"This climb was my dream, it's a stage that everyone ticks off. I couldn't hear anything on the earpiece - with the noise of the crowd, I didn't have the gaps, I was blind, there was a lot of stress."
Thibaut Pinot (2015)
Thibaut Pinot's achievement
Thibaut Pinot's 2015 Tour de France looked more like an obstacle course than a cycling race, from the terrible crash of his teammate William Bonnet, to mechanical problems and health troubles. Before the penultimate stage of the Tour, he was positioned 8 minutes behind the overall leader and could only hope for a stage win.
Thibaut Pinot got himself out of the pack with a counter-attacking group on the descent of the Croix-de-Fer, the first 'Hors Category' col of the day, and finds himself in a good position. At the bottom of the Alpe d'Huez, he sits 1 minute and 15 seconds behind his compatriot Alexandre Geniez, alone at the front. Along with the Canadian, Ryder Hesjedal, Pinot worked to catch Geniez with 9km to go. Then, at 6.3km, Pinot unhooked the Canadian rider who never managed to comeback. The Frenchman flew to a prestigious victory and concluded this cursed Tour de France in the most beautiful way.
Chris Froome holds off Nairo Quintana
It was a mythical, magical and legendary victory for Pinot but the 20th stage of the 2015 Tour witnessed another great show. Cycling fans also enjoyed the insane battle for the general classification between Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome. With a 2 minute and 33 second lead over rival, Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome seemed to be in control heading into the 20th stage. But the Colombian climber was not to be underestimated. Quintana set the stage on fire on the penultimate climb, before giving everything on the famous Alpe d'Huez.
Froome gave up some ground, letting his rival go who proved too strong for him. The long-distance match was on! Supported by his Sky armada teammates, Wout Poels and Richie Porte, Froome managed to hold onto his advantage, or rather what was left of it. After a hard fight and a memorable show on the 21 switchbacks of the Alpe d'Huez, the British professional managed to keep the yellow jersey with a final gap of 1 minute and 13 seconds.
Quintana: the strongest but the loser of the day
Thibaut Pinot's stage victory and Chris Froome's second Tour de France victory at the end of the 20th stage in 2015 was one for the history books. However, it was Nairo Quintana who was the strongest, posting the fastest time up the Alpe d'Huez. He flew up the 13.8km, 8.1% gradient climb in just 39 minutes and 13 seconds and at an astonishing 21km/h average.
"I think I lost the Tour in the first week. But I'm still happy. Second is not so bad..."
Nairo Quintana (2015)
But Nairo Quintana was just a runner-up that day. He crossed the finish line just 19 seconds behind the French rider, Pinot. Imagine the suspense of cycling fans around the world as this breathtaking final between the French, British and Colombian riders played out. Imagine if Quintana had been just 1 minute and 13 seconds faster that day, earning himself both the stage win and the overall Tour win. Ifs and buts aside, one thing is certain - the 2015 Tour de France provided a breathtaking and legendary final with Nairo Quintana the main actor and the Alpe d'Huez climb the main scene.
What if you were the one to make a mark on the Alpe d'Huez in 2022? As the first 3-day event on our calendar next year, the question is whether you are ready to tackle the 21 switchbacks of this iconic climb?