Coppi still up there with the greats on Alpe d’Huez
Looking at the chart below its possible to see that, although Fausto Coppi rode his bike in a completely different generation to the rest of these champions he is still up there with the best in ascents of Alpe d’Huez. That is why he is my champion of champions.
Fastest Alpe d’Huez ascents
The climb has been timed since 1994 so earlier times are subject to discussion. From 1994 to 1997 the climb was timed from 14.5 km from the finish. Since 1999 photo-finish has been used from 14 km. Other times have been taken 13.8 km from the summit, which is the start of the climb. Others have been taken from the junction 700m from the start.
These variations have led to a debate. Pantani’s 37m 35s has been cited by Procycling and World Cycling Productions, publisher of Tour de France DVDs, and by Cycle Sport. In a biography of Pantani, Matt Rendell notes Pantani at: 1994 – 38m 0s; 1995 – 38m 4s; 1997 – 37m 35s. The Alpe tourist association describes the climb as 14.454 km and lists Pantani’s 37m 35s (23.08 km/h) as the record.
Other sources give Pantani’s times from 1994, 1995 and 1997 as the fastest, based on timings adjusted for the 13.8 km. Such sources list Pantani’s time in 1995 as the record at 36m 40s. In Blazing Saddles, Rendell has changed his view and listed it as 36m 50s as does CyclingNews. Second, third, and fourth fastest are Pantani in 1997 (36m 5s), Pantani in 1994 (37m 15s) and Jan Ullrich in 1997 (37m 30s). Armstrong’s time in 2004 (37m 36s) makes him fifth fastest, highlighting how the 1990s had faster ascents than other eras.
A number of cycling publications cite times prior to 1994, although distances are typically not included, making comparisons difficult. Coppi has been listed with 45m 22s for 1952.
In the 1980s Gert-Jan Theunisse, Pedro Delgado, Luis Herrera, and Laurent Fignon rode in times stated to be faster than Coppi’s, but still not breaking 40m. Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault have been reported as having the times of 48m 0s in 1986.
It was not until Gianni Bugno and Miguel Indurain in 1991, that times faster than 40m were reported, including in the 39m range for Bjarne Riis in 1995 and Richard Virenque in 1997. For 2006, Floyd Landis was listed at 38’34” and Andreas Kloden at 38m 35s.
Procycling listed Fränk Schleck in 2006 as 40m 46s, the first in more than 40 minutes since 1994. The increased speed in the 1990s had been attributed to Erythropoietin or EPO. Riders with sub-40m times, such as Alex Zülle, Riis, and Virenque, have admitted using such products. Landis subsequently had a positive drugs test. There is also strong evidence that Pantani took EPO.
* The 2004 stage was an individual time trial.
** Convicted of doping in that particular Tour de France.