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Alpe d’Huez, France

April 10th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Alpe d'Huez is a mountain in the Central French Alps, located on the territory of the commune of Huez, in the Isère département. Alpe d'Huez is also a famous ski resort 1850 metres (6,069 ft) high.

Alpe d'Huez is the most famous mountain climb in the Tour de France. While the tour route varies from year to year, l'Alpe d'Huez has hosted a stage finish almost every year since 1976. The Tour de France first finished a stage on l'Alpe d'Huez in 1952. That stage was won by the Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi.

The climb up Alpe d'Huez is 13.8 km at an average gradient of 8.1% with 21 hairpin bends marked with panels honouring the winners of each stage that has finished there. Having finished there for the 22nd time in 2001 the authorities have had to start again at the bottom with a double panel honouring Fausto Coppi and Lance Armstrong.

As the most legendary climb in recent Tour history, the Alpe has been the scene of chaotic crowds in the past 10 years. In 1999 Giuseppe Guerini won the stage despite being knocked off his bike by an over-enthusiastic spectator who stepped into his path to take a photograph (the photographer later sought out Guerini to apologize). The 2004 Tour de France route featured an individual time trial up Alpe d'Huez, which became a chaotic scene crowded with nearly a million fans, some of whom could not resist pushing their favorite rider toward the top. Armstrong won the stage and his time was only 1 second slower than the official record set by the late Marco Pantani of 37 minutes, 35 seconds.

Alpe d'Huez is also known as the "Dutch Mountain", a Dutchman having won there 8 of the first 14 finishes. Approximately one of every three fans on the mountain is from the Netherlands. The Dutch have won none of the last 11 stages finishing on Alpe d'Huez however; 6 were won by Italian riders, 3 by American riders, one by Spanish rider Iban Mayo, and the most recent by Fränk Schleck of Luxembourg.

The peak also serves as the finish of La Marmotte, a one-day, 175-km road cycle ride with well over 5000 m. of climbing. It is also used for downhill, or Alpine skiing.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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