Fans from Holland gather at ‘Dutch Corner’ on Alpe d’Huez every time the race takes in the climb. The Irish plan to take over corner 10 this year in an effort to cheer and party as hard as the Dutch always have.
By Graham Healy
A group of Irish cycling fans have come together to try and start the idea of an “Irish corner” on Alpe d’Huez at this year’s Tour de France.
The iconic climb will feature on the 18th stage of this year’s race, when the riders will have to face two ascents of it. The aim of the group is to get as many Irish fans together in the one spot on July 18th to cheer on Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche.
The idea replicates the idea of Dutch Corner, which has been going for years on corner seven – the numbers start at 21 at the bottom of the climb.
Dutch Corner has become famed for its late night parties and carnival atmosphere and it’s hoped the Irish corner can compete with this.
Stephen O’Shea is one of the organisers of the gathering and said he had followed the example of the Dutch on the climb.
“They migrate in huge groups to the Tour de France, they all wear orange, they sing traditional Dutch songs, drink Dutch beer and have everything Dutch for a huge area of the road. They’ve been doing it for years and we want to rival it.
“The idea came from the Euros last year and looking at what the Irish football fans did and it’d be great if we could get something similar going. So the road will be covered in green and gold paint and we’d say bring bring as many flags, hammers, Italia ’90 jerseys will be popular, whatever. Morph suits are ideal too. But anything green is the message.”
Alpe d’Huez was first used in the 1952 race, but it wasn’t until the ‘70s that it became a regular feature of the race.
From 1976 Dutch cyclists won eight of the next 13 stages finishing on the mountain but haven’t had a stage win since Gert-Jan Theunisse won in 1989. Dutch fans still flock in droves to the mountain however.
As for Irish cyclists, despite Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche having numerous top GC finishes in the Tour, no Irish cyclist has managed to get a top-10 finish on the Alpe.
Hopefully, Martin or Roche can change that this year. Another feature of the climb, is that the winner gets a plaque placed on one of the hairpin bends to mark the achievement.
So the winner this year will get their name placed alongside that of Bernard Hinault on corner 15.
The climb is renowned for its atmosphere during the Tour, which is something that Mark Scanlon remarked upon in 2004. He had taken part in a time-trial from Bourg d’Oisans, and said afterwards: “The crowds were unbelievable. And there were loads of Irish supporters – it was great to see. Even the owner of the pub in my home town has come over to see me, and it was pretty good to see him at the side of the road.”
Scanlon finished the time-trial with a time of 45-27 on the day which gave him 65th on the stage. The winner that day was Lance Armstrong who has since been stripped of the win.
So, if any other Irish supporters are intending on going to Alpe d’Huez, then they should wear green and aim for corner 10.