The legendary 21 Hairpins of Alpe d’Huez are climbed every year by tens of thousands of amateur cyclists. I had goose bumps the first time I climbed this biking Mecca.
But many people don’t realize there is a lot more to do than just climbing the usual Tour de France route.
The Map is explained below
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Here are five different ways to enjoy the Alpe
#1 – The Classic Route
Of course, if you are short of time, this is the route to choose. This is the route the pros do. Each of the 21 hairpins are labeled and named after a former stage winner. FYI, Often there is a pro photographer just before the finish. Remember to smile and act like it’s easy.
The Climb: 15.2 kms (9.4 miles); Ascent: 1,150 metres (3,770 feet)
Map: The Dark Blue Route
Tip for your first time: The first two kilometres are brutal. Make sure to warm-up before beginning the climb. And don’t let the excitement make you start out too hard.
#2 – Add Col de Poutran and Lac Besson
After you have finished congratulating yourself for climbing Alpe d’Huez, think about continuing up to Col de Poutran and Lac Besson above the town.
The Climb: 18.7 kms (11.6 miles); Ascent: 1,210 metres (3.970 feet)
Map: The Dark Blue Route and add Red Route
#3 – Alternate Route – Start Rochetaillee
There is a nice easier back way up Alpe d’Huez starting in Rochetaillee – the same start point as the fabulous Col de la Croix de Fer. Parts of this route are high along a steep cliff with great views (see the Google Earth link below the map above to view in 3D)
The Climb: 22.3 kms (13.9 miles); Ascent: 1,200 metres (3,940 feet)
Map: The Purple Route then join Black Route
#4 – Add Col de Sarenne
Another extension after climbing the classic route: think about continuing onto the beautiful and remote Col de Sarenne. The route is do-able on a road bike but it is fairly bumpy in places.
The Climb: 22.7 kms (14.1 miles); Ascent: 1,450 metres (4,760 feet)
Map: The Dark Blue Classic route then join the Green route to Col de Sarenne (follow signs to heliport in Alpe d’Huez)
#5 – Col de la Sarenne from the East Side
Starting in Bourg d’Oisans, head south towards Col de Lautaret. After crossing the dam, turn left towards Mizoen and Sarenne. After reaching the Col you can descend towards Alpe d’Huez. Of course this can be a loop, by further descending back to Bourg d’Oisans down the classic route.
The Climb: 27.7 kms (17.2 miles); Ascent: 1,390 metres (4,560 feet)
Map: Start in Bourg d’Oisans follow Green route
PS – I’ll be climbing Alpe d’Huez the day after the Tour de France this summer with the Lost Boys Tour d’Enfer.