The Alternative - Episode 1: Alpe d'Huez
Almost every year, for nearly half a century, the climbing of Alpe d'Huez and its 21 switchbacks are highlighted during the Tour de France. It thrills pro cyclists and gets the crowds going. With its 3,677 feet of elevation gain, 8.9-mile length, an average slope of 7.9% and maximum inclines of 14%, it became a myth, a real challenge for all cyclists. Amateurs from all over the world are drawn to it. They want to experience the pain of the effort, and the glorious feeling of overcoming such a beast once the top is reached. It has been ridden by millions. It’s been seen countless of times. It has become so famous that many cycling fans feel like they know the climb without ever ascending it. Shimano wanted to explore Alpe d’Huez a little bit differently with “The Alternative.” We hoped to escape the crowds, avoid the smell of hot asphalt, and open our eyes to the incredible Oisans Valley landscapes. Follow us, we will show you the way.
There is no way around it, the climb starts with the classic Alpe Huez road. Start line is indicated all year long. This is where the competitors will start their timer. After five switch backs, you’ll get to La Garde, this is where you’ll turn off the main road and leave behind your roadie friends. Trust us, you won’t regret your decision! From here on you’ll be on a breath-taking path, with incredible views.
THE AURIS BALCONY
The Auris balcony road overlooks the whole Oisans Valley, a few hundred meters high, cut into the side of a cliff. The daredevils will enjoy riding along the fence while the more conservative will stay close to the wall, both options will be memorable! Once in Armentiers le Haut, you’ll keep going towards Auris en Oisans. Then, a few hundred meters before Auris resort, go right on a gravel road called “La Combe des Girouds.” This wide path will take you up to a charming chapel, then by the magnificent Cluy Pass.
This section offers a scenic atmosphere and absolute calm because of its sparse little traffic. Make sure you have your camera ready; you may want to take a few shots. Head then to the Sarenne Pass where we recommend you take a few moments to enjoy the views over the massif of Grave, la Meije and Les Deux Alpes. At this stage, you have two options: either go down directly to Alpe d’Huez, or extend your trip to get closer to a set of magnificent waterfalls. If you choose the latter, remember to marshal your remaining energy, because after going down to see the waterfalls, you will have to climb back up.
The route to the waterfall goes down by the Sarenne pass road that leads to the Lac du Chambon. On this road, taken by the Haute Route racers, you must be careful and try to avoid the many potholes that punctuate the descent. Some of the largest are marked on the ground by a fluorescent sign, so please be careful. Do not be fooled by the speed or you will miss the intersection at the bend of a right switchback that will take you directly to a trail leading to the bottom of the waterfalls. Here you can enjoy a cool break at the water's edge.
Once your break is over, you will leave in the direction of the Col de Sarenne and climb to the Alpe d’Huez resort, passing behind the small airport. And don’t worry, you’ll still get your own Tour de France style arrival at Alpe d’Huez, finishing in the same plaza that racers cross at the end of their own efforts. Bravo!
WE WILL SHOW YOU THE WAY...