I’ve ridden up Alpe d’Huez a few times whilst snow was on the ground – but never when snow was actually falling. The weather is a little crazy here at the moment, but it’s safe to say that I wasn’t expecting snow when we set off this morning!
I’ve currently got my first group of guests of the year staying, a very friendly bunch of Aussies. We went up the Col de la Croix de Fer yesterday, which has only been open for a few days. I was surprised by the amount of snow still on the ground up near the top, and was actually the most under-dressed of all of us (usually it’s the other way round!). After that experience I made sure I didn’t have any flesh showing this morning when we set off at 10.30.
We got straight to it, and the lower slopes of the Alpe were as expected – however given that it’s the steepest and hardest part, perhaps it was already getting colder but I never noticed. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the tops of the mountains (see the photo to the left) from the previous night, but given it was 9 degrees in the valley and rising when I left the house, I thought it might get down to perhaps 5 degrees at the top.
A few bends further on and I was zipping up my castelli windproof top (great buy by the way if you’re in the market for a warm long sleeved jacket) which gave me the first clue it was getting colder (I’m normally sweating like a pig when I wear that top up Alpe d’Huez, and only stop cursing it on the way down when the windproofing comes into it’s own). A little after that the first snowflakes began to appear, and by Huez it was coming down properly. The phone camera doesn’t really do it justice – I won’t go as far as saying it was a blizzard, but there were some pretty good flurries of snow. The Aussies were bravely battling on (they apparently had to wear items of cycling clothing that they’d never needed to put on before!) and I was very glad of my no skin policy.
When we finally arrived at the top, after taking a few pictures, we decided that browsing some pleasantly heated bike shops and buying a coffee was in order. After about 20-30 minutes of warming up, we went back outside to prepare for the descent. That’s when we realised how cold it was – you never really feel it when you’re working hard on the climb, and for quite a few minutes afterwards your body is still on overdrive so the cold doesn’t set in. I was tempted to go back for another hot drink but we had more riding to do, so set of down the descent to La Garde, where we turned off for the Les Balcons ride – which is obligatory when you visit the Oisans!