21 Hairpins ↑ all posts

21 Hairpins

Bourg d’Oisans lies right at the base of the road to Alpe d’Huez, probably the most famous of the Tour de France climbs. This has been the scene of classic cycling battles over the years, with each of the 21 hairpins named for stage winners such as Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong. The corners are all numbered starting with 21 and ending at corner 0 in Alpe d’Huez at the top of the hill. This is the world’s slowest and most painful countdown, and it starts with the steepest section which doesn’t help. I settled into a rhythm after corner 19, maintaining around 8-9 km/h. Humbling to realise that Pantani climbed the whole route at almost 2.5 times this speed. The hairpins are typically wide and flat at the outer edges providing some relief but too soon the hill begins again. Slowly the town approaches, and the corner numbers drop into single digits. Really going for it now as I hit corner 1, realising that the end is in sight. With legs screaming for relief and gasping for air I crest the hill into the flat street in town past exhausted cyclists sitting at cafes. The Tour finish is actually another 1.5km up through the town but I’m in climbing mode now so I push on for completeness. Final time 1:21:56, next time under an hour!