Welcome To My World of Pedals and Paddles

An account of my Sea Kayaking and Mountain Biking exploits

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Mythical Ascent

The Mythical Ascent is the legendary road climb from the town of Bourg d'Oisans (700m) in the Rhone Region of the French Alps to the ski resort of Alpes D'Huez (1860m)
The Alpes d'Huez climb has regularly featured in the Tour de France itinerary since 1976 having made its first appearance in 1952. Its is reputedly the most challenging and well known of all the TDF alpine climbs. Having attempted both the Alpes d'Huez and Galibier climbs it may well be the most famous but I would dispute the fact that it is the most challenging. However it is surely on the 'To Do List' of any self respecting cyclist so had to be done.


We started our climb after a warm up and a Pain o'chocolate from the boulangerie in Bourg.


The official start of the route was directly outside the entrance to the campsite. There are 21 hairpins on the route each one named after a stage winner of the TDF. There are so many winners now that the lower bends now have two names on them.


The steepness of the first part of the climb came as a bit of a shock. I had not looked around the corner from the campsite. The average gradient of the climb is 7.9% and the steepest section is up to 14%. The climb to bend 21 (806m)  and then on to 17 (965m) is some of the steepest on the route.


It is only when you get to the village of La Garde is there any respite and you have a chance for a small recovery.



The church steeple at La Garde is a welcome sight and you can start to settle into some sort of rhythm.


 I always rode around the outside of the bends and alternatively drank energy drink and water.



After bend 14 the road kicks up again but the view shows how far you have climbed and you start to feel a sense of achievement.

Bend 12 (1161 m) and up to 9 brings you back to reality with a bump as the gradient once again kicks up.

The hamlet of Sainte - Ferrol is next with its church of Notre Dame des Neiges and the famous Dutch Corner. This section has been adopted by the Dutch due to the number of Dutch winners of this stage of the TDF. The stage up Alpes d'Huez always attracts huge numbers of spectators and the scenes can only be descibed as chaotic.


The village of Huez is next.



Bend 5 - 2 are equally as steep as the section to La Garde and take you across the Patte d'oile. The psychological difference here is immense. At the start you wonder if you can actually pedal to the top. At bend 5 there is noway you are going to fail. To quote Lance Armstrong ' you only get off when the snow turns black' that is how I felt at this point.



Bend 1 (1713m) and you can see Viell Alpe (the old village). This allows you to up your speed because you know that you are going to finish it.


The finishing line is a welcome sight.


The strange thing is that the arrival banner is not the same as the stage finish of the TDF, but this is where all the shops are. So it makes sense to stop for refreshments and a shop for the statutory T shirt.


The official finish line is a little further up through the ski resort.


Once on the line you have to have your picture taken in the normal triumphal manner.


Not content with just climbing Alp d'Huez we decided to ride the Col d'Sarrenne, which meant going up again. The airport had an unusual runway which allows planes to stop quickly.


The views above Alpe d'Huez were typically alpine.








The descent was awesome and I reached the fastest speed of the trip down here.


This house provided a point of discussion. I wonder if the house was there first?


We headed back to Bourg along the main road through some scary tunnels and down some interesting descents.

A great ride.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/106556867#

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