Tour de France - Stage 19 guide: Alpe d'Huez ahead

Fri, 22 Jul 01:30:00 2011

Thomas Voeckler of France is expected to surrender his yellow jersey as the Tour de France reaches the iconic Alpe d'Huez on stage 19.

Tour de France - Stage 19 guide

Stage 19 – Fri, 22 July – Modane-Alpe d'Huez – 109km

Type: High mountains

Difficulty: *****

Details: If riding the Galibier once in one year wasn't enough, race organisers have decided to include the legendary climb for a second time in as many days – on this occasion from the "harder" opposite side. The HC ascent is preceded by the Cat.1 Col du Telegraphe (11.8km at 7%) and followed the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d'Huez (13.8km at 8%). Although not as long as some of the other big mountain stages in the 2011 race, this probably takes the title of the Tour's Queen Stage by virtue of including both the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez – two of the race's most famous climbs.

Watch out for: The fans – Alpe d'Huez attracts more and more spectators each year, many of them arriving days in advance to bag the best roadside spots. Anyone who wins atop Alpe d'Huez not only has to tame the mountain, they have to fight their way through a sea of spectators and try and win them over in the process. One drop in concentration and your chances could be over.

Prediction: With eight Dutch winners in the first 14 visits, Alpe d'Huez was soon tagged the "Dutch Mountain". That said, the last Dutchman to win here was Gert-Jan Theunisse back in 1989. The only current rider from the Netherlands who looks capable of reappropriating the mountain is Rabobank's Robert Gesink if he has recovered from a crash-filled first week. Although who would bet against Johnny "Barbed Wire" Hoogerland? Dutchmen aside, both Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans will be men to watch - while Alberto Contador, the wounded Spanish dog, may want to have his final say in this year's race.

History: In 1999, Italy's Giuseppe Guerini was riding to a solo victory atop Alpe d'Huez when he collided with a German photographer who jumped out into his path to take a snap. Despite the clash, Guerini managed to get back on his bike and hold on to the win ahead of Russia's Pavel Tonkov – but the episode was a reminder of just how large a role the fans potentially have in deciding the outcome at Alpe d'Huez. Ask Lance Armstrong – the American was spat at by fans on his way to winning the 2004 time trial to Alpe d'Huez.

Eurosport / Reuters

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