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June 16, 2010

Les Deux Alpes

Filed under: Europe 2010, France, France, Road Bike Travel, Travel — anotherheader @ 10:30 pm

An alpine peak viewed from our room in Les Deux Alpes

After a long drive, about 6 hours, from Carcassonne, we reached our next destination, Les Deux Alpes.  Les Deux Alpes is best known as an alpine skiing destination, but it does lie in the epicenter of the French Alps road riding, not to mention its healthy lift assisted mountain bike scene.  We were destined to have fun, at least if the weather report of a 70% chance of rain until the end of time did not hold true.

All the switchbacks are marked with signs, No. 1 is the last one

When we arrived in “Les Deux,” as we would like to think that the locals call it, it was a ghost town.  The mountain biking season was soon to start, they promised.  The ski season had long since ended.  Even the summer glacier skiing time had not begun.

We entered our hotel to find that we were the only guests.  Becky kept chanting “red-ruM, red-ruM.”  I was starting to be concerned.  Maybe, just maybe, the box cutters that she insisted on bringing along were not only about opening the bike boxes.

Lac du Chambon at the base of the climb to Les Deux Alpes

The next day, Becky, recovering from a fever, was still murmuring “red-ruM, “red-ruM.”  Perhaps a bike ride might clear up that disturbing little rhythmic chanting thing.  I just wish I knew what it was about.  Thankfully the weather cleared and we rolled down the hill to climb back up to Les Deux Alpes.

Becky churns to the top after rounding the last switchback.

Rated as a Category 1 climb, the road to Les Deux Alpes starts at a dam, Barrage du Chambon, that sits in the Romanche Valley.  The Romanche Valley is impressively deep and narrow.  Lined with rock and lush green vegetation, the valley walls rise steeply well over 2,000 feet.  The road to the resort town of Les Deux Alpes is wide and smooth as it switchbacks ten times in covering 5+ miles and climbing 2,000 feet.  With a 6.8% average gradient, the Les Deux climb feels similar to Tunitas Creek back home.  But, compared now to Col du Tourmalet, every ride feels easy.

The distinctive "kilometer" post on the French roads

For me there were two goals for the climb.  Goal one was to stay ahead of the fever-struck Becky still murmuring “red-ruM, red-ruM.”  The second was to beat Sheryl Crow’s time up Alpe d’Huez.  OK, I know that Sheryl Crow rode up an entirely different road on an entirely different mountain.  But the road and mountain were nearby and a goal is a goal, isn’t it?  And at least the two goals had different motivating factors.  There was concern that a feverish chanting Becky would catch me with her freshly sharpened box cutters (who sharpens box cutters?) and fear of embarrassment that I couldn’t beat Sheryl Crow’s Alpe d’Huez time up a climb that was half as high.  I’m glad to say that I surpassed both goals.  However Marco Pantani’s time on Les Deux Alpes during the 1998 Tour de France when he crushed Jan Ullrich and took the yellow jersey was never seriously in danger.  I’m not saying it mattered, but I’m pretty sure that Pantani’s hematocrit levels were higher, much higher, than mine for his climb.  Besides, do you think Pantani would have crushed Ullrich like an inflated paper bag if he were riding a 30-lbs full suspension mountain bike?  I think not.

The ski village of Les Deux Alpes filling with skiers and mountain bikers for the summer season

After the climb and the sequestration of Becky’s box cutter, we headed to Bourg-d’Oisans, the base of the climb to Alpe d’Huez, for dinner.  On the way, we took a route that Homer Simpson, as we call our TomTom GPS navigator, attempted to guide us up in the dark the evening before.  This road has a section, 1.5 lanes wide, that clings to a 300 foot or so high vertical cliff.  Only a low concrete barrier separates a wayward car from coming to rest a vertical quarter mile below the road surface.  Even the Michelin map marks this road section with a warning.

We had are concerns before, but now we are certain.  Homer is trying to kill us.

(More pictures of “Homer’s Road,” including a view from the bottom, are posted on Picasa.)

"Homer's Road" as we now call the cliff edge route from Les Deux Alpes


  1. […] squalls rolling over the alpine peaks, we managed a “short” Category One climb of the road to Les Deux Alpes.  But the following day the cold alpine rain was non-stop.  By our third full day, we were […]

    Pingback by Alpe d’Huez « Another Header — June 28, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

  2. […] had already climbed Les Deux Alpes, Hautacam, Alpe d’Huez, and Col du Tourmalet on this trip.  That made for three hors catégorie […]

    Pingback by Bormio 3000 « Another Header — August 2, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  3. […] the paved roads to Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes on our slick tire equipped full suspension mountain bikes, the dirt was calling.  Unfortunately […]

    Pingback by Les Deux Alpes, the Hike « Another Header — November 29, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

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