For nearly any cyclist cycling in the Alps would be the pinnacle of trips. So when some of our fellow cyclists from the Paris 2 Nice trip suggested a trip to tick off some bucket-list climbs, it was a no-brainer. Massive chapeau to Cycling Safaris, based in Dublin for handling all the logistics of the trip, especially our on-the-ground team of Aidan (the tour guide), and Marcin, our mechanic. The actual trip is called the “Huez Express”, and was spread out over 4 days. I can’t speak highly enough of them as an operator, and can definitely envision doing other trips with them again in the future.
Our starting base was Grenoble, situated in the foothills of the Alps, at an altitude of 200m. We rolled out the first day to nice weather, and after a nice easy 10km through quietish roads, we encountered our first cat 4 climb. It was a nice easy introduction to a few harder days of climbing, although seeing the heart rate creep into zone 5 so early was not planned, and a sign of things to come.
By 30km we had ticked off a 450m cat 2 climb, and as I pointed out at our snack stop at the top, it was the highest I had ever been on a bike!
The views were stunning all along, but by the time we reached lunch we’d had a few more cat 4’s in the bag, and I think it might have been down to a combination of losing most of the previous month to illness, plus the coresponding weight-gain (my fault!). But I was struggling to keep my heart-rate down, and after lunch my heart-rate was in the mid-170’s climbing, which was definitely not sustainable.
Our original plan was to hit Alp d’Huez at the end of the day, but it was pushed to the second day due to road issues, meaning the Col d’Ornon now became the day’s finale. We all thought this would have been a nice easy way to finish day one, but between the heat, and the climbing in the legs, I definitely struggled more than I should have towards the end.
We did get up in the end, however (although Mike’s bike finally died when he was racing Donal in the final KM! A big plus to traveling with Cycling Safaris however was that there was a spare bike in the van, so minimal downtime)
Descent to Bourg d’Oisans
The final 15km into Bourg d’Oisans was a descent, and while it should have been fairly straight-forward I did manage to look up both wheels going around a hair-pin, leaving a tad cautious for the next few days.
When we finally rolled into Bourg d’Oisans, I can definitely say there was a sense of relief to get the first day checked off, but also a sense of intimation, with Alp d’Huez looming!
For cyclists it’s very welcoming to see so many bike racks outside shops, and the vast majority of tourists we could see were definitely cyclists. It’s definitely a venue I could see being used as a base for future trips. We stayed in the Hotel de Milan, which while a bit tired on the first appearance, had fantastic staff, and our room seems to have been newly renovated.
We’d a short stroll through town and popped into a few bike shops, and wrapped up the night with pizza in La Falaise and a couple of recovery beers. Next up: the Alp itself!