Whenever I ride La Marmotte, I don't go solely to ride this legendary cyclosportive in the French Alps. I go with the attitude to "make the most of all that's to be had while you're there!"
With that in mind, when entries open the December before, I don't simply sign up for this iconic 174km amble through the Rhone-Alpes region. Instead it's a case of subscribing to the Trophee de l'Oisans, a week-long extravaganza of cycle challenges organised by Sport Communication in the area surrounding Le Bourg d'Oisans and Alpe d'Huez.
La Marmotte and La Vaujany - the big cyclosportives that take place during that week in July have been documented by many people - including by me on the 2wheelchick blog.
Today, I would like to give mention to the Prix des Rousses, the mid-week race in the series.
2. The race takes place at around 9am on the Wednesday before La Marmotte and starts at the foot of Alpe d'Huez.
3. From the foot of Alpe d'Huez the riders follow a 40km route which finishes at the summit of Vaujany ski resort, taking in around 1600m of climbing.
3. You start the race by going up all 21 hairpins of the famous Alpe, and then proceed through the village before turning round and leaving Alpe d'Huez via L'Eclose. You then start the descent of the 21 hairpins, but at Huez (roughly turn 7) turn right and drop down to the village of Villard Reculas.
4. This is a lovely section, where you are basically riding part of the Vaujany long course in reverse, zooming all the way down to Allemont.
5. Once at Allemont you begin climbing again and you ride exactly the same route as the last part of the Vaujany cyclosportive except..... that you don't finish in Vaujuany village. You go a further 2km to what is known as Le Col. Many riders are not aware of this slightly extended route to the finish, and are faced with a demoralising 2km climb to the chequered flag! Don't get caught out!
7. It is a mass start, with riders from various clubs and teams from around Europe taking the start line. The times when I rode it I was not particularly warmed up when the gun went, and it was a bit of a shock to the legs having to immediately tackle the steepest section of the Alpe d'Huez climb. In fact, when I did it this year I very quickly found myself at the back of the race as I watched everyone sail away into the distance and the broom wagon was practically up my bum! If this happens to you don't get too disconcerted. Just keep a steady pace, get into a rhythm and your legs gradually find their climbing ability somewhere along the 21 hairpins! You will even begin to catch those who had set off at a blistering pace and begun to run out of steam. That's what I managed to do anyway!
8. Keep in mind that you spend the first hour or so climbing. This is followed by lovely descents, but just remember that you will also spend the last 30-40 minutes climbing. Although the final climb is alot shorter than Alpe d'Huez, it is steeper. The gradient is comparable to the first couple of kilometres of the Alpe d'Huez climb, and stays like that all the way to Vaujany! Save something in the tank for this last section!
7. At the finish you are treated to generous snacks, as well a nice garden in which to sit, and the chance to chat with other riders. The views of the nearby mountains are spectacular, and they make your ride up to this area well worth the effort.
8. If you enter the whole Trophee des Grandes Rousses package of events this race is automatically included. Alternatively, you can just enter the race on the day. Turn up at the car park at the foot of Alpe d'Huez at around 8.15am, pay your 10 euros and set off with the other 500 or so riders.
Even if there are times when it feels like hard work, just enjoy the views. This is one of the most beautiful 40km races you will ever ride!
(The 2016 edition will be on Wednesday 29th June.)
Alpine challenge - La Marmotte
Wanna do La Marmotte?
Alpine challenge - La Vaujany
Wanna do La Vaujany?