The official historian of the Tour, Jacques Augendre, dubbed it the "Hollywood" climb and not everyone thought that was a compliment. The 21 hairpins coiling out of the Oisans valley to Alpe d'Huez have long since taken their place among the icons of the Tour, but to some the climb remains a newfangled, madeforTV gimmick, with none of the gravitas and little of the history of a Ventoux or a Galibier.
Their mistake is to place the Alpe in that company, and not to recognise its uniqueness. Because no other cycling arena can match its atmosphere. Nowhere else does the arrival of the Tour inspire such festivity, bring out such numbers, cause such electricity.
Every day of the year, on average, just over 300 amateur cyclists ride out of Bourg d'Oisans and onto the corkscrew. 13.9 kilometres with an average gradient of 8.2% and a maximum of 12. No amateur ever comes close to the rocket fuelled 37 minutes and 35 seconds set by Marco Pantani in 1997, but most are content just to have seen and conquered cycling's equivalent of the Walk of Fame. The hairpins count down from 21 as the road tacks up the mountainside, each one bearing the name of a former winner or winners on the Alpe. Number 7, on its own, is one of the great sporting theatres, a revelrous enclave of the Netherlands they call "Dutch corner".
Their noise accompanies the riders all the way to the summit. A motley arrangement of hotels and ski chalets builds in frequency to the peak of this most iconic of climbs.
The naysayers may cast eyes longingly south and east towards the higher, highborn Galibier, but Augendre was right about cycling's Hollywood Hill. And, yes, why shouldn't that be a compliment?