La Marmotte is not a cuddly squirrelly creature of a ride. More like a honey badger. A huge heap of climbing, divided in to four colossal climbs, each of which have defined Tour De France stages and brought the best pro riders in the world to their knees. A drag race start leading in to the brute that is Col Du Glandon starts the ride off. Glandon is a strange climb, oscillating in its gradient and shedding hard won altitude with a couple of downright annoying descents. It is also long, at 21km and splits the field all over the road. A very technical (and neutralised) descent follows before the only flat section of La Marmotte. The transfer to St Jean Du Maurienne is a chance to sit in (I’d recommend a pair of broad Belgian shoulders for that one), eat and drink before the double whammy of Telegraphe and Galibier. Arriving back to back this is a tough section, fitting in 1900 metres of ascent in 35 km. There is a feed stop at Valloire between the two climbs but has always been so busy I’ve always skipped it. After cresting the Galibier it is time to zip up, get on the drops and head back toward Bourg D’Oisans. A full 50km of descent beckons, pitching you back violently to the steep bottom ramps of France’s most iconic cycling climb. It is often absurdly hot on the Alpe, 41 degrees on our first Marmotte. This is mind over matter stuff, purely willpower and effort. A somewhat dazed finish sprint over the line for most and then the post-ride party begins for those with any energy left.
- If staying in Alpe D’Huez take an old hoody or sweatshirt you can wear for the descent to Bourg for the start and then dispose of when your pen is ready to roll off.
- A Gore windstopper Gabba style gilet comes in very handy for the chilly long descents.
- Carbon brake tracks only for experienced riders who will not drag brakes from high speeds. Many posh wheels get written off this way.