Trip to the Alps – Day 1, Col du Sarenne

My cycle club is associated with Velopsport Cycle Tours and last month I went on a somewhat last-minute trip to Alpe d’Huez. Being last minute, we were a small group – myself, Will and Malcolm to be led by super-Soignier/chef Bruce who had organised it.

We took an early flight from Gatwick to Lyon – picked up a minivan (which just about took the three bikes) and drove through Grenoble up to Bourg D’Oisins at the foot of the famous mountain. On the way we started to comment just how big some of these hills were… We met with Bruce in Bourg, and he led us the final few km up to the chalet.

No rest for the wicked, straight away we assembled the bikes and took off on our first ride up the Col du Sarenne.

Oh my! This was a shock to the system… We started with a quick descent into Le Freney-d’Oisans and then started the ascent of Col du Sarenne, the peak that neighbours Alpe d’Huez. The uphill bit started, initially through some picturesque villages for the first 5km.
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But then it went on… and on… and on… It’s not that it was the steepest climb ever, but it was relentless. We weren’t exactly rushing, but even so, spending 90 mins to cover just 15km tells you that it was brutal. The heat was building, and I got through two bottles in no time. I was so relieved that I had put on a climbing gear set, so I just stuck it in the lowest gear I had and tried to keep the pedals turning as fast as I could (a tip straight out of the Chris Froome manual). Malcolm wasn’t too far behind me, but Will was suffering a bit. Bruce was carrying a backpack with spare everything… and was pacing Will – properly heroic! Finally though, the summit (and photo op).

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Onwards! We then followed a road along the ridge from the Col to the town of Huez, and then we descended Alpe d’Huez (to about bend 17). Wow – that was FUN! Bruce knows the descent well and was happy to go for it, so I parked myself on his line and down we went at about 70kph. The only thing I had in the back of my mind was that later in the week, we’d be coming back up it. We stopped at turn 16 and diverted up the Balcon d’Auris road back to the chalet. Scenery was spectacular, and served to take my mind off how exhausted I was.

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Back at the chalet… beer o’clock! Fantastic dinner prepared by Bruce, some really nice wine and off to bed.

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