Cycling Alpe d'Huez (1860 metres)

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Sunday 8 October 2017

Cycling Alpe d'Huez (1860 metres)

Being one of the most iconic climbs of the Tour de France, I've wanted to cycle up Alpe d'Huez ever since we set off in 2014 but somehow our route never went that way before. And now it has. Given that there are probably more blog posts about this climb than any other in the Alps I see little point in waxing lyrical about the climb itself, it's many hairpin switchbacks, so will instead just share a few personal thoughts.

It's definitely not one of the hardest climbs we've done. The 8.1% average is relatively steep for a ski station climb but it feels like a lot of that comes from the opening kilometre. Once past the first few hairpins it really wasn't too tough at all. Also, as the climb is 'only' 13.2 km long, rising 1070 metres, the fact it is also relatively short compared to something like the Galibier, Izoard, Bonette etc. means that although it isn't 'easy' it is possible to keep a good rhythm going all the way to the top.

Visually the climb is very pretty, with good views down to the valley floor and the across to some snowy summits as well. We did the climb in Autumn, on a day when the sun was shining, so the trees were beautifully coloured which really made it feel special. The time of year also meant the road was very quiet, both of cyclists and cars. I only saw half a dozen other cyclists all the way up. I guess it would be fun to ride up with lots of other cyclists around to give a little extra motivation, but if the price of doing so is lots of cars then I'd stick with out of season.

The only slightly disappointing part of the entire ride was the actual finish, which was hard to find and somewhat lacklustre. I actually rode 15km to reach the sign as I got lost in the many streets of the Alpe d'Huez resort, which also took the edge of my pushing hard for the finish. Maybe there is something more to see in summer, but when I did find the sign it was a small, white plastic thing on top of a pole. There was no big 'Alpe d'Huez' sign such as you see on top of cols. But then, this isn't a col. It is a working ski resort that just so happens to have had some exciting racing from time to time, so it would be unfair to be too disappointed.

All in all it was a fun climb to do, fun to count down the twenty odd switchbacks named for different riders, and also to imagine the colourful days of Tour de France racing that often pass this way. Now, if I can just knock half an hour off my time.....

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