La Marmotte cyclosportive takes place on the first Saturday of July and is the flagship event of the week-long Trophee de L'Oisans series.
With 174km, 5,000m climbing and a summit finish La Marmotte is one of the toughest cyclosportive events you could do.
However, that's not to say that it's impossible. The really fast guys will do it in around 6 hours. The slowest riders will take around 13hours.
Proceedings kick off at 7am, and a the cut off is to be at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez climb by 6.15pm. So you've got 11hrs 15mins to cover the first 160km.
It's all about managing your energy - start off slowly (don't be phased by lots of people overtaking you) and keep in mind that from St Michel de Maurienne (KM75) to the col de Galibier you've got more than 30km of almost continuous climbing on difficult terrain.
Take care on the descents. Coming down from the col de Glandon in particular, can be quite tricky. In recent times the organisers have taken to neutralising this section of the ride for safety reasons.
If you don't manage to make the cut-off, or if the lure of your cosy flat in Le Bourg d'Oisans is too good resist, you can still get a certificate for having completed La Marmottan.
Don't forget to eat and drink. The first feedstation, at col de Glandon, can be quite congested, so it may be worth taking your own food along so as to avoid queueing. Don't miss out on fluids though.
Note that the really fast riders will have their own support arranged so they don't need to get tangled up with us lesser mortals at the feed stations !
Crowd support at the col de Glandon and the col de Galibier is amazing. Makes you feel special.
Also with 7,000 riders taking part in this event you are not alone, and other riders around you can be really motivational.
The start is now done in 3 waves in numerical order of your race number - the first one at 7am, the last one at 7.50am. Race numbers are issued in order of when you entered the race. The earlier you enter, the lower your number.
Accommodation options are not particularly difficult. There are hotels in Le Bourg d'Oisans and Alpe d'Huez. You can also book apartments. Check out the tourist office websites for these two towns. If you can't stay in either of these towns there are a number of small vilages in the vicinity of this area - La Paute, Allemont, Le Freney d'Oisans, Oz en Oisans, Rochetaille. There are also around 4 campsites in Le Bourg d'Oisans. Booking before by the end of March if you want to get more choice.
We flew into Lyon (with BA) and hired a car. It was a 2hr drive from there to Bourg d'Oisans. It's also possible to fly into Grenoble (with Ryanair) - a 1hr drive. Geneva (BA/Easyjet) is about 3hrs from Bourg d'Oisans.
If you drive all the way it's around 9 hours from Calais.
Entering the event is fairly easy. Just go to the sportcommunication.com website and click on Grand Trophee. You can then enter the event on-line. And don't forget to send either a copy of your racing licence or a medical certificate - either by snail mail or a scanned image. If you aren't able to produce either of these documents you can still start but you will be classed as a "randonneur", meaning that you won't be given a timing chip or time standards.
Just remember to enjoy the day and take in the scenery - not the sort of thing you see every day. Well, not while in a busy office at Westminster !
And everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner !
For 2011 La Marmotte will take place on Saturday 2nd July at 6am. Start is from the centre of Le Bourg d'Oisans.
La Mi-Marmotte (76km) starts at 9am from Valloire
La Rando des Marmottes (174km over 2 days) starts on Friday 1st July at 8am from Bourg d'Oisans Tourist Office, and Saturday 2nd from Valloire
Other Grande Trophee events that week:
La Vaujany (174km) - Sunday 26th June at 6am. Start is from the Hydroelectric dam, near Allemont (5miles from Le Bourg d'Oisans)
Prix des Rousses (40km) - Wednesday 29th June at 9am. Start is in Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of Alpe d'Huez
La Grimpee de L'Alpe (13km) - Sunday 3rd July at 9am. Start is in Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of Alpe d'Huez.