Two wheels, 21 hairpins, against the clock


27/08/2014

Stage 4: Bourg d’Oisans – Alpe d’Huez

15.3km overall, 14.3km timed 1100m of ascent / 0m of descent 1 climb: ascent to l’Alpe d’Huez 1860m (1st class) Stage difficulty: 3 out of 5

I’ve never been up the Alpe D’Huez before, so I’m no longer a virgin!” Erica Fogg

Oh, what a difference a day makes, 24 little hours… There was no raining on the Haute Route peloton today, after the torrential rain of yesterday, as the riders took on the legendary climb of L’Alpe d’Huez in the Individual Time Trial. The sunshine totally lifted the rider’s spirits and the smiles were back, along with the grimaces of effort, as they took on what has to be one of the most iconic Alpine climbs.

©Manu Molle
©Manu Molle

At the end of yesterday’s marathon stage, the riders had covered a punishing 397km in three days and today’s stage more than marks the midway point of the Haute Route Alps. L’Alpe d’Huez from Bourg d’Oisans is arguably the most iconic climb in cycling history, following in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest cycling heroes. Its 21 hairpin bends, with the signs and graffiti on the road, showcase famous winners who have triumphed on this climb in years gone by.

From the starting ramp in Bourg d’Oisans, each rider climbed 1,100m over 15km with an average gradiant of 8%, hitting 10% at times. Hot work, not that anyone was complaining after yesterday’s drenching, made hotter as the sun reflected off the rock face. Twenty-one legendary hairpin bends had to be navigated to reach the top at 1,860m. “I took it very gently,” said Tom Reed. “My legs are recovering from hell yesterday but great to see the sun again, just lifts the spirit really. The atmosphere is so different today.

©Manu Molle
©Manu Molle

For many riders, the Individual Time Trial was a new experience, and knowing how to pace yourself (or not) was not easy: “That’s the first time I have ever done a time trial,” said Peter Clifton. “Measuring pace is really, really difficult and that will live with me for some time! I was really nervous on the ramp as its just going into the unknown but it has been that way every day really. This is the best place in the world for a cyclist!

With the clock ticking from starting ramp to finish line, many riders had set themselves a time to beat. “That climb is a legend,” said Nick Jeffries. “My plan was to get under the hour and, for once, that went according to plan! Just brilliant.” The fastest ascent of the day was recorded by Peter Pouly who took just 43mins 58sec to reach the top.

At the halfway point of the Haute Route Alps this short stage, 15km in the sunshine, could not have come at a better time for the riders; giving them time for a well-earned rest: “What really kept me going was the idea of lying on a sun chair for the rest of the day…” Sandy McGilvray. Go ahead, Sandy, you’ve earned it!

©Manu Molle
©Manu Molle

About Bourg d’Oisans
Situated in the valley of the Romanche River the sleepy town of Bourg d’Oisans sits at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. During the summer months it comes alive as cyclists from around the world base themselves here to explore the local mountains and valleys. A popular cycling mecca which caters for the industry, it is also the starting point for the classic time trial up to Alpe d’Huez with its famous 21 hairpin bends.