Les Deux-Alpes – La Plagne

Flying Start: 11:45 a.m. on N.91

Avenue de la Muzelle, Les Deux-Alpes

By 179.5km

Les Deux-Alpes - La Plagne

Les Deux-Alpes – La Plagne


Flying Start: 11:45 a.m. on N.91

Photo Gallery


Course: This is by far the toughest stage of the 2002 Tour. Only
three climbs, but what climbs they are. Right from the start the uphill
work begins. First comes the long haul up the rugged valley of the Romanche,
through deep gorges and tunnels to the mountain town of La Grave. There
the road steepens on its way up to the Col du Lauteret before turning left
up the final 9km of the mighty Col du Galibier, the highest point of the
Tour at 8677 feet. That’s more than two hours of climbing, rising through
5216 feet in 34km at almost 5 percent. Now comes more than 50km of downhill,
dropping some 7000 feet, first down the Galibier, then, after a short uphill,
down the Télégraphe to the Maurienne valley. Climb No. 2
is the Col de la Madeleine, which is almost 20km at 8 percent, followed
by a steep plunge on narrow roads to the Isère River. Perhaps there
will be some regrouping on the 30km of valley roads, but then comes climb
No. 3, 20km at over 6 percent to La Plagne. In all, the racers have to
climb 15,351 feet in a stage of 179.5km.

History: There have been three stage finishes at La Plagne, a
ski resort on the south side of the Isère valley. In 1984, a day
after he took the yellow jersey at L’Alpe d’Huez, Laurent Fignon won stage
16 at La Plagne by 1:04 over Switzerland’s Jean-Marie Grezet, with LeMond,
riding his first Tour, in third. In 1987, Fignon won again, outsprinting
Spaniard Anselmo Fuerte — but behind them a dramatic battle was being played
between the riders first and second in GC, Delgado and Stephen Roche. Delgado,
in yellow, rode away from Roche early in the climb and seemed to be on
his way to winning the Tour. But he faltered, and Roche surged, with the
Irishman needing oxygen after collapsing on  the line. In 1995, this
was the first mountain stage, won by Zülle after a long breakaway;
behind him Induráin made one of the fastest climbs of his career
to take second, at 2:02, while Pavel Tonkov was in third, at 4:11.

Favorites: Did anyone say Armstrong?