Alpe d’Huez, Pogacar’s revenge or the first French victory?

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After an 11th stage marked by the failures of the outgoing double winner Tadej Pogacar, the peloton takes, on Thursday, one of the most classic routes of the event, between Briançon and the resort of Oisans. The final climb, Alpe d’Huez, could smile on a Frenchman or be the place of the resurrection of the young Slovenian dispossessed of the yellow.

It’s a well-known trilogy for cycling enthusiasts. A Tour de France classic which is making a comeback on Thursday July 14, the national holiday, between Briançon and the resort of Oisans. Galibier, Croix-de-Fer, Alpe d’Huez: the trilogy of off-category climbs has marked the history of the Grande Boucle. With, for ultimate reference, the arrival of Bernard Hinault and the American Greg LeMond, hand in hand, in 1986.

The day after a dantesque stage concluded at Granon, which saw Tadej Pogacar be stripped of his yellow jersey by Jubo-Visma and Jonas Vingaard, the Slovenian could approach the stage with revenge. For their part, the French riders, still looking for a first victory, had to be on the move.

Twenty-one turns to write history

The first pass of the day should not disorient the runners. The Galibier, the highest point of this edition at an altitude of 2,642 meters is climbed for the second time in two days (23 km at 5.1%), but by the Lautaret step on its southern slope , less steep than the northern slope traveled by the peloton on Wednesday. The long descent to the Maurienne then precedes the interminable Croix-de-Fer (29 km at 5.2%), another major climb, followed by an endless descent to the Romanche valley.

There still remains the final piece of bravery, the 13.8 km climb to Alpe d’Huez, at an average gradient of 8.1% along the 21 numbered bends which lead to the finish.

Four years after the victory of Briton Geraint Thomas, in the sound and fury of the climb – fractured vertebra for Vincenzo Nibali – the Tour thus reconnects with the legendary climb, 70 years after the initial success of “campionissimo” Fausto Coppi.

July 14 in blue white red?

At the end of the stage which saw her give in to her rival, Tadej Pogacar already refused to capitulate: “They ran well”, he conceded before continuing. “There is a big gap, but it will be an interesting duel. I lost three minutes today, but I can come back. It will be nice to follow this duel on television. From tomorrow, I will recover the attack.”

However, he will not be the only one who wants to shine. On this national holiday, the French will see a duty to shine. Especially since the climb to Alpe d’Huez traditionally works well for them. Three of the last four stage winners there were French: Pierre Rolland in 2011, Christophe Riblon in 2013 and Thibaut Pinot in 2015 won before the success of Briton Geraint Thomas in 2018.

Thibaut Pinot has also checked off this stage in the calendar. He who hunts a success for actor his resurrection after two complicated years. The 2015 winner will be able to rely on another favorable statistic: Of the 68 stages contested on a national holiday since 1947, 18 have been won by French people, i.e. a victory percentage of 26.5%.

However, in sport, favorable statistics are far from everything. In the end, this is regulated with the pedal.

With AFP


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