The Alpe is not the toughest climb in the French Alps, but each passage by the Tour de France adds to its place in history.
From the first stage winner, Fausto Coppi in 1952, to the most recent, Geraint Thomas in 2018, Alpe d'Huez is steeped in tales of suffering and glory. At 14km long, and with gradients between 8-13%, it's the perfect climb for a race like the Tour de France – short enough to encourage attacks from the base, but also long enough to really start creating sizeable time gaps. The climb itself starts in earnest, the D211 road rising to 11% from the flat run in at the bottom of the valley. There's little respite all the way up – you know a climb is tough when a 7% gradient feels like a relief. Each one of the climb’s 21 hairpin bends is named after one (or sometimes two) of the stage winners, depending on where they launched their killer attack. Hairpin number seven is perhaps one of the most recognisable, the infamous Dutch Corner.
The Alpe is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Grandes Rousses massif. As a result the views are limited in scope but no less spectacular for it. It's fairly awe-inspiring to ride for an hour upwards and realise you've barely scratched the surface of the altitude around here.
There are several alternative routes between the valley and the ski village at Huez. The D211A from Le Freney-d'Oisans offers a quieter, alternative route from the valley, while the D211B, towards Allemond to the north links with the Col de Croix de Fer. Truly a climber’s paradise, the elevation you can clock up here is breathtaking.
Le Bourg-d'Oisans is a small commune nestled on the road from Grenoble to Briançon and, as a result, is surrounded by numerous, majestic climbs – making it the perfect place to set up base for a week of riding. Should you be looking for a cheaper option, there are several campsites in the Bourg valley, including a few right before the first of those famous hairpin bends.