Thursday July 18th, 2013

Stage 18Gap / Alpe-d'Huez

Start 12h30 GMT 2+

The answer? 42!

Sporting stakes17.07.2013Stage 18- Gap / Alpe-d??Huez

“The former riders in my team didn't want it,” said Christian Prudhomme about the idea of staging a short stage to Alpe d'Huez in the 100th edition. The race director takes up the story of how an exciting concept was hatched.

“I told my team, ‘We'll do only a little more than 100 kilometres to Alpe d'Huez and they told me, ‘No, it's too short.' I called Bernard Thévenét and said, ‘Bernard, help…!' because he, a two-time champion of the Tour has a global view. And just after he took over the lead from Eddy Merckx at Pra Loup in 1975, the day after, there was a stage that was only 107km. In my chat with him, I said, ‘Please, talk to the ex-riders from my team.'

“He explained to them what it can be. But Thierry Gouvenou (who is part of the planning committee) didn't agree. He told me, ‘It's too short. If you want to do this stage, you must do Alpe d'Huez twice!'

“This was in April 2010, and I looked at him and said, ‘What an idea! Marvellous – but not for 2011, but 2013 because it will be the 100th edition of the Tour.' That's the story of the 42 hairpins for what will be a great stage in 2013.”

* * * * *

Anyone who knows anything about the Tour de France recognises that this climb is one that ignites the passions of the fans perhaps more than any other. It is the site of the first mountain top finish of the race and it is destined to have a significant impact on the race.

As early as the Grand Départ in Corsica riders were talking about trying to ensure that they had energy to spare for stage 18. The contest begins early with another trip up the col de Manse (as used at the end of stage 16) before the journey to Isère were riders will be either climbing or descending. We've seen enough of Alberto Contador's antics already to know that he has not yet conceded defeat to Chris Froome and now that the Spaniard is up to second overall, with his team-mate Roman Kreuziger in third, he's going to be more inspired than ever.

When Alpe d'Huez was the final climb of a short stage in 2011, it was Contador who was on the attack early but his rivals had the answer and the Spaniard's gains were minimal. Two years later, his rivals have changed but his approach will be the same: attack and challenge, be daring and bold. And maybe, just maybe, Froome will fold.

Stage 18 Gap / Alpe-d'Huez

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 21

Classifications after the stage 21

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These five riders have won sprint stages of the 100th Tour de France. Of these five, who do you think will win in Paris?

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