The Little Known Backside of Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d’Huez is a well known, iconic climb where legends are made. The same can’t be said about the Col de Sarenne. Col de what? That’s right. It’s not exactly top-of-mind to most cyclists. However, it is one amazing “climb”!

The Col de Sarenne is actually a pass east of Alpe d’Huez. To find it from the top, you head towards the airport and follow the signs. It’s not exactly a tough climb. There is an initial downhill from the Alpe followed by a 1+ mile climb at about 7%. After doing the Alpe, that actually feels pretty easy. Of course, I’m talking about the route from elevation vs from the valley below. After you hit the Col de Sarenne, the road drops 8 miles at -7%. Thus, it’s a much longer climb up from the valley.

é At the “top” of the Col de Sarenne

The thing that makes Col de Sarenne so worth it are the views and the roads. The route isn’t used much in the Tour de France and having now ridden it, I know why. The views are perfect for the TV helicopters, but the roads aren’t exactly ideal for the biggest road race of the year. Many pros in the 2013 Tour de France voiced their concerns about having to race down it. Not only is the pavé in poor shape for much of the way, it feels like a gravel road in spots. Going up this isn’t that big of a deal, but if you’re flying down at 40 MPH, it makes things a little nerve wracking. This is where Tejay Van Garderen had a mechanical in the 2013 Tour and his team car had trouble getting to him, which might have cost him the stage win.

When I got to the top of Alpe d’Huez, I had originally planned to just double back and go down. However, one of the other guys in my tour group talking me into doing the Col de Sarenne. I’m extremely happy I did. I’m trying to remember how many times I stopped (or wanted to stop) to take photos and admire the beauty. Yes, the roads sucked, but we weren’t in a rush and we were still on a high from doing Alpe d’Huez. After getting to the bottom, we did have to head back along the D1091 to meet our tour group in Le Bourg-d’Oisans.

A perfect backdrop for a photo
A view of the Romanche valley from the road going down the Col de Sarenne

Relive ‘The Craziness of the Col de Sarenne’


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