- The race 2011
- All about the race
Modane by night© M. Auger
• Stage town for the first time
• 3, 500 inhabitants
• Cantonal subdivision of Savoie (73)
The gateway between Savoie and Italy, and between the Haute Maurienne and the Haute-Alpes, Modane, at 1,000 metres, has, since the 1992 relaxing of border controls, had to accept the challenge of the tourism economy while continuing to develop other projects such as particle physics research at its underground laboratories and the rail link between Lyon and Turin, set for completion by 2020. At the heart of the Vanoise national park, just four hours from Paris by TGV and served by the A43 motorway, Modane has still kept elements of its past such as its military forts – evidence of its annexation from Savoie to become part of Italy before becoming part of France in 1860 – and the fifteenth-century Charmaix chapel nestled on the mountainside. Modane has a rich heritage based on a well-preserved natural environment, at the heart of which is its ski resort, Valfréjus – home to new forms of winter sports such as skwalling – a hybrid of skiing and snowboarding – and speed riding, where skiing meets paragliding... At the heart of the biggest area in the world in which to ride your bike – as long as you don’t mind hills – and with 300 days of sunshine a year, Modane-Valfréjus is a true mountain of activity.
The town’s history has been influenced by its geographical position, in the centre of trade between France and Italy, especially since the drilling of the Fréjus Tunnel. Next July, on the day after the Franco-Italian stage of the race, Modane will become a member of the Tour de France’s club of stage towns. It will become the nineteenth commune in Savoie to feature on the programme of the Grand Boucle (Big Loop) since 1947.
Besson lake, at 2,000 metres© OT Alpe d’Huez
• Stage town on 26 previous occasions
• 1, 345 inhabitants
• Winter sports resort of Isère (38)
Both a winter and summer resort, Alpe d’Huez – nicknamed ’the island of the sun’ – is at the heart of the Oisans massif, in Isère, just an hour away from Grenoble, two hours from Lyon and two and a half from Geneva. Perched at an altitude of 1,860 metres, on a south-facing plateau, the resort certainly lives up to its nickname, averaging 300 days of sun per year. Topping out at 3,300 metres, the panoramic viewpoint up at the Pic Blanc is quite something, giving views over one fifth of French territory, and from where you can see Mont Blanc, Mont Ventoux, the Massif Central, Switzerland and Italy. With so much space – 10,000 hectares of it – it’s the perfect area for a variety of outdoor activities: hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, paragliding... And all summer, the resort plays host to cycling events such as Alpe d’HuZes, La Marmotte, the Mégavalanche, and the Étape du Tour-Mondovélo, as well as triathlons and the supermotard French championships.
Featuring 21 hairpin bends, Alpe-d’Huez is one of the Tour de France’s best-loved climbs, featuring regularly on the route. Each corner has a sign, counting down the riders over the 14 kilometres to the summit.
From Fausto Coppi, who was the pioneer in 1952, to Carlos Sastre, who also built his success on the famous road with 21 bends in 2008, the list of winners of L’Alpe-d’Huez groups together the names of legendary champions, with six winners of the Tour in total. In 2011, the ascent to the resort will nevertheless remind many of the race’s followers and viewers of the heated exchange between Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon during the 1984 Tour. “The intellectual” with round glasses was the French Champion at that time, and perfectly manoeuvred his elder to secure the Yellow Jersey at the summit. Although the Colombian rider Luis Herrera went over the finishing line 49 seconds ahead of him, Fignon had just gained the decisive upper hand and had achieved one of his greatest performances.
• Website of the Town Hall