Haute Route – Stage 3 – GC 93 Serre Chevalier to Alpe d'Huez

The most beautiful col that I've climbed, another good day pacing, and a finish to take me into the top 100 overall!

112km – 3,200m – Col du Lautaret, Col de Sarenne, Pas de la Confession, Alpe d'Huez
Stage position: 83
GC position: 93

I’ve been looking forward to this stage for months. Alpe d’Huez is where I first rode in the mountains, and the roads around here feel something like my spiritual climbing home! This stage had two of the three climbs of the Alpe of the race, the third coming tomorrow.

Today didn’t disappoint. The first climb was straightforward enough, not too steep and I had a group for the whole thing riding at just the pace I wanted. A fast descent down from the Col du Lautaret was familiar from the Marmotte, and then the pretty back road behind this big new reservoir complete with pouring waterfalls.

And then Sarenne. Oh Sarenne.

Years ago this valley was my favourite ski run, and holds the honour of being the longest black run in Europe. The climb up to it is described as the “wild” side of Alpe d’Huez, and it’s just beautiful the whole way. It’s got everything. Cute rural French hamlets near the bottom, fields with cows dangling their Alpine cowbells, and forests that give some shade. All of a sudden the road rises above the treeline and you can see back down the valley with snowy peaks towering above on either side. As it goes higher the view gets wider and wider and you see the valley floor, the next valley and loads of the surrounding mountains.

All of this on another day when the legs felt great. The 230 Watt regime for the climbs worked great, and I had a little spare at the top of each of the three climbs. I finished 84th on the day, bringing me within the top 100 on the general classification!

Tomorrow the plan is to preserve energy rather than attack. (My roommate thinks that “full gas!” is the best strategy on most stages!) So more of the same pace, to be ready for the big 5th stage on Friday. There are unlikely to be big time differences tomorrow between me and those nearby in the rankings, bigger moves will be come on the way to Megève.

That target of beating the time cut may yet need to be updated!

part of the Haute Route series