Bicycling Magazine Tour de France 2008: L'Alpe d'Huez 

The ultimate climb of the 2008 Tour de France


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Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 11 Jul 2008 1:41:11 PM
Activity: Bicycling
State: France (FRA)
Distance: 8.65 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 6375 ft
Total Loss: 2700 ft
Net Change: 3675 ft
Difficulty: 5 / 10
Tags: France, La Garde, Tour de France
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

At the end of three grueling days in the Alps, the 2008 Tour de France will reach its boiling point on the 21 switchbacks of cycling's most iconic climb: L'Alpe d'Huez. This year the Tour arrives at L'Alpe at the climax of the race, in stark contrast to 2006 when the route came here the beginning of three mountain stages. After climbing Galibier and Croix de Fer, the yellow jersey contenders will go toe-to-toe over 8+ miles that gain almost 3,600 feet of elevation. By the time the dust clears, the Tour may be won or lost.

As high drama unfolds on the road, an 8-mile long party will unfold on the roadside. Alpe d'Huez is cycling's most fan-friendly mountain road--though many in the peloton consider it to be a bit too fan-friendly. On race day, the road's 21 switchbacks will be teeming with mobs of shirtless, sun-burnt cycling fans as wire-thin climbers hollowed out by 17 days of racing will battle tunnel vision as they trade attacks up the mountain. Most spring and summer weekends see L'Alpe swarmed by cyclotourists--everyone from hardcore racers to amateurs on rental, dual-suspension mountain bikes--riding up for "the fun of it." Indeed, for many, riding Alpe d'Huez is akin to taking batting practice at Yankee Stadium or playing doubles at Wimbledon. It's cycling's most hallowed road because of the legends who have laid their claim to Tour fame here, but the true beauty of the climb is that anyone and everyone can hop on a bike and take stab at climbing it.

-Mapped by Mark Harrison

VIDEO PREVIEW
See why the Alpe d'Huez is the greatest mountain in Tour history, complete with this year's analysis of Stage 17, Google Earth flyovers, and classic photos from this iconic peak. Watch more in our Video Center.

 

MORE TOUR de FRANCE MAPS
Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 | Stage 4 | Stage 5 | Stage 6 | Stage 7 | Stage 8 | Stage 9 | Stage 10 | Stage 11 | Stage 12 | Stage 13 | Stage 14 | Stage 15 | Stage 16 | Stage 17 | Stage 18 | Stage 19 | Stage 20 | Stage 21

Google Earth Flyover: 2008 Tour de France

See more race coverage at bicycling.com/tourdefrance.

Position Format: Datum:
Tracks

Tour de France 2008: L'Alpe d'Huez

Distance: 8.65 mi Points: 234
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest

The first switchback

Location: 45.071642, 6.038704
Each of Alpe d'Huez's 21 switchbacks are marked by a sign listing their elevation and a previous Tour stage winner (or two). © Mark Harrison

The fifth switchback

Location: 45.068414, 6.042491
James Startt climbs the fifth switchback of Alpe d'Huez

The second switchback

Location: 45.066413, 6.041772
James Startt rides around the second switchback on Alpe d'Huez.

The "Dutch Corner"

Location: 45.077036, 6.053338
James Startt climbs past the Dutch corner Cycling fans from Holland descend upon this corner of Alpe d'Huez and set up camp for an orange-clad party when the Tour comes. Dutch riders receive the lion's share of their encouragement.

The base of <a href="http://www.bicycling.com/tourdefrance/30moments/13.html" target="blank">Alpe d'Huez</a>

Location: 45.062730, 6.037459
The base of Alpe d'Huez

The "Dutch Corner"

Location: 45.077036, 6.053338
The "Dutch Corner" Cycling fans from Holland descend upon this corner of Alpe d'Huez and set up camp for an orange-clad party when the Tour comes. Dutch riders receive the lion's share of their encouragement.

The town of Alpe d'Huez

Location: 45.092490, 6.062822
James Startt rides through the ski resort of Alpe d'Huez The grades ease off significantly as the road arrives at the ski resort town atop Alpe d'Huez.

Location: 45.090005, 6.058831
Just because you see the town sign, doesn't mean you're at the top

Cow pasture

Location: 45.088793, 6.060162
James Startt passes grazing cows and green pastures on the upper slopes of Alpe d'Huez. Cattle will get a front row seat to high Tour drama around a wide pasture a few switchbacks below the top of the climb.

Five switchbacks down

Location: 45.072369, 6.051149
James Startt passes an overlook at the fifth switchback on Alpe d'Huez If tunnel vision hasn't set in yet, riders will enjoy a fantastic valley overlook at the fifth switchback.

Bourg-d'Oisans

Location: 45.054909, 6.030679
Bourg-d'Oisans, the gateway to Alpe d'Huez

Location: 45.091399, 6.055784
Suspension on the switchbacks

The ramps

Location: 45.065762, 6.043167
The fourth switchback The switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez have gained a certain degree of un-earned infamy. The switchbacks themselves aren't the hard part of the climb--in fact, they're the flattest spots on the road. It's the ramps that come off of each switchback that take a toll on the riders, and of course the sustained stretches of steep grades do some damage as well.

Cow pasture

Location: 45.088793, 6.060162
On any given day Cattle will get a front row seat to high Tour drama around a wide pasture a few switchbacks below the top of the climb.

Location: 45.088430, 6.055784
Panniers up Alpe d'Huez

It's not all switchbacks

Location: 45.080824, 6.059046
James Startt climbs a rare sustained straightaway on Alpe d'Huez

The ramps

Location: 45.065762, 6.043167
The steep pitch coming off of switchback #4 The switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez have gained a certain degree of un-earned infamy. The switchbacks themselves aren't the hard part of the climb--in fact, they're the flattest spots on the road. It's the ramps that come off of each switchback that take a toll on the riders, and of course the sustained stretches of steep grades do some damage as well.

Cow pasture

Location: 45.088793, 6.060162
On race day Cattle will get a front row seat to high Tour drama around a wide pasture a few switchbacks below the top of the climb.

Location: 45.077976, 6.047845
Taking a break with 10 switchbacks to go

Location: 45.088430, 6.055784
Riding by sheep a few switchbacks below the top

Location: 45.070945, 6.044283
Room for another name on this switchback sign

Location: 45.067762, 6.041837
A cyclotourist outdescends a van around the broad third switchback.


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