RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

Short Alpine Rough Stuff

Stephen Dee


1: L’Alpe d’Huez Descent

alpe d'huezCamping in Le Bourg D’Oisans, I went for an afternoon ride up Isère "Route Department 211" with its 21 hairpins to L’Alpe d’Huez. Unlike most riders, who went up on their lightest bikes with skinny tyres I went up on my expedition bike with full brew up kit. D211 is the classic example in the cycling world of "what goes up must come down!"


My time up the classic Tour de France climb was 2 hours 37 mins – but I was taking loads of photos as I did not intend to follow the sheep straight back down. After a celebratory brew up in honour of my "Personnel Best" up L’Alpe d’Huez, I headed out of town past Altiport de l’Alpe d’Huez which took me on to Route Pastorale Du Col De Sarenne. This road is shown as a paved road on the maps and completes a circuit over Col de Sarenne to D25 and back to D1091 (the former N91) at Barrage du Chambon, however most cyclists who do venture out of L’Alpe d’Huez in that direction, go a few miles along the route and do an about turn as the road surface is almost "rough stuff" with frequent large cobbled gullies cut across the road and loose grit everywhere.


I followed the road to Col de Sarenne (2009m) to claim my first 2000m col. After a photo stop I too about turned and headed back down Route Pastorale Du Col De Sarenne to a bridge where it crossed from one side of the valley to the other. At this point, 1830m, it has a junction with dirt track, which I took. The track followed the south side of the valley dropping height as the Route Pastorale Du Col De Sarenne back to L’Alpre d’Huez climbed slightly.


After about a mile, and a drop of about 100m, the track split with straight on heading towards the village of Huez, whilst the left fork headed towards Col du Cluy, which I followed. The tack climbed gently up to Col du Cluy (1801m), before descending back to the tarmac on D211b at Chap St Giraud. On the way down there was a sign for those heading up “Route Pastorale Dangeruse – aux risques et perils des usagers”, the track was hardly dangerous, it was a nice pleasant dirt track . With light rapidly fading it was back to camp through les Cours d’Auris and D211a back to LaGarde on D211 at hairpin 16. In all 4 miles of rough stuff.

Map used: IGN 1:50K Alpes A5 - Belledonne


2: Brewing Up On Top of The Vercors

Camping near Pont-en-Royans, in the Vercors, which also form part of the Alps as a local corrected me when I stated I preferred the Vercors to the Alps, I went for a ride to Villard-de-Lans a popular resort near to Grenoble. Due to a number of road closures, my routes around the Vercors were limited, however one route which has reopened is D518 through the le Grand Goulets, but at present this involves riding through a mile long tunnel.

I have information from the Department of Drôme that the "classic route" will be reopened to cyclist and walkers, but at present this has not happened yet, and the tourist office in Villard-de-Lans says it is closed permanently.


My ride through the tunnel took me to St-Martin-en-Vercors to buy food for a late breakfast and picnic lunch. Due to the road through Gorges de la Bourne being closed, I started to follow the diversion route along D221 which climbed steadily up through the Forêt de Chalimont. A late breakfast was had brewing up in the sun on a hair pin prior to topping Col d’Herbouilly, 1370m. From there it was a short ride to Col de Chalimont, 1365m, where the rough stuff started.


There I picked up the GVT route which was signposted to Belvédere de Château Julien, 1.8Km. The GVT followed a well define track which zigzagged a few times up to Belvédere de Château Julien. There was not a château in sight, but a lovely plateau at 1530m, with wonderful views across to the peaks that form a N-S chain of mountains from Grenoble. Such a view was cause to celebrate so out came the stove for a cuppa.

After my brew up I rode across the plateau a short way to Parking de Château Julien and a short descent on tarmac to Col de Malaterre, 1450m (marked on the map as 1400m). From there I followed Route Forestiere De Malaterre to Baraque de Malaterre and then Route Forestiere Des Charbonnières to a T junction where the tarmac was left again by turning right following the signs to Corrençon-en-Vercors, after an initial mud bath caused by forestry operations, this turned into a nice track through the woods past lots of little junctions with romantic names such as Carrefour de la Glacière, Campalong and Derrière la Côte.


The final section of the track went through the golf course at Corrençon-en-Vercors, which prompted a photo stop for the golfers at work of the view from the 18th Tee. The track ended in the golf course car park, at which point I followed the road into Villard-de-Lans.

Map used: IGN 1:60K Vercors