Tour de France’s Alp d’Huez has a So Cal Equivalent

Huez02Alp d’Huez.

If you are a cyclist of any mettle, this climb is on your bucket list.

It’s been a fixture of the Tour de France since 1952 and the site of many great battles sitting in the heart of the French Alps.

Being the penultimate stage of this year’s race and the final chance for riders to pick up significant time, you’ll see all the leaders empty their barrels tomorrow.

9.2 miles. 7.8% average gradient. 3,823 feet of elevation gain topping out at 6,375 feet.

Painful. Unrelenting. Beyond category. A climb that only…

Looking down Alp d’Huez

Sorry. Quick pause, I’m getting a call. Hello. What? My bad. I’ll change it.

My apologies for speaking out loud. That was from quality control. Correction: that’s 8.6 miles. 8.1% average gradient. 3,514 feet of elevation gain topping out at 6,102 feet.

If you haven’t figured out my gaffe, the last set of numbers are the stats from the Alp d’Huez and the other is the climb up Mt. Baldy, from the turnoff at Mountain Road all the way up to the ski lifts.

You look at the numbers and they’re eerily similar. Alp d’Huez carries a slightly higher gradient, but Baldy is longer and has a steeper maximum. Really you’re splitting hairs.

I can’t really compare the two having only climbed the Californian counterpart(thanks Doug John for the pictures), but I easily say that when you climb Baldy and it’s an experience you’ll never forget it.

Getting through the first five miles through Mt. Baldy Village are arduous, not just in profile, but in the anticipation for what’s to come.

Mt. Baldy Village
Mt. Baldy Village

After you clear this tiny town, you pull through a false flat while you catch a glance at the switchbacks that await you after you pass Icehouse Canyon. 1.8 miles of climbing listed at an average of 9.7% gradient which you question the number’s truthfulness around every turn.

You then get a short downhill respite suggesting the worst is over before you get slapped in the face with the toughest portion. It’s less than a mile to the ski lifts, but facing gradients above 15% is not what your body wants at this point.

At the top, you’re tired, out of breath and too cold from the elevation change to properly assess when to descend back down. There are many great climbs in Southern California, but none transforms you from bottom to top as Baldy.

I wish that the Alp d’Huez is in my near future, but then again, how many people are lucky enough to climb a Mt. Baldy?



You’ll be getting this view from the Tour de France on Saturday


The road gets chalked up a couple of weeks in preparation


The false flat of Baldy

I can do Baldy. So should those wimpy sprinters!

Me conquering Alp’d Huez…err Mt. Baldy