Beyond the 21 Bends: 12 Best Routes of The Oisans
If you love riding roads, you’ll always be on the hunt for new challenges. Searching for the best climb, the most exhilarating route, not to mention amazing mountain views.
The Oisans area has its fair share of stunning routes and we want to tell you about some of the famous and not so famous climbs to tick off your list of must-do cols.
Of course, Alpe d’Huez is one of the most famous climbs in the world and it lies just outside of Vaujany. Commencing at Bourg d’Oisans at 760m rising to 1860m over 14 kms and with over 21 switchback bends, it’s no wonder that thousands of riders make their own personal attempts during the summer.
Whether you are following one of your professional cycling heroes, challenging yourself on an infamous climb or bettering your personal best time, Alpe d’Huez ticks many boxes for many cyclists.
So when you’ve completed this renowned climb, what happens next? What else has the area got to offer? Is the region a one trick pony or does it just keep giving?
Oisans and Your Bike: A Match Made in Heaven
I have visited this region all of my life, and I can honestly say that you will never be disappointed by the challenges and surprises along the way, as you discover the many cycling routes of The Oisans.
Imagine waking up to different cycling challenges on each day of your holiday. Within the varied and vast choice of cols, there are literally thousands of routes, so you can pick and choose to create your very own tailor-made itinerary.
We all know that cycling is as much about mental agility as physical ability, so where better to test yourself than with altitude cycling and hard yet rewarding climbs.
The upside of a hard climb is the exhilarating high speed descent which follows and there are some particularly great options in this region, guaranteed to take your breath away!
And for the Experienced Rider?
One of the major draws of these mountains is the fun of conquering the highest summits in the area. Going from zero to hero day after day will put a smile on the faces of even the most hardy cyclists.
We all have our favourite professional riders, whether they are current or from a different era, and it’s always great to follow in their tracks and imagine how they must have been feeling as they cycled the very same route, as they battled their own ability and the many personal challenges they had to overcome.
Enjoy jaw-dropping scenery that surrounds you. The snow capped peaks, dramatic crevasses, cascading waterfalls, lush green meadows, narrow hairpin bends and quaint timeless villages.
Don’t think that competitions are reserved only for the professional cyclists. There are many cycling events to take part in, from charity rides raising money for great causes, to local trophies and not forgetting La Marmotte, one of the most popular cycling sportive in the world
As each day of your trip comes to an end, you can always compare tactics and recount your adventures, with like minded riders back at your accommodation or in a local watering hole or restaurant.
The Best Routes and Climbs In The Oisans Region
Of course, this region offers well known runs, worthy of being described as the ultimate challenge for experienced cyclists. Always remember, that for every famous route in the region, there will be many off the beaten track options to provide unique challenges, and these shouldn’t be overlooked.
1. Col du Galibier (2646m)
One of the most impressive climbs in the whole of the French Alps. First used in the Tour de France in 1911 and used every year in La Marmotte Sportive. For more of a challenge, approach from the north after the col du Telegraphe. Remember to save some energy as the steepest section is in the last 1km - the stunning views will keep you going.
2. Col du Glandon (1924m)
A beautiful route which gives a real taste of the region, as it passes through many rural villages, quiet pastures and the blue lake of Barrage de Grand Maison.
3. Col de la Mortes (1368m)
Used in the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon and the Granfondo Les Deux Alpes. If you like the many bends of Alpe d’Huez, you’ll love this route as it has numerous switchbacks leading up to the ski resort of Alpe de Grande Serre.
4. Col d’Ornon on route to La Mure (1367m)
A local col less known by the world stage, which follows the stunning Liganarre Valley. It was first used in the Tour de France in 1966 and more recently in 2013 when it was climbed from the south and won by France’s Christophe Riblon and also showcased in last years race on Stage 17.
Then if you have the stamina try the Col de Parquetout (1382m). With one of the steepest gradients in the area, you’ll enjoy the challenge so toughen up and embrace that 15%! There is also an option of taking in Col d’Oulles if you come back the same way.
5. Col du Mollard (1638m)
A welcome contrast is this tree-lined quiet climb. Choose the more technical 20km southern ascent from Villagondran. You will be greeted at the top by a small alpine village, which turns into a ski resort during the winter months.
6. Col du Sarenne (1999m)
Pretty villages and wild countryside combine to give an authentic taste of the mountains. It can be used as an alternative way of ascending Alpe d’Huez, approached from the Barrage du Chambon, close to the foot of Les Deux Alpes. You can also use this col to create a full circular route of Alpe d’Huez.
7. Col de Croix de Fer (2067m)
The serious col on Vaujany’s doorstep leading towards the the Maurienne valley and onto Col du Glandon, Mollard and the Telegraphe. This climb is often ridden in the Tour de France before Alpe d'Huez. At the summit, you will be welcomed by a bar with a sunny terrace, the perfect place to enjoy spectacular views towards the peaks of the Aiguilles d’Arves to the south.
8. La Berarde (1711m)
The road to La Berarde is a one-way climb into the heart of the Ecrins massif. During the 27 km route, you will be captivated by views of the high mountains and glaciers. Although the road isn’t difficult, it does become narrow on occasion. On route you will pass some rural French villages making this a very scenic choice and a great introduction to the mountains.
9. Col du Sabot (2100m)
Our most local col and a much more out of the way experience. Enjoy the wonderful hairpins, quiet surroundings and the gorgeous mountains. A word of warning - just be careful of the sheep! There are plans to continue the road over the Sabot and down to the Barage de Grande Maison, hopefully completed for summer 2019 and only for bikes!
10. Col du Solude (1680m)
If you have ever climbed the famous Alpe d’Huez and looked across at the other side of the valley to a much smaller route carved into the mountain above Bourg d’Oisans. The 4 tunnels bring an extra challenge to this route!
11. Le Pas de la Confession (1530m) and Villard Reculaz (the quiet road up to Alpe d’Huez)
A glorious forest climb brings the lucky rider out to a great vantage point above the first part of the Alpe d’Huez climb. From here you can catch your breath and look down on the millions of tiny ant-like cyclists scurrying up the the busy Alp.
The Villard Reculaz road is also a way to get to Alpe d’Huez and avoid all the roadblocks! This is a top tip, especially for when the Tour de France is on.
12. Le Balcon d’Auris (1584)
A truly magnificent route on one of the most spectacular roads of the Oisans. The Route de la Roche was opened in 1902 and after the village of L’Armentier le Haut, the road opens out where you can see the vast horizon - you do need to have a head for heights though!
What Should You Look for When Choosing a Holiday Company for Your Cycling Trip?
When you’re deciding on where to go for your next trip, it’s important to choose the right company, so you get the very best advice and your holiday is memorable for all the right reasons.
- Look for a company with lots of experience in creating the perfect cycling holiday.
- Make sure they have local knowledge of the whole area so you can get the most from your trip.
- Choose people who are passionate about cycling so they completely understand what you want from your holiday.
- Stay in a great accommodation, allowing you to relax in a wonderful setting and feel revived and ready to get up and go each day.
- Check on the standard of food available, whether you are going for a catered option or wanting to explore the local places to eat.
- Choose a place with plenty of other things to do on down days, so you can experience a wide range of adventures from rafting and canyoning to ballooning and glacial walking.
Are You Ready to Ride?
Get in touch, we can help you plan your next cycling adventure.
If you want to know more about the area then take a look at our Pocket Guide to spending Summer in Vaujany.