Day seven dawned fine and all indications were that the group would face some hot and humid conditions today. Due to the tunnel closure on the Oisans side of the col du Lauteret, climbing Alpe d'Huez meant having to drive for three hours over the Galibier and Glandon, to reach our start point in the beautiful village of Allemont. After some coffee and superb pastries, we set off for a 10km warm up ride to Bourg d'Oisans and the iconic climb that is on every cyclists bucket list.
In no time at all we hit the first left hand bend and 900m slope of 11% that marks the hardest part of this famous climb. The group had instructions to meet at the wonderul little bike shop, Cycle Huez, which marks the end of the real climbing at around 12km. Although the famous Alpe is neither the hardest or most beautiful climb in the alps, it has a lure and mystique all of it's own and each member of the group was ecstatic to reach the summit for the first time. After some serious shoppong and a quick lunch at the bar across the road, we set off for the col de Sarenne.
The summit of the col de Sarenne is amazing, wild and raw with amazing views. The descent is a bit rough with tight turns and a pretty poor surface, just like at home on the tweed. After descending as far as la Freney en Oisans, we started the climb up to Auris, and the incredible Balcon Road, no wider than a cart path cut into a shear rock face. Absolutely amazing! From the balcon road we descended to la Garde, dropped down the final 4km of the Alpe and then back to Allemont for the long drive home. Dinner in Valloire and a slow drive back to Briancon capped off a 14 hour day. Some weary people in the car but all were happy that they had finally scaled the alpe. Tomorrow we will knock off another classic, the col de la Madeleine.
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.