Join me from 10pm AEST for stage 18 of the Tour de France as riders face the challenge of ascending Alpe D’Huez, not once but twice in a single stage.
As the Tour draws to its conclusion this Sunday on the Champs Elysee, riders will face a grueling 168.5 kilometre ride from Gap to the legendary summit of Alpe D’Huez.
Alpe D’Heuz may lack the atmosphere of the extraterrestrial landscape of Mont Ventoux and that great mountain’s tragic history, but its beauty as a cycling backdrop is unmistakable.
At 13.8 kilometres, with a gradient of 8.1%, this mountain is made all the more beautiful by the 21 hairpin bends. Double this to forty two as the riders ascend twice and we are in for some magical viewing.
The stage will begin at Gap, where stage 16, won by Movistar’s Rui Costa left off. Before reaching the first ascent of Alpe D’Huez, at the 118.5 kilometre mark, riders will have summited the category two Col de Manse (6.6km @ 6.2%) at the 13 kilometre mark and the category three, Rampe du Monty (2.4km @ 8%), 45 kilometres in.
There will be a sprint at 104.5 kilometres at the base of the first ascent of Alpe D’Huez. Riders will briefly make a descent before heading straight into the category two, Col de Sarenne (3km @ 7.8%) after 127.5 kilometres of racing. The second ascent up Alpe D’Huez will begin at 155km.
A stage like today’s will suit Alberto Contador and as I’ve said on many occasions, attacks from the Spaniard are always on the cards. It will be interesting to see what advances he makes. Froome has consistently shown, though, that he can beat those challenges.
We are in for a battle royal as Froome will undoubtedly be spending the day facing off challenge from his new shadow, Contador.
Expect the peloton to be in groups scattered along the road like leaves falling from autumn trees. This will be a day the sprinters will wondering why they were given such a dynamic and exciting talent, only to be tormented by the pitfalls of their body’s composition to be being more suited to racing fast on the flats.
The mountain goats of the peloton, on the other hand, will think all of their Christmas’s have come at once. They will be pushed to their limits but happy and elated that their natural talents will be on display in such a scenic environment.
As we’ve seen through all of the mountain stages so far, Chris Froome is the man to beat in the mountains and I expect today will be the same.
Join me from 10pm AEST for the live blog of stage 18.