July 20, 2004
Intro to L'Alpe d'Huez
USA Today offers a nice intro to L'Alpe d'Huez, including Andy Hampsten's legendary win there in 1992, and Pantani's and Armstrong's records on the mountain: Pantani - 37:35, Armstrong - 38:01.
It's going to be interesting to see how times are tomorrow, when riders will start the climb comparatively fresh, but will ride alone almost the entire way.
It is the race's best-attended segment and draws the most rabid fans. Even the grand finale on Paris' Champs-Elysees draws a crowd half the size.
And for all of Paris' romance and glamour, L'Alpe d'Huez's mountain setting may be the Tour's most dramatic. In addition to the scenery, fans along the route, a two-lane, asphalt road, are within touching distance of the riders as they pass. In some sections of the course, riders appear to be laboring through a tunnel of humanity.
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