Alpe d’huez Region
In the biking world, during the summer months, the mountain resort of Alpe d’Huez is particularly well known for the 21 hairpin bend access road used frequently as a signature stage in the Tour de France, as well as for annual events such as La Marmotte and the Dutch charity event the Alpe d’Huzes. But for mountain bikers it also has a special reputation thanks to the gruelling mountain bike event, the Megavalanche.
The resort itself is purpose built for the busy winter ski season and as such has facilities and accommodation fitting that of a major Alpine ski station. However the beauty of the region in the summer, is the number of beautiful surrounding towns and villages, many of which are located in the valley, so benefiting from warmer evening and a gentle ride home at the end of the day. Each have their own individual charm and character as well as benefits for different types of bike holiday.
Le Bourg d’Oisans is located in the valley right at the bottom of the 21 bend climb to Alpe d’Huez and a starting point for many of the classic climbs. It is one of the most popular road cycling towns in France. In the late afternoon the town is packed with cyclists returning from a day in the mountains, enjoying the various cafes, restaurants and bars as well as a number of quality bike shops. The valley location means that in general the homeward leg of your journey is downhill.
The Alpe d’Huez resort sits at the top arguably the most famous road cycling climb in the world. The 21 bends attract thousands for keen cyclist from all over the world and is one of the most used climbs in the long history of the Tour de France. The resort also hosts the Mega Avalanche, the longest and most grueling downhill mountain bike races in the world. In its sunny position, relatively south on the French Alpes it enjoys great summer weather and plenty of sunshine well into the evenings.
Allemont is slightly smaller village again in the valley, at the start of the climb to the col du Glandon. It is also the location for the finish line for the Megavalanche downhill mountain bike course and has regular shuttle services taking people up to the Alpe d’Huez lift system. This is a pretty village with plenty for children to do.
Venosc is a beautiful cobbled medieval village up the valley from Le Bourg d’Oisans, but despite a short sharp climb to reach the village is still an easy ride home at the end of the day. On the road, itself a breathtaking ride, into the Ecrins National Park, the ride back to the start of the Alpe d’Huez is considered the perfect warm up to take on this famous climb.
Road Cycling and Mountain Biking
Thanks to iconic road cycling climbs like the Alpe d’Huez, and the Col du Galibier and mountain bike races such as the Megavalanche, the region knows as Les Oisans is one of the most famous places in the world for biking.
The region is littered with Tour de France history, which brings road cyclists from all over the world to challenge themselves against classic climbs of the Col du Glandon, Croix Du Fer, Col Du Glandon, La route du Marmotte, Col du Sarenne, the Col d’Ornon and possibly the most famous of them all, the 21 hairpins of the Alpe d’Huez.
Once again, this year (2018) the Tour de France will climb the famous 21 hairpin bends for a stage finish in Alpe d’Huez on the 19th July and a stage depart the following day in Bourg d’Oisans.
Le Bourg d’Oisans – Alpe d’Huez – Distance 14km, 737m – 1850m, 1113m of height gain, average gradient 7.9%
Le Bourg d’Oisans – Col du Galibier – Distance 47km, 1920m of height gain 737m – 2643m
Allemont – Col du Glandon – Distance 24km, 452m – 1924m, 1472m of height gain, average gradient 6.9%
Tour De France – As arguably one of the most famous cycling climbs in the world, it is no surprise that the resort regularly hosts a stage of the Tour De France. This summer 2018, the Tour de France will once again visit the region with a stage finish in Alpe d’Huez on the 19th July and a stage depart in Le Bourg d’Oisans on the 20th July. Hundreds of thousands of cycling fans will descend on the region filling up every available hotel, rental accommodation, campsite and any piece of spare ground that they can pitch a tent or park a campervan.
La Marmotte – This annual amateur cyclosportive at the beginning of July attracts up to 8,000 competitors. The 175km route starts in Bourg d’Oisans, goes over the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier, and finishes in Alpe d’Huez. The Marmotte includes over 5,180m of climbing.
Alpe d’Huzes – a fantastic Dutch fundraising event in early June to raise money for the fight against cancer. This event, started by a group of friends a few years ago, has grown rapidly to the point where it now raises millions of Euros and features on Dutch national television. Events last much of the week, with the main day usually on the Thursday, when up to 8,000 individual competitors or teams of four attempt to climb the Alpe d’Huez six times in a day. The entire 21 bend climb is packed with support from families, friends, live bands and event volunteers.
Triathlon – Towards the end of July, Alpe d’Huez hosts a three day triathlon event, using the Lac du Verney for the swimming stage, the classic climb to Alpe d’Huez for part of the cycling route, and the alpine meadows at the top of Alpe d’Huez for the running stage. Spanning three days, the event includes a juniors’ competition, a Long Distance Triathlon (2.2km swim, 115km ride and 22km run) and a Short Distance Triathlon (1.2 km swim, 30km ride and 7km run).
Mega Avalanche – The Alpe d’Huez edition of the Mega Avalanche tour is the largest and most popular event on the calendar. Open to both professionals and amateurs, the event attracts thousands of riders keen to race against the best in the world. The event takes place over three days, with a day of practice, a day of qualifying and finally the race day. Competitors start at the Pic Blanc at 3300m, beginning the race on the glacier before descending over 30km of grueling trail to Allemont at 720m.
La Vaujany – This road cycling event takes place on a weekend at the end of June, just prior to La Marmotte. It is much quieter and seen as a fantastic warm up for the busier Marmotte the following weekend. The main event is 173km, with 4500 meters of climbing.
ACCOMMODATION IN ALPE D’HUEZ REGION
WEATHER AND CLIMATE LE BOURG D’OISANS:
April – April is a real transition month for Le Bourg d’Oisans. Alpe d’Huez is still open for skiing until the middle of the month, but the hours of sunshine are increasing rapidly in the valley. Mornings are chilly and it is possible to get snow even in the valley, so bring full winter kit. However if you get lucky with the weather, the days can be glorious. Mountain passes such as the Col du Glandon, La Croix du Fer and the Galibier will remain closed due to danger of snow and avalanche, but the Alp d’Huez, Col du Lautaret and the Col d’Ornon will generally be open, unless there is snowfall. Average rain 70mm Temp. 8.9C 48F
May – Quite an unpredictable month where you can be lucky and experience the best of spring conditions and colour, with long hot days, wild flowers exploding through the alpine meadows, or be hit by a series of spring storms. The high passes of the Col du Glandon, La Croix du Fer and the Galibier generally remain closed until late May. Average rain 83mm temp. 12.7C 54.9C
June – A wonderful month to stay in Bourg. The town really starts to open its doors and bars are busy with happy cyclists. The days are at their longest and the weather can seriously start to warm up. The highest mountain passes should have already opened, or may be starting to be cleared. It’s a wonderful time to ride these mountain passes which sometimes have 2 or 3 meters high walls of snow lining the higher altitude routes. Watch out for afternoon and evening storms. Average rain 84mm temp. 16C 60.8 F
July – Typically the hottest, driest and most popular month of the year, when you should be enjoying long hot days and evenings with just the lightest of cycling clothing. However don’t be complacent, especially if your venturing out on an all day trip to one of the higher mountain passes. The altitude, exposure and rapidly changing conditions in the Alps can seriously catch you out. In 1996, the Tour de France stage had to be dramatically shortened due to snow and ice on the Col du Galibier and was almost cancelled again in 2011. Average rain 57mm temp. 18.3C 64.9F
August – Quickly moves past the hottest part of the years, which is more noticeable in Bourg in the valley, particularly if you’re staying on the northern side of the valley where the sunshine hours will be already waning. The evenings will start to feel chilly. Average 75mm rain 17.8C 64F
September – During September the summer storms have generally finishes and Bourg often enters into a pattern with 2 or 3 weeks of high pressure warm sunny weather, followed buy 4 or 5 days of really rotten cold (sometimes snowy) weather. There is no way to plan for this, just hope you hit the lovely weather. If you do, you will get to experience the Alps at its absolute best. Quiet roads, the start of the spectacular Autumn colors. Average rain 82mm temp 14.9C 58.8C
October – Almost all the bike tourism has stopped and the hotels are closing down, but the days remain generally dry with crisp cold morning. Watch out for ice on shady corners and wrap up warm to enjoy the amazing autumn colors. Average rain 86mm temp. 10C 50F
Winter – Few people plan a cycling trip to the region during the winter, but thanks to the Alpe d’Huez being relatively low in altitude and very south facing, it is possible to take on the 21 bends pretty much all year around so long as the most recent snowfall has melted and you have some serious winter gear. Next time you plan you ski trip to the region, why not think about a popping the road bike in the car, just incase you’re tempted by a lovely sunny day.