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2011 TDF: Stage 19 - Modane - Alpe-dÂ’Huez

2011 TDF: Stage 19 - Modane - Alpe-d’Huez

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Armageddon- The final battle.


This has been the closest Tour de France in generations, and with the race almost run, the destiny of the Mailot Jaune still hangs in the balance.

Three top Grand Tour riders lie within striking distance of eachother, while a wildcard with the whole country behind him is also in the mix. Victory hangs within reach for all of them, and its destination will be decided by one final battle.

The big mountains of France are coming to an end. On previous stages, it wasn’t just the time that mattered. Fans were trying to work out who looked good, who was coming into form, who would get a mental boost from their efforts. Who would finally bring it in the Alpes?

The time for speculating is over. There are no more mountains after this. It will be decided here, and for its grand finale, the Tour has saved its greatest challenge.

Brutal gradients push the riders to the limit from the start. Mountains take them to insane altitudes. Dangerous descents bring them back down to earth again, before taking them straight back into hell.

This one is short steep and to the point. No flats. No playing around In the Vineyards of France. No directing the route around towns for revenue.

The time for that has come and gone. Stage 19 has one purpose.

To decide the 2011 Tour de France.

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The stage starts in Modane, and so does the racing. The first climb of the day, stands right in front of the riders, casting a giant shadow over the startline, and over the riders immediate wellbeing.

Be it Flanders Roubaix or a Tour stage, Bycicle races tend to offer a hundred or so kilometers before the main challenges present themselves. No time for that here, theres a Grand Tour to decide, and a 14km descent into Saint Michel d Mauriene will have to suffice, before the col du Telegraphe turns the road up.
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Despite the short warmup, the riders will have to be ready. The telegraphes hardest grades hit immediately, slowing the peloton down before the slightly lower grades grind away at them. With 12km of climbing at an average of 7.1% its pretty difficult for a cat 1 and considering its role in the stage as a whole it will do some damage. For while the KOM banner might say they’ve gotten over the mountain, in reality, they’ve just gotten started. Theres a short descent of 3km before the Tour gets back on the Galibier.


They say the Solour is the Aubisques little borther. The telegraphe is Galibiers little sister. From bottom to top it has moved the riders up 800m in altitude. The Galibier takes over now and there is a further 1100m still to go.

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This is however not the same climb the riders will have taken on Thursday. With 18km at 6.8% The Galibier ascent from Valloire is slightly shorter but significantly steeper than the one from Le Monterier.

We have seen the Galibier from its weaker side, now lets see what its really made of.

Like Thursdays version, this ascent into Galibier starts of relatively easy with 2 and 3% grades, though a section at 9.5% is included, but it turns decisively more steeper stuff fairly early on. The next 4 or so killometers come in between 7 and 8 % and as the climb moves above 2000m altitudes the grades gets steeper yet.
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On Thursday many thought the Galibier wouldn’t be steep enough climb to do enough damage. On Friday it’s a different story. The final 8km come in at an average of 8.1% including a brutal final kilometre of 9.7% that leaves the riders 2556 m above sea level.

The descent of the Galibier is long, but relatively tranquil. There will be tension in the air however, as there will be only one thing on everybodies minds. The long road down brings the race to one final ascent.

The mountains come to an end with a hors catergory mtf.

Just before the road turns back up, there is one final loose end. The last sprint before Paris comes at Bourge d oisants in a valley between two major Alpine beasts. Who says Prudehome doesn’t have a sense of humour.
The riders wont be laughing however, as standing in front of them is the setting for the Great showdown.

The mountain that is used to measure the greats of all eras against eachother.

The mountain that brings out the fans in their millions.

The mountain that has been known as the Mecca of world cycling, since none other than Fausto Coppi became the first person to conquer its ascent, 59 years ago.

In 2011, the destination of world sport’s grandest individual prize, will be decided on.

L Alpe D huez.
 
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Alpe is not the steepest climb in the world, nor its longest, but it scores pretty highly in both, and its 14 km at 7.9%, make it the perfect finish to an extraordinary Tour.

It is the most prestigious stage finish in world cycling, and what has contributed as much to this status as the difficulty of the climb is the history.

During the 1940’s this mountain's role as a popular ski resort helped boost the economic situation in the area and provide business on the mountain top. On the back of this success, local businesses decided to bid to host a stage finish of the Tour de France. Their request was granted and in 1952 it became the first Mountain top finish in the Tour de France.

What helped make Alpe d huez an instant great was the fact that its debut performance produced a brilliant stage and a win for none other than Il Campionissimo, the winner of that years Tour.

The history of the mountain is for ever present as the riders ride up Alpe d huez. At every turn they pass sections where cycling greats of the past launched their attacks.

The climb has been used 26 times in the Tour since then, and greats such as Hinault, Pantani and Armstrong have added their name to the victory list.

This is a stage victory nobody forgets.

The first kilometre of the climb comes in at 2% before the ascent really begins with the second kilometer at 11%. While many of todays riders prefer to get a good way up the climb before they begin the festivities, on Alpe d huez, any section can be good for an attack. The last time the Tour came here, it was at this point already that Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov attacked out of the pack.



The next kilometer is 10% followed by one of 7.7%. Unlike most of the climbs in the Tour, L’alpe is anything but consistant, mixing in high grades with average ones throughout its ascent and this helps make it much more difficult than its initial average gradient suggests. Those in the fight for the Maillot Jaune should take note. It was here that Sastres high pace dropped Menchov to go it alone to the finish. Its how the 2008 Tour was won.

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The next kilometre moves the grades back into double figures at 10.4%. It is a good place to attack. Here in 1997, Il Pirata flew away from the pack in the mountains fastest recorded ascent.

But what helps make Alpe even more challenging are the hairpins. There are no fewer than 21 and up until Giuseppe Guerini each winner had the honour of having a hairpin named after them. Since then, each winner doesn’t get an entire hairpin to himself, but rather gets the latest hairpin conamed with its corresponding legend . Perhaps an even greater honour.


The next two kilometers are 8% while kilometer 8 is easier yet at 7.2%. By now over half the climb has been completed and attacks should have started flying. But the following kilometre at 9.5% provides perhaps the greatest opportunity for those needing time.

True to its nature, the mountain throws in an easier kilometre at 6.8 % before another brutal one at 9.9. Those who have not yet succeeded in dropping their competition need not panic. This is where Coppi dropped his competition 59 years ago.

One other aspect to the race that has become a tradition at Alpe d huez are the fans. In cycling, individuals who line the route are known as fans. On L Alpe, those who line its route become pilgrims. From all over the world, they come in their thousands, to create an atmosphere unmatched anywhere in world sport.

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The final kilometre comes in at a relatively low 5.1% allowing the victor to build momentum for the celebration. As he passes the final hairpin, he will see the famous finish. It was here that Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond crossed hand in hand in 1986. The victor will be following in the footseps of some of the great legends of the sport, while all eyes turn to the clock and the remaining riders in the fight for the yellow jersey.

Riders can make their careers by winning on Alpe d huez.

They can make their careers by winning the Tour de France.

On Friday both are on the line.

If cycling is your one religion.

Worship at the highest altar.
 
Jul 28, 2010
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Bobby G. will conquer the Dutch Mountain, and the forum will either explode or be ridiculously peaceful. :D

Looking forward to more possible preview Hitch!! YOU DA MAN!!

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(Funny, I Google Imaged "You da man", and a picture of Andy Schleck was a few pictures down!! It was an old one though! :p)
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Perhaps worth noting that Gesink, Ten Dam and LuLu all rode the sprinter's bus in on Stage 17. Saving their energy for a Rabo assault on the Alpe? Might be the best they could salvage from this Tour for their Dutch fan base.
 
Feb 14, 2010
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Great job on the introduction. I hope this will be the second of two epic days of battles, but it could still all come down to Saturday's Time Trial.
 
May 25, 2010
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Haha, excellent Hitch, certainly more eloquent than I. Shows you've seen more tours than myself too. :D

Can't wait for the Alpe, when they went up in '03 it cemented my love for cycling.
 

Barrus

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Aaah, Hitch I expected little stories about each of the contenders as well, or will you do that after today's stage? I was really looking forward to your pieces on Sammie and Contador :(

But all in all, this is the kind of stage thread that I allways wait for, it almost feels like a Giro thread :p
 
Great Intro. I hope it does not turn into Ventoux 09. Go Cadel. I don't know if Contador will be well suited to this climb. I don't think he has raced it since 05 as he did not compete in 06/08. Therefore i expect him to not go so well on it even if he was on great form which is doubtable. I think it would have suited Gesink if he was on top form. Wiggins would have lost heaps of time on here.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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brianf7 said:
Contadore will do what Sastra done a few years ago just hope Cadel can go with him All organised by Riis

I was thinking the same thing, one massive attack by going all out on the Alpe. I don't want to remember the 2008 Alpe D'Huez stage. That wasn't very fun to watch!:(
 
on3m@n@rmy said:
Aaaaaaaah. I woulda like to see Hitch's original title.

I was just being silly. Instead of TDF stage 19 i wrote TDF Act 19 Scene 1.

greenedge said:
I don't know if Contador will be well suited to this climb. I don't think he has raced it since 05 as he did not compete in 06/08. Therefore i expect him to not go so well on it even if he was on great form which is doubtable. I think it would have suited Gesink if he was on top form.

Contador won here in the Dauphine 2010;)
 

Barrus

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kjetilraknerud said:
Correct, Brajkovic peaked for the Dauphine last year.

And Contador was obviously not in great shape last year. If what Riis is saying is true, that Contador is in better shape than last year, he might be able to blow up people on the Alpe.