It’s July 20, 1982. Beat Breu, a 24-year-old from Tour de France, sets off on a mission in Orcières, France. He wants to be the first Swiss to conquer the Alps d’Huez, to beat the legendary mountain. “My sports director said at the time: ‘If I win today, you will be immortalized in the history books!'” Breu recalls. It didn’t relieve the pressure, but it didn’t break me.” And indeed: St. Gallen managed to achieve this, triumphing at 1,850 meters above sea level – to be the first Swiss and to this day the last Swiss.
Now the tour returns to Alpe d’Huez. For the 31st time, the 21 “devil curves”, as the distinctive serpentines are called, lead to the finish line. Pro: Unfortunately, the four Swiss are not shy in the Tour de France. So I will likely remain the last Swiss winner of the Alpe d’Huez for at least another year.”
Farmers went on strike, Breu . attacked
Breu won’t miss this bike scene on Thursday afternoon – he’ll be sitting in front of the TV. “With beer in hand,” he says. And who knows, maybe he’ll rethink that important summer moment 40 years ago. “It was a fun day. In the valley, farmers were beating up, blocking the streets with tractors — with no idea why. We sat on the asphalt for an hour and a half waiting to start,” the 64-year-old said.
When it finally started, many eyes were on Breu. No wonder, because he had already won a mountain stage four days ago. Until the foot of the final climb, at Le Bourg d’Oisons at 718 meters above sea level, the peloton remains enclosed – just as you like. “But I did not know the mountain. Then my teammate Marcel Rosenberger showed me: “Here you are!” I looked up and didn’t know if I should be happy or scared.
Breu takes the heart in hand. Already in the first 21 curves he attacks – the field explodes. But the stage is still far from decisive. Because: The mountain flea has quite a bit of lead, maybe 15 seconds. Robert Alban is his closest rival, the Frenchman managing to catch up twice. “He never gave up, you bastard. I turned away from him again, but he was always breathing through my neck.”
They cried nonstop in my ear.
Breu is still the strongest today. It leads nearly 200,000 raucous fans to the greatest victory of his life. At that time there were no barriers, not even at the top. It was crazy, people were screaming in my ears nonstop. And sometimes I didn’t even see where I was going. Fortunately, I had a motorbike in front of me, and it made my way through the crowd.”
In the end, Breu leads Alban in the small winter sports resort by 16 seconds. “Climbing is not the most difficult, but it is one of the most important things in cycling. I am proud of winning.” Did he become a star in Alpe d’Huez? Pro frequent. “A star? I have a problem with that word. No, I just stayed a cyclist.”
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