Ned Boulting's Alpe d'Huez Memories

 


 

It's not long until the Classics season starts and the Giro d'Italia isn't far off either. For us lesser mortals,Spring is around the corner as we start to get the legs spinning to dust off those winter cobwebs.

In June you will have the chance to ride up Alpe d'Huez with Ned Boulting re-creating the scenes of Geraint Thomas' glorious victory on Stage 12 of last year's Tour de France. In this blog, we ask him to take us down memory lane and what tips to give those cycling the majestic mountain for the first time.

Free signed copy of The Road Book for every rider who joins Ned's trip:

 

 

Contact us about joining this Ned Boulting ride
Destination
Select Date
Number of travellers

In June we will be heading across to the cycling heartlands as we take on the mythical Alpe d’Huez with Ned Boulting.  As lovingly retold in the Cycling Bible edited by Ned, The Road Book, this has been the location of many battles between cyclists, and where last year Geraint Thomas really laid down his marker on the rest of the peloton.

As someone who has been covering the Tour for the last 16 years, Ned has been caught up in the magic of the Tour every summer and has seen it all on this most famous of mountain roads. 

This June he will heading up the 21 bends with Bikecation as we pay homage to Geraint Thomas’ summer in yellow and the mountain’s place in cycling folklore.

In a change of situation, we sat down with Ned and asked him the questions about Alpe d’Huez, what you can expect by joining the trip and some tips:

 

What is your abiding memory of Alpe d’Huez?

Too many. I first visited the climb on my first Tour de France in 2003. It was stage eight, and the race finished there. Lance Armstrong finished in third place, which was enough to put him into a race lead that he never relinquished (until, of course, he was stripped of all his results a decade later). The next day, L’Equipe newspaper featured a picture of Armstrong in yellow in which I happened to be rather prominent. I definitely felt like I’d arrived after that!

That day was also memorable for Woody, our sound engineer, ripping a massive hole along the entire length of our hired Renault Espace trying to reverse into an impossibly narrow parking space at the top. I didn’t realise it at the time, but annual dents and dings are a guaranteed bi-product of travelling around on the Tour. Mind you, that was a massive one.

But so many race days live long in the memory. In 2008 Carlos Sastre effectively won the Tour by taking the Alpe. That climb was most memorable for the double-headed attacks from the Schleck brother’s (riding on Sastre’s team) which debilitated the Spaniard’s main rival Cadel Evans. Three years later, in 2011, France produced a rare winner in Pierre Rolland. The mountain exploded with joy. And then, much more recently, on the 2017 Dauphiné, I will never forget watching Peter Kennaugh trying desperately to shrug off Ben Swift - the two British riders contested the win from a breakaway and Swift, a natural sprinter, made it very hard for Kennaugh.

But mostly, I just recall clear blue skies (has it ever rained in my experience of the Alpe? I don’t think so) and ravenously attacking pizzas as big as a Renault Espace wheel at the end of the day.

"The next day, L’Equipe newspaper featured a picture of Armstrong in yellow in which I happened to be rather prominent. I definitely felt like I’d arrived after that!"

 

What's your favourite moment commentating on Alpe d’Huez

I suppose it has to be 2018, but maybe not for the obvious reasons. Yes, it was a stunning, historic victory by Thomas (the first British win on the Tour, and the first - excluding Armstrong in a time trial - by a wearer of the yellow jersey), but there was so much more to it than that. For a start, there was that audacious, long-range attack by the wonderful Dutch GC hope Steven Kruijswijk. He’d ignited the race by attacking seventy kilometres from the finish, and still, somehow, had a four-and-a-half-minute lead at the foot of the climb. Dutch corner went crazy. In the end, that fairy tale didn’t come true, but the race to the line was exceptional: by far the most competitive in my sixteen years of covering the Tour - a group containing all the big players came to the final corner as one, with Thomas taking the wide line for speed. David Millar and I had speculated on whether he was still riding for Chris Froome, but at that moment it became very clear. ’That’s not a lead out!’ I remember saying, and David just laughed.

What are your tips for people cycling Alpe d'Huez for the first time? 

Don’t fear it. Enjoy it. The steepest section, and for some reason the most daunting, tend to be the first few kilometres. After that the rhythm of the switchbacks help to propel you up the climb. Be prepared though for the final few kilometres. Approaching the village can seem to take an age. And finally, don’t be frightened of stopping. In fact, I positively encourage you to stop, and take it all in. You may never experience it again.

If you could cycle up Alpe d'Huez with anyone in history, who would it be?

Not Eddy Merckx. Not sure he’d be up for a chat. I think I’d like most of all to ride up it with my Dad; to show him the majesty of a world neither of us knew the first thing about (cycling, the Tour de France) when I was growing up. But it’s a way of life, a culture which has taken over my life to some extent. I’d like to show it off to him. Might have to be an e-bike though. For both of us.

Will you be cycling up Alpe d'Huez on your Brompton?

Not this time. I rode up it on my faithful folder last summer, and it was fine. But it’ll be nice to treat myself to some carbon fibre this time and not subject myself to the ridicule of the French public by the side of the road!

 

We wouldn’t recommend doing this ride on a fold-up bike and we are able to provide carbon fibre bikes for you to hire!  After each day’s riding you will be able to relax in the luxury chalet we will be staying in in Vaujany while re-nourishing on delicious 7 course meals by Chef Marcus. 

Find out more about joining the ride on the 20th June here.

ACCEPT COOKIESTo give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. Using this site means you agree to our use of cookies. We have published a cookies policy, which you should read to find out more about the cookies we use. View cookies policy.