Alpe D’Huez and Les Deux Alpes Climb

Alpe D’Huez and Les Deux Alpes Climb

The first time I visited Grenoble, was after I met my then girlfriend, now wife, Christelle. It was in 2006 right after I had graduated from the university. I was very young, naïve and dumb. I remember not liking France much; I couldn’t speak one word of French, even though I had taken 2 weeks of French classes. I didn’t enjoy the food that much, because I was infatuated with burgers, ribs and steaks, which are not any good in France. This made me a very close minded person and blinded me of all the amazing French cuisine I now crave when I'm not there and love. Fast forward 8 years and now I realize how amazing France is, in particular where my wife is from and where her family still lives, Vif, a small town about 10 minutes from Grenoble, not only for its cuisine but for all the beauty surrounding the area. The last two times we have visited I've brought my bike. Since it’s long trip for us we try to stay at least 10 days, which means that if I didn't have my bike, I wouldn't be able to ride at all. Training for 2 half and 1 full Ironman triathlons requires you to ride. I think I use it also as an excuse to be able to explore all the mountains around Vif. There are so many routes and different mountains you can ride, the scenery is amazing and it doesn’t hurt that the Tour de France goes through some these areas also, which makes you appreciate how many cycling legends have ridden through the same roads.

Last time I was in France it was during Christmas, there was quite a bit of snow on the ground and it made for cold rides. I got a chance to ride Alpe D’Huez, but I wanted more, so I told myself that the next time I would ride both Alpe D’Huez and Les Duex Alpes in one ride. I was very lucky during this trip, as I had already gotten to ride in Germany (Bavaria), Austria (Kühtai) and now I was in France. It was my last ride of the trip and I had to finish with a bang.

The beginning of the climb is about 60km from Vif, originally I wanted to ride the whole thing, but decided to just do the climbs and then maybe next time I’ll do the whole thing, which now I realize would probably take me around 7-8 hours.

I put the bike in the car and started driving to Alpe D'Huez, after a 45 minute drive I was getting really close. I didn’t really know where I was going to park, but as I got to the start of the climb, voila...there was a parking lot with bathrooms (great idea). I parked the car, got all my gear and started the climb.

Every time I start a big climb I'm excited to go up. Alpe D'Huez is interesting because the steepest grade is at the beginning of the climb, or at least that how it felt. The first time I climbed it, I thought I was going to be in real trouble as most climbs get harder the higher you go, but not this one. As you start the climb, you can see a sign that tells you starting point of the climb. They host a time trial race and this is the starting line. Almost immediately you get to the first switchback, as you come around it, you can see a sign with the number 21 and a countdown telling you that you have 13Km left. Not all turns are counted, only the ones that make you turn 180 degrees (Switchbacks).
During this ride I took a ton of pictures and video, I made a video so you can see some of the climbs and the descents. The video is a little shaky, as it's difficult to have it stable when mounted on a bike, but I hope you like it.

The day I rode Alpe D'Huez I saw maybe 10 people on their bikes, but usually there are so many people riding to the top that there are professional photographers taking pictures of the bikers going up. It feels great to get to experience just a little of what the pros feel like when they are going up their climbs pushing 400 Watts, even though you know that they will charge you €10 per picture if you’d like to download them afterwards. I got one of them on the video.

I guess for people that don’t take selfies on their bikes on a regular basis (like me), this would be an OK price to pay to see themselves going up Alpe D’Huez. For me it was just a nice boost of moral as I was going up. They give you a little card with a web address, you go to the website, type in the date of your climb and you'll see all the pictures from that day. After about 1 hour of climbing I reached the top, turned around and started the descent, you have to be careful as you can pick up quite a bit of speed if you are not paying attention. The turns are so sharp though, you have to slow down on the switchbacks. Once I got down, I followed the signs to Les Deux Alpes. The start of that climb is about 5 miles in the other direction. This climb is a little different, you are going up again, but for the first 10 kms the road leads to several other places, not just to the top of Les 2 Alpes, which means that the traffic is a little heavier. During these 10km you go through 4 different tunnels, which is a nice change of scenery. If you ever go up on your bike, make sure you have at least a tail light, it is very dark and you’ll want to be seen by the cars.
Once you get to a Y crossing you’ll see a dam to the left. To the right is the official start of the climb to Les 2 Alpes. When you get to the first turn there is a sign with a number 10, so there are officially 11 turns less than Alpe D’huez. This climb is different; the distance between each turn is longer. You still get some amazing views, but in my opinion they are not as good as Alpe D’Huez. Once you get to the top though, the views up there are amazing. This climb is also not as popular as there are no photographers taking pictures of cyclists going up.

All in all it was a great day, glad I wasn't racing up it as it would probably hurt a little. So, the question is, how long is it and how long does it take?

The ride is 45 miles (72.4 KM) if you leave from the parking lot.
The Elevation Gain is 17,700 feel or 5,400 meters
Difficulty I would put it as Medium, as long as you have fuel and hydration you shouldn't have any problems climbing both mountains. The best part is that you can take your time and take in the beauty for the Alpes.

I can't wait to come back and ride it again!

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