Not many people have the opportunity to take a bike up Alp d’Huez, tackling those 21 hairpin bends and grinding it right to the top. Most people cycling it take over an hour to get to the top and the best of the Tour de France can do it in 40 minutes. I did it on a bike in just 45 minutes and here’s the story.
It’s amazing how you get into one of those rhythms. You’re focused in on the road and it’s only after a while you realise you have zoned right out and if you don’t look up you’re going to miss the world around you. That’s forgivable on many rides, but on this one, on the Alp, you dare not get to the top and forget having seen anything on your way up. It was after 22 minutes of cruising at a slow pace that I realised I had covered 9 hairpins and not looked around me at the spectacular sights of the Alps of Western France.
I pulled over at the side of the road, took my helmet off, took a sip of a water bottle and gazed at the panoramic scenes around me. I even took the time to take several photos before hopping back on the bike. Yes, the clock was still ticking.
I moved on, spinning the wheels, taking the turns tight to the inside, feeling good about the elevation gain. Several corners later I noticed a fantastic vantage point and pulled over once again for a few more snaps. After a brief word with some cyclist who was on his way back down I pushed off again and navigated the final half dozen turns that took me up to the summit. One look at my watch confirmed I had made it from foot to top in exactly forty-five minutes and while I was sweating a bit, I wasn’t that burnt out. If only the men of the Tour could do it like me.
You don’t believe me? Well, that’s your choice I suppose…
After half an hour chatting to a few folk who had cycled it up, making small talk about the hardest parts of the climb, of the history of the climb and, as we all do, some talk about the fine weather, I turned around and headed for the bottom.
I got down much quicker than I got up, naturally, but I only put that down to the fact I didn’t stop. Instead looking around me as I went and because of it, only narrowly avoiding an oncoming car. It was still morning when I rolled off the incline and into the town of Bourg-d’Oisans below. I had half an hour to spare before I had to get in my car and return to the hotel, so I returned the moped bike back to the rental shop and eased into a local pub for a quick cold pint as a reward for my lack of effort.