Alpe-d'Huez and cycling
July 18 th 2013 - 00:00
The Tour is in its 39th edition when, for the first time in 1952, the course tries a new challenge, the 21 turns of l'Alpe d'Huez. The 262-kms Lausanne - Alpe d'Huez stage is the first mountain finish of the edition and was as such particularly feared by the riders. In spite of the victory by Fausto Coppi, who became the first man to achieve the triple feat of winning the stage, taking the yellow jersey and finally winning the tour, the climb did not impress the fans or organisers as much as it does today.
Coppi might be to blame. He climbed so comfortably that the organisers may have thought that the climb was finally too easy.
"If you were on Friday on the steep slopes leading to l'Alpe d'Huez and you saw Coppi ride past, straight up on his bike, the hands up on the handle-bars, you might have told yourself: I have been lied to! This road is flat!," wrte Max Favalelli, a special-envoy on the stage.
The campionissimo chose the tactics which his followers emulated. He left Geminiani and Robic break away early to the point of exhaustion before attacking. Even former Tour winner Andre Leducq was impressed: "I was watching him climb the turns of l'Alpe d'Huez with Robic, whom he had just caught after his attack at the foot of the climb, in his wake. His cheeks were pink, his stare clear, his leg light. Behind him only suffering men were left. It must be fantastic the feeling of gliding, to have everybody else at one's mercy."
At the finish, Coppi unwittingly started a tradition. Three Italians were topping the GC, Coppi, Carrea and Magni. With seven stage victories in l'Alpe, the Italians are only one short of the Dutch and can rightfully claim the climb as their own too.