Hill Climb

STORY BY Patrick 12th January 2017

The famous cycling hill climb to Alpe d’huez on the Tour de France is steeped in cycling history and attracts keen cyclists from all around the world year round eager to tackle the “Alpe”

The venue for battles between Tour de France legends since 1952, the 13.8 km (8.6 mi) long climb at up to Alpe d’Huez  at 1,860m has 21 hairpin bends each named after a previous stage winner and for cyclists actually bring welcome respite from the constant climbing. The average gradient is 8.1% and the maximum 13%.

Experienced cyclist and l’Alpe veteran Gary Willis who runs 001 Sport, a company which organises cycling holidays for good cyclists has some top tips for anyone tempted to try the climb.

“The first section of 200m to the first hairpin bend is one of the steepest parts so don’t let it psych you out!” warns Gary, “Then ride at a tempo you can maintain. Remember you could be climbing for up to two hours (for the record the fastest time on Strava is by Thibaut Pinot in 42:18 during the Tour de France in 2015).”

“Change position. Try to ride in the saddle as much as you can as it is the most efficient way to climb but try to get out the saddle at regular intervals to stretch you back/save your bottom,” Gary advises, adding, “The last 4km will really start to bite. There is no way of getting round it. Accept its coming and make sure you eat/drink at the start of the climb so you are filled for the final push to the summit.”

Once you reach the town of Alpe d’Huez you reach a roundabout where you have a flat/slight downhill section before the last 300m to the traditional Tour de France finish line. Easy!

The Alpe not only attracts cyclists from all over the world to try and conquer the climb but just as much attracts fans of the sport to come and watch the race from the roadside. When the tour comes to town the usually quiet climb becomes a constant 14km parking lot of camper vans and fans with every available inch of tarmac having a name, flag or encouragement in any language imaginable. The Alpe d’Huez climb is a must do for all lovers of the Tour de France, the mountains and cycling.

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