152KM | 4,300M+ · Thursday 13th July
Stage 2 is a tough day on the bike. The stage begins in Alpe d’Huez. The first 18km are untimed as we descend the spectacular and narrow cliff-edge road through Villard-Reculaz to the dam at Verney. Once over the timing mat, it won’t take long for the climb to the col du Glandon (1,924m) to begin in earnest.
There are 22 km to climb to the col, 1100m higher up. The first six kilometres, to the village of Rivier d’Allemond, are steep. At the exit of the village riders are often surprised by a brief flat section followed by a steep sinuous descent with several hairpins and then what may best be described as a short, sharp shock of more than 13% to climb. Be prudent…
The remainder of the climb to the col is easier. The slope is around 6% and several flatter sections are good for recovery. It is just long, very long…
The first part - the Glandon
The first part of the descent from the Glandon is steep, technically difficult and dangerous. After the first 3km the descent is less steep but it remains dangerous in places. The challenge is to stay concentrated from the start to the end of the 20km descent, which will take you 25 minutes or so. If you are accustomed to long Alpine descents, all well and good; if not, be careful!
There’s a 10km gentle false flat ride along the valley floor between the right turn at St Etienne and St Jean de Maurienne where we turn right again and start the climb to the col de la Croix de Fer (2067m).
Like its sister the Glandon, this is a classic Alpine climb with plenty of history. The route from St Jean de Maurienne is 30km long, for 1,522m of ascent, at an average (but meaningless) gradient of 5.5%.
The climb is very irregular with 3 steep sections, two descents and one moderate section.
It can be considered in 4 parts
Part 1 is 4km long and takes us from St Jean de Maurienne to Pierrepin, where the road levels off and descends gently for the next three kilometres. The first 4km are steep and may come as an unwelcome surprise after the long descent from the Glandon: beware cramps!
Part 2 begins at the end of the descent from Pierrepin. The road becomes much steeper and you will have to tackle 5km at around 9% before another respite.
Part 3 is the moderate section: 7km at an average slope varying between 3% and 5% until the exit of the village of St Sorlan.
Part 4 is the final, magnificent steep section winding up above the village in a series of switchbacks to the summit at 2067m. These last 7km vary in slope from 7.5% to 10%. By now the end is in sight and you are rewarded for your effort by the stunning views across the high mountains.
This is not an easy climb to manage, thanks to the irregular nature. Try to maintain a steady pace at a stable power output, changing gears as often as necessary to stay at a comfortable cadence. Stand up regularly when the slope increases, but always at a lower cadence than when you are seated. It is a long climb so it is essential to eat and drink regularly. Once at the top make a short stop to put on a windproof jacket and eat something.
You’ll recognise the descent from earlier in the day: we now retrace our tracks all the way to Alpe d’Huez. Beware the short, steep climb in the middle of the descent: this is an excellent place for your legs to cramp if you attack it too hard! To minimise the risk, use your lowest gears and spin at a high cadence.
Once over the dam at the bottom, you have 18km to go to the finish. You can look forward to a couple of kilometres of easy descending around Villard-Reculaz. For the rest, it is relentless, between 7% and 9%.
Keep something in reserve: there’s another tough day tomorrow!
Stage description by Alpine Cols
Alpe d’Huez isn’t just a legendary climb! It’s a paradise for anyone who loves open spaces, mountain air, summer sports, outdoor adventures, hiking and cultural activities. Located in the Oisans mountain range, near the Meije (3.984 meters), the Barre des Ecrins (4.102 meters), Italy and nature parks of Ecrins and Vercors, Alpe d’Huez also neighbours the Hautes Alpes!
It offers perfect conditions for holidays with your partner, your friends or your family. Sunlight is in abundant supply thanks to its south facing nature, and you can take in breathtaking sceneries over the most beautiful French peaks. On top of natural beauty of its surroundings, Alpe d’Huez also has modern sports infrastructures that offer a lot of options year round.