Stage 9 – Happy Birthday to Me – Galibier & Alpe D’Huez

Stage 9 – 109km from Modane to Alpe-D’Huez (2011, Stage 19)

tour Tracker stage 9

Well at 37 today, I should really be thinking of the pipe and slippers, but todays stage has been the polar opposite of that. At 109km it’s not that long, but it has been packed in as tough and mean as Mike Tyson in his prime.

I still absolutely loved the stage and of all the stages on the route this is the one I’ve been most looking forward to due to the inclusion of the Col du Galibier (the peak with the highest ever summit finish in the Tour) and Alpe-D’Huez – the most famous mountain climb in the world.

Stage 9 Stage profile

Stage 9 Profile

To save a 30km transfer to the start point, I started at St-Jean-de-Maurienne rather than Modane, stitching myself up slightly as it was an uphill run to St-Michel-de-Maurienne, where I then turned off on the Route du Galibier towards the Cat1 Col du Telegraphe mountain and a 12.5km climb to the 1,566 metre summit.

Following a short ascent from the Col du Telegraphe, I then started the 17.5 km ascent to the 2,642 metre summit at Galibier. This climb was a toughie particularly in the last 1km due to having less oxygen available and it being around 10% gradient. Please ignore the stated altitude on the profile diagram, this is the altitude 1km from the summit where a tunnel has been burrowed from one side of the mountain to the other (the lord alone knows how they managed the logisitics of that), I chose to ride to the summit at 2,642 metres rather than take the easier route.

Overtaking a Frenchman Near Galibier Summit

Overtaking a Frenchman Near Galibier Summit

Col du Galibier Summit

Col du Galibier Summit

What I forgot to mention in yesterdays blog was the ascents are tough, but the reward you normally get is a fast and exciting descent, the descent from Galibier was a real rush with sheer drops and no crash barrier. The other factor that needs to be considered is the wind chill; I made sure I wrapped up (with a thick base layer, jersey, windstopper, winter gloves and cap) well on the summit as it was bloody freezing despite being 28 degrees in the foothills.

Climbing Alpe D'Huez

Climbing Alpe D’Huez

I still had the climb to Alpe D’Huez summit finish to come, so last night a did a little reading about the mountain. Wikipedia has a great section on the fastest ascents, although the 13 fastest times all have a disclaimer implicating the riders with drug use – there was no surprise that kings of the dopers Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong’s names were at the top of the list!

Climbing Alpe D'Huez

Climbing Alpe D’Huez

Anyhow after taking on drinks and food at Bourg d’Oisans and changing into some lighter clothing, I started the climb and it’s 21 bends, personally the first 3-4 bends were the toughest with gradients around 10-13%, this was made tougher due to needing to get back into a climbing rhythm after a long descent from the Col Du Galibier.  Having got through this section, I somehow managed to sort out my breathing and cadence and made my way up to the summit ready for a well earned rest day!

Alpe D'Huez Summit

Alpe D’Huez Summit

Here’s the stats for today:

  • Distance: 109.5km
  • Time: 5 hours 36 minutes
  • Average Moving Speed:  19.8 kmph
  • Ascent: 3,509 metres
Stage 9 Map

Stage 9 Map


Don’t forget I’m riding the Tour Challenge for Julia’s House – the Dorset Children’s Hospice, please make a donation – all monies go direct to the charity.

Thanks for reading



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