Alpe d’Huez and Col d’Ornon

Alpe d'Huez podium
Date: 18th July 2023

Climb: Alpe d’Huez
Ride No. 83
Grade: 8/10
Climb: Col d’Ornon
Ride No. 84
Grade: 5/10

Location: Le Bourg d’Oisans

Climb: Alpe d’Huez
Segment ID:16645275
My Time: 1:04:38
Climb: Col d’Ornon
Segment ID:16645289
My Time: 1:00:02


Cough and Splutter

Today it was, “Get Alpe d’Huez out the way day”.

I had ridden it before, and it was not one of my favourites.

Alpe d’Huez is a busy road with traffic and a summit which is a complete mess of over development and commercialism.

However, it is an iconic climb that is steeped in tour history and probably the climb in everyone’s bucket.

Even on a Tuesday morning, it was a busy, and the unmistakable fragrance of clutch and brake dust was in already in the air.

A steady stream of riders was already on the road, with more than a few struggling on the initial slope.

I think the start is where a lot of riders unfamiliar with the climb make a mistake.

The first 4Km is a brutal 10-12%. If you start too hard at the start, then you will probably suffer for the rest of the climb.

When the climb settles down to 7% and the air clears, you can count down the hairpins.


Team orders, “Stop embarrasing him”

After passing and being passed by riders, I approached a group of three riders.

Two adults with a 12-year-old boy proudly wearing his Ineos kit.

Every now and again, he stood up, but he was not struggling.

As I passed, we look at each other and I said, “You are awesome” and he smiled back.

Half a Km further up the climb, I could hear some puffing and panting behind me. I looked round and saw the determined and grinning boy’s face.

He had only gone and grabbed my wheel.

A few metres further and he was up on the pedals pushing past me.

I can only smile to myself.

At the next hairpin he pulled over, looked at me and as I rode by, and we hit a high five (respect).

I am guessing his parents radioed through to him and told him to stop embarrassing the old man.

I looked for him at the top and would have willingly bought him a coke, but sadly I didn’t see him.

The summit is a labyrinth, and I was quite nervous about making sure I took the correct route for the segment.

My Garmin route was spot on, plus there were many other riders to follow, so that was a load off my mind.

I stayed for a few photos, a coffee and sandwich, then I was away.


Woohoo 21 bends to whizz around (or not)

Like all the other riders, I hurtled down full of the anticipation of hairpins at speed, but the excitement soon ended.

A large Latvian lorry, closely followed by a pickup truck, was cautiously creeping around the bends.

There were no fast corners for him, and it wasn’t long before there were 20+ riders frustratingly bunched behind them.

After a few bends, a gap opened between the pickup truck and lorry, which provided the chance to make the jump.

With a ride hairpin, and clear view down the road, this was ideal timing.

I would have liked to stop for a few more photos, but being stuck behind the lorry driver again overruled those thoughts.


and next up

With time to spare and the Col d’Ornon on my ride back to the campsite, I decided to crack that one.

With some surprise, I noticed that my water bottles were lower than I thought. Decision time, go to the campsite and refill or carry on.

Common sense made an unusual appearance. I opted to fill the bottles.

This was a brilliant decision.

As I started the climb, the previously clouded skies cleared, and the sun burst through.

It was as though someone had opened an oven door.

On the climb, a hot wind had now picked up, and it was hitting me square on.


Curse of the Latvian lorry drivers

Just as I was on a straight leading to a hairpin, another Latvian container lorry passed me.

The driver was a bit more gung-ho than the Alpe d’Huez truck driver and he made it to the hairpin first.

Unfortunately for him, a large French delivery van was descending into the same hairpin.

They were stuck and so was I.

There were no gaps to wriggle through this time and all I could do was unclip and watch as the two inched one way and the other.

Eventually, a laughing French van driver emerged, holding up his phone. He had been videoing it!

The lorry pulled away up the road and it left me to clip back in on for a 10% hairpin restart. Tricky.

At the top, an Auberge was open, so refuelled with homemade apricot tart and coffee it was time to descend back to the campsite and some washing.