In case you didn’t already know, Alpe d’Huez is often considered the most iconic climb in cycling. It was first used in the 1952 Tour de France, but didn’t reappear until 1976. Since then it has been used every year or so. Winning the Alpe d’Huez makes a rider’s career and cements his place in Tour history. While not the same as winning the whole Tour, it’s probably the next best thing.
The Alpe is not the hardest climbs Tour riders do, but it’s route and profile make it a memorable one. The “official” climb is 13.1 km at 8.1%. This is the route used in the Tour de France. There is a shorter route that most of the tourists do which stops in the village right next to shops and restaurants. Plus, there several podiums and signs for photo ops. Of course, I was planning on doing the official one…😉
I started my ride outside Grenoble with another guy from my tour group. We rode along D1091 to the village of Bourg d’Oisans, where the climb starts. The first few kms are the steepest. There are signs that tell you how far you have to go on the climb, but the Alpe is most famous for it’s 21 hairpin turns. Each one is named after a former Tour stage winner. I counted down the turns as I climbed.
I planned on hammering this climb, because I wanted to see how well I could do. Having a rest day before really helped my legs, and the weather was perfect. I set a good pace to start and just kept going with my eye on the power meter. The crowds of slower cyclists also kept me motivated as I passed them. I began to feel the climb around Dutch Corner. I knew that the gradients would get easier towards the finish. There were a few photographers out taking souvenir shots…here’s one of me…
Once I hit the village, I knew I wasn’t far from the finish. I started to dig for all that I had left. After the village, the climb gets kind of boring since there aren’t as many cyclists. I was pretty happy with my finish. My goal was to break one hour, which I did. My finishing time also put me in the top 2% of all climbers on Strava. It’s hard to believe that the top guys do this in <45 minutes!
I was zonked after my climb, but not completely dead. I rode around the top a bit before descending back down to the village to get something to eat and meet the rest of my tour group. Although I wanted to just ride back down to the bus, I got talked into riding the Col de Sarenne. That story will come in a later post…😊