Guy, Simon, Joe, Nicholas, Chris & Ian conquer Alpe D'Huez

It started with a chat on a Saturday spin. Simon floated the question – “would you be on for a trip to the Alps after the Summer?”.  A WhatsApp reminder after the June bank holiday got things moving, and by the start of July, six of us had booked flights to Lyon.  A taxi transfer (MV TRANSPORT) was engaged to get us to Bourg d’Oisans, two 3-bedroom chalets were reserved at Camping Rencontre Du Soleil (thanks to Sinéad Kennedy for the recommendation) and bike hire was organised. The Orwell Leisure Climbing Challenge became a training program, and our Tuesday evening hill cycles became a bit more ambitious.

Tuesday 18th September: Chris, Guy, Ian, Joe, Nick & Simon took a 7am Aer Lingus flight to Lyon. By mid afternoon we were on a gentle 20km spin to check out our full carbon all Ultegra Wilier or Battaglin rental bikes (50/34 Compact with an 11-34T sprocket).

Wednesday began with a 30minute warm up spin before taking on the mythical route up to Alpe d’Huez. 1100m of ascent through the 21 bends over 13.8km. The start is marked by a line on the road, and the climbing starts immediately. The first 5 bends are tough (12%) but then there is a bit of a breather around La Garde and the climb drops to a mere 8% (the average for the full segment). It’s a relentless push, but it helps to count down the numbered turns and the exit of each bend is a little easier – a good chance to take a quick drink and then keep pushing. 

I stopped at the water fountain in Huez village to refill my bidons. Knowing this is over half way, the confidence grows and the adrenaline got me to the tourist office in Alpe d’Huez, then on to the TdeF finish. High fives all round, photos taken it was time for coffee and a chance to buy some kit (if you have done the climb you may as well brag about it).

From Alpe d’Huez we headed up the Col de Sarenne (1999m) which was followed by a very enjoyable 25km downhill back to base.

The Croix de Fer conquered!

On Thursday we set out with a nice flat spin to Lac du Vernay after which we started climbing up the Col du Glandon. This was another long grind with a couple of descents along the way. I don’t know if I was glad of the breaks or grumpy that I would have climbs on the way home. 24km later we arrived at le Chalet du Glandon (about 300m from the top). We decided to stop for an ice-cold Coke here before pushing on to Col de la Croix de Fer (2067m).  The views on this route were stunning.  Following the required photos it was a quick downhill back to the Chalet for lunch taking in the Glandon summit (1924m) on the way. The downhill from here was exhilarating.  With fewer, wider bends it was possible to maintain impressive speeds.

The route for Friday was debated at length over dinner.  It was a choice between Col du Galibier or some recommended scenic routes closer to Bourg d’Doisans.  (The Galibier would mean a steady 35km drag on a relatively busy road to get to the bottom of the iconic 8km climb).  Guy & Ian had been up the Galibier previously – so they opted for the local Pas de la Confession and Balcons d’Auris routes. Chris, Joe, Nick & Simon decided that the Galibier was a must.

Friday we set out early, with a plan to break the Galibier route into sections.  26km to La Grave with about 700m of elevation gained.  Here we stopped for coffee and a croissant.  Then we rode 11km to Col du Lauteret (to 2058m). Fuelled with Coke and Snickers we attacked the last 8km to the top at 2642m. Again, the scenery was beautiful, a cool breeze was welcome as we ascended, and the sound of cowbells was a pleasant distraction. The last 300m spikes out at 13% but by that point the work was all but done. After the photos had been taken we had 45km of downhill to look forward to.

4 of our 6 heroes on the Galibier

Saturday was a lovely lazy day - return the bikes, wander round Bourg d’Oisans, and return home grinning from ear to ear.  We had ascended 5600m in about 250km, including the legendary climbs of Alpe d’Huez, Glandon, Croix de Fer and Galibier.  Dozing on the flight home I'm sure I heard the question – “would you be on for a trip to the Stelvio …..?”.

 

Resources:

Oisans Tourisme brochure “Cyclo en Oisans”: https://uk.bike-oisans.com/cycling/road-cycle-routes

MV Transport: https://mvtransport.fr/en/

Camping A la Rencontre du Soleil: https://www.rencontre-du-soleil.com/fr/

 

Models:

Joe Fitzpatrick

Simon Kelehan

Guy McDonnell

Nicholas Hughes

Chris Connaughton

Ian McClure

 

 

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