To cycle Alpe d'Huez is to conquer cycling's most famous mountain: the Alpe d'Huez cycling climb is the most famous climb the sport has.
The 21 bends that wiggle up the Alpe d'Huez climb are instantly recognisable and have been responsible for shaping the outcome of the Tour de France more often than perhaps any other.
For that, if nothing else, cycling Alpe d'Huez is a must-do ride for most serious road cyclists.
Route map and profile
Distance: 14 km
Elevation Gain: 1,120 m
Max Grade: 19%
Avg. Grade: 8%
All metrics in this guide are approximate
Cycling Alpe D'Huez: HIGHLIGHTS
Riding Alpe d'Huez and conquering it!
It’s been in over 25 Tour de France stages; climbing it brings you closer to the sport. It also makes you realise the unbelievable strength it takes to be a Tour de France champion.
Climbing alpe d'Huez: what to expect
1. Base to La Garde: first 6 bends, bends 21-16
Look out for the “Depart, KM 0” tombstone by the side of the road: it’s a couple of kilometres outside town, just before the turn onto the first ramp up. The first six bends up to La Garde are the toughest of the mountain, averaging around 11%.
Our advice: don’t push it too hard here or you’ll blow up later.
2. La Garde to Huez: middle 10 bends, bends 15-6
After a brief 200m respite from the harsh gradients as you ride through La Garde, it’s up past the monument dedicated to Joachim Agostino at bend 14 and onto a string of corners before you reach the church of Saint-Ferréol. Gradients in this section are still a hefty old 8-9% but they’ll feel easier than the first bends. Next step is through Huez village.
3. Huez to Tour de France finish: last 5 bends, bends 5-0
As you head out of Huez village, be prepared for a series of stinging bends which are as difficult as the first on the mountain. It’s only in the last three kilometres that you find some respite with average gradients of 5-6%.
4. Descending Alpe d’Huz: there are a few options:
- Return the way you came
- Via Villard Reculas and down to Allemont: take a look at our Pas de La Confession loop. This route involves a few meters of additional climbing, but the cliff road to Villard Reculas is stunning.
- Via La Guard and the balcony road: this would be the first leg of our Balcons d’Auris, Col de Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez ride, but instead of going on to ride Col de Sarenne, you would return home along the main road between Freney d’Oisans and Bourg d’Oisans. This route involves approximately an additional 350m climbing. Like the Pas de La Confession loop, the views from the balcony road are incredible.
- Via Col d’Sarenne: this is our Balcons d’Auris, Col de Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez route in reverse.
Water is available from a water fountain at bend 16 (La Garde en Oisans). Alpe d’Huez village also has a good choice of cafés.
Where to stay
We stayed at Chalet Ribot at bend 12 of Alpe d’Huez. Riding down the mountain, just to ride up it is a bit disconcerting, but it’s convenient on the way home! We found Chalet Ribot a wonderful base from which to explore the region (read more here).
You can also find other accommodation suggestions in our guide to the Alps: Alpe d’Huez and surrounds.
Cycling Alpe d'Huez: Tips
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(Banner photo credit: visuall2/Shutterstock.com)
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