Alpe d’Huez cycling: 10 facts about the mythical climb

alpe d'huez cycling

The Alpe d’Huez is a mountain located in the French Alps, in the department of Isère, southeastern France. It is one of the most well-known and iconic climbs in cycling, famous for its 21 hairpin turns and steep gradient. The Alpe d’Huez climb is 13.8 kilometers (8.6 miles) long and has an average gradient of 8.1%, with a maximum gradient of 13%.

Alpe d’Huez has been a regular feature of the Tour de France since 1952 and has become one of the most popular climbs in the race, attracting large crowds of spectators every year. With the Mont Ventoux it is one of the icons of the Tour.

Snow ploughs

According to legend, the bends of Alpe d’Huez were numbered to serve as a marker for snowploughs and to allow them to know where they were on the climb to the resort. It was two “locals”, an artist and a hotelier from the Alpe, who convinced the Tour organizers to first go through the resort in the Northern Alps. It is also said that these bends were installed to indicate to tourists the approach to the station.

Fausto Coppi, the first winner

It was at the end of a 266 km long stage that the Italian Fausto Coppi won, on July 10, 1952, the first ascent of the climb to the Alpe in the Great Loop. A true star in the history of cycling, he won his second Tour de France that same year.

Coppi was an Italian cyclist who is widely regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time. He won his first Giro d’Italia in 1940, and went on to win the race five times in total. He also won the Tour de France as well as numerous other races and set several world records throughout his career.

Coppi was known for his smooth, elegant riding style and his ability to climb mountains with ease. He was also a master of time-trialing, and set several world records in the discipline during his career. Coppi’s achievements made him a national hero in Italy, and he remains one of the most beloved sports figures in the country’s history.

2023 Cycling Holidays in the Alps and Pyrenees

 1 250

Activity level: Challenging Sat 29 Jun – Sat 6 Jul 2024: Close
Sat 14 – Sat 21 Sep 2024: Full

 795

Activity level: Challenging Thu 30 May – Sun 02 June 2024: Open
Thu 26 – Sun 29 Sep 2024: Open

 1 180

Activity level group 1: Challenging
Activity level group 2: Moderate
Scheduled on demand
Fri 05 – Thu 11 July 2024: Open
Fri 13 Sept – Thu 19 Sept 2024: Open

Activity level: Challenging
Scheduled on demand
Contact us if you are interested
Price: from €1050 excl Flights

Each of the 21 bends is named after at least one rider

The 21 bends or hairpin turns on Alpe d’Huez are each named after a rider who has triumphed on the climb. The names of the riders and the years they won are painted on plaques at each turn. The 21st bend is named after Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi, who won the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952. Other riders honored with bends on Alpe d’Huez include Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Lance Armstrong, among others. The naming of the bends after Tour de France stage winners is a way to pay tribute to the history and tradition of the race and to the great riders who have contributed to its legacy over the years.

alpe d'huez cycling 21 bends

The Dutch Corner

The Dutch Corner is a section of the Alpe d’Huez climb that has become famous for the large number of Dutch fans who gather there to cheer on their favorite cyclists during the Tour de France. The Dutch Corner is located near the top of the climb and is easily recognizable by the sea of orange-clad fans waving Dutch flags and cheering loudly.

The Dutch Corner has become a popular meeting place for Dutch fans who travel to the Tour de France each year to support their country’s cyclists. The fans often camp out for several days before the race arrives, setting up tents and creating a festive atmosphere with music, food, and drinks. On race day, the fans line the road and cheer on every cyclist who passes by, but they reserve their loudest cheers for the Dutch riders.

The Dutch Corner has become such a well-known feature of the Tour de France that it has even been officially recognized by the race organizers, who now include it as part of the route’s official roadbook. The Dutch Corner is a testament to the passion and enthusiasm of cycling fans, and it adds to the unique and colorful atmosphere of the Tour de France.

Striking images and drama!

The stage finishees at Alpe d’Huez are always striking, strong images. We remember, for example, 1986 and the arrival hand in hand of Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond, both teammates of La Vie Claire. We also remember the Michel Pollentier scandal: in 1978, he won the yellow jersey at Alpe d’Huez but was then sanctioned for trying to rig an anti-doping control.

There have been several cycling scandals on the Alpe d’Huez over the years. One of the most notorious occurred during the 1998 Tour de France, when it was revealed that a large number of riders had been using performance-enhancing drugs during the race. Several of the top riders were implicated in the scandal, and it cast a shadow over the entire sport.

Pantani’s record

It still holds the record for the fastest ascent of the 21 bends. It was in 1995 that the Italian Marco Pantani managed to climb to the station in 37 minutes and 35 seconds. Winner of the 1998 Tour, his career sadly ended against a backdrop of doping. Lance Armstrong holds the second place from the 2004 Tour de France, in 37 minutes 36 seconds.

An often decisive stage

It’s not the hardest climb of the Tour – average gradient of 8% over almost 14 km – but it is often decisive. It is said that whoever passes Alpe d’Huez in yellow keeps his leader’s jersey until the Champs-Elysées. Of the 29 arrivals, there are only seven counterexamples. However, this year the Tour continues for more than a week after passing through Isère and could well hold other surprises for the riders.

Other cycling races & events

The climb to the summit of Alpe d’Huez has also been featured in other cycling races, including the Marmotte, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de l’Avenir. Events open to amateurs include THE CLIMB Alpe d’Huez, a cycling event comprising a 15km individual time trial, and the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon with a finish at the summit.

A cycling mecca

Not exclusively for professional cyclists, Alpe d’Huez has become a popular destination for cycling tourists, with many cyclists traveling from around the world to ride up the iconic mountain. The town of Bourg d’Oisans, located at the base of Alpe d’Huez, is a popular starting point for cyclists who want to tackle the climb. Many cycling services are available in the area, and the café terrasses are thronged with cyclists making their way to or from the climb!

Not just cycling

The Alpe d’Huez ski resort is located near the summit of the climb and is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. Part of the Grandes Rousses massif, above the Oisans it is an excellent ski location

More Information about the Alpe d’Huez

Ride the Alpe d’Huez – Cycling Holiday

Alpe d’Huez the 21 Bends

Discover Cycling

Our 3 best cycling climbs of the Alps

Discover the best cycling climbs of the Alps from our Alpine Cols of the Tour [...]

Alpe d’Huez cycling: 10 facts about the mythical climb

The Alpe d’Huez is a mountain located in the French Alps, in the department of [...]

Cycling climbs of the Pyrenees – 3 of the best!

Discover the best cycling climbs of the Pyrenees, from our Raid Pyrenean cycling holiday, a [...]

Mont Ventoux 2023 cycling holidays

Take on the ultimate challenge and ride the myth in 2023! We currently have on [...]

Our 3 best 2023 cycling holidays

Best 2023 cycling holidays : Custom road cycling holidays for individuals, cycling clubs or groups [...]

Cycling: our top 10 tips for climbing Mont Ventoux

Legend of the Tour de France and a mecca for cyclists from all over the [...]

1 Comment

Profile : The Mont Ventoux Climb

The Mont Ventoux climb is one of the most challenging in the Tour the France, [...]

5 things we love about…the Queyras!

1 : The Queyras is off the beaten track… in an accessible way! An hour [...]

2023 Cycling Holidays in the Alps and Pyrenees

 1 250

Activity level: Challenging Sat 29 Jun – Sat 6 Jul 2024: Close
Sat 14 – Sat 21 Sep 2024: Full

 795

Activity level: Challenging Thu 30 May – Sun 02 June 2024: Open
Thu 26 – Sun 29 Sep 2024: Open

 1 180

Activity level group 1: Challenging
Activity level group 2: Moderate
Scheduled on demand
Fri 05 – Thu 11 July 2024: Open
Fri 13 Sept – Thu 19 Sept 2024: Open

Activity level: Challenging
Scheduled on demand
Contact us if you are interested
Price: from €1050 excl Flights

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *