALPE D'HUEZ IN 1992

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

American Andy Hampsten rides through the Alpe d'Huez crowds to take the stage win in the 1992 Tour. Hampsten would end the race in fourth place overall behind winner Miguel Indurain.

GRAHAM WATSON ARCHIVE

MARCO PANTANI

(Image credit: Watson)

Marco Pantani, Richard Virenque and Jan Ullrich fight it out on stage 13 of the 1997 Tour. Pantani would win the stage, and Ullrich would go on to win the race for the only time in his career with Virenque claiming the King of the Mountains title. All three riders would later be embroiled in doping scandals.

TOUR DE FRANCE - STAGE SEVENTEEN

CARLOS SASTRE WINS STAGE SEVENTEEN OF THE 2008 TOUR DE FRANCE

(Image credit: Watson)

Carlos Sastre took the yellow jersey on stage 17 of the 2008 Tour on Alpe d'Huez, and would then take it all the way to Paris.

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Pierre Rolland became the first Frenchman in 25 years to win atop Alpe d'Huez when he won stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France. Rolland was born three months after Hinault's win in 1986, and was released from domestique duties by team leader Thomas Voeckler to take a famous stage win.

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Thibaut Pinot won Tour de France's most recent visit to Alpe d'Huez in 2015, taking a spectacular solo victory on stage 20 after dropping out of GC contention early in the race.

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The most recent winner of a bike race into Alpe d'Huez was Team Sky's Peter Kennaugh, who won stage seven of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné. However this stage entered the ski resort via the back road, climbing the hors-categorie Col de Sarenne before a short second category climb into the town itself.

Alpe d'Huez Strava segment

Tour de France stage winners on Alpe d'Huez

1952, Stage 10, Fausto Coppi

1976, Stage 9, Joop Zoetemelk

1977, Stage 17, Hennie Kuiper

1978, Stage 16, Hennie Kuiper

1979, Stage 17, Joaquim Agostinho

1979, Stage 18, Joop Zoetemelk

1981, Stage 17, Peter Winnen

1982, Stage 16, Beat Breu

1983, Stage 17, Peter Winnen

1984, Stage 17, Luis Herrera

1986, Stage 18, Bernard Hinault

1987, Stage 20, Federico Echave

1988, Stage 12, Steven Rooks

1989, Stage 17, Gert-Jan Theunisse

1990, Stage 11, Gianni Bugno

1991, Stage 17, Gianni Bugno

1992, Stage 14, Andrew Hampsten

1994, Stage 16, Roberto Conti

1995, Stage 10, Marco Pantani

1997, Stage 13, Marco Pantani

1999, Stage 10, Giuseppe Guerini

2001, Stage 10, [Lance Armstrong]*

2003, Stage 8, Iban Mayo

2004, Stage 16, [Lance Armstrong]*

2006, Stage 15, Frank Schleck

2008, Stage 17, Carlos Sastre

2011, Stage 19, Pierre Rolland

2013, Stage 18, Christophe Riblon

2015, Stage 20, Thibaut Pinot

* result annulled due to doping conviction