Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

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Wednesday 25 September 2019

Cycling in the Alps Day 4. (Alpe D'Huez)

Cycling in the Alps day 4

After yesterday rest and transfer day then today was the big one with an iconic ride as we tackled Alpe D'Huez. Our new apartment is small and modern and the owner provides breakfast. As Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) speaks French he arranged for breakfast at a ridiculously leisurely huit heures (8 o’clock). When it arrived it consisted of a superb selection of local produce including omelette. I normally only ever have a bucket of porridge for breakfast so the first task of the day was to separate Andrew from his petit dejeuner in order that we would be setting off before lunch time.
Excellent french style breakfast
There was also croissant provided giving me my first rating opportunity for a couple of days. It was nice but slightly underbaked in the middle and too brown on outside (too hot an oven methinks) so not the ultimate one.
Latest croissant for testing
When Breakfast extraction was eventually complete it was pedals down at 9:30.
Pedals down from outside our new apartment
The late start was probably a good thing as there was still low cloud and you could barely see that there were any mountains near by let alone the one we were about to tackle.

Early morning visibility issues
Today’s route would go up Alpe D’Huez by the Tour de France route. After descending most people return to base and pat themselves on the back but this would only be a 35 mile ride at most so instead we (I) decided to add on an additional climb up Deux Alpes (2 Alps) also often featured on the TdF making it a more respectable 42 miles and over 2000m of climbIng. Again we would be either going up (which I’m better at) or down (which Andrew is better at) so would probably not see much of each other today.

So as to avoid the ”no food all day” scenario of our last ride we turned the remnants of breakfast into emergency ratios so were ladened down as we left the village and were straight on to the climb.
Start of Alpe D'Huez climb
Alpe d’Huez has 21 hairpin bends. The guide book claimed the numbering of them was inspired by the 26 numbered hairpins on the Vrsic pass in Slovenia. Coincidentally that was the climb myself and Andrew did on the first mountain top cafe hunt several years ago. I only hoped that there would be a better cafe at the top of this one (spoiler alert, there wasn’t).
One of the many famous hairpin bends
It was very cold going up but after about 7 bends the cloud lifted and we started to get some decent and dramatic views. One advantage was that the weather had put off other cyclists and especially the dreaded motor-bikers so it was a relatively peaceful climb with only the noise of my beating heart and panting breath to disturb things. I was pleased as I had been warned it can be a bit of a procession during the height of the season.
The cloud started to lift as we approached halfway
It’s not the hardest climb ever but still pretty tough. It starts very steep for about a mile then is at a steady 8% with no rest bite for the next 6 miles before a final flat section through town. So after about an hour I was pleased to see the famous mast and ski resort coming into view.
Approaching the summit village
There was no sign of Andrew so I looked down the mountain to see if I could see him and also so that you could play today’s round of where’s Andrew.
Wheres Andrew today?
From here it was a final push into town. On all the other climbs I have done you know you are at the top as there is a sign telling you that it’s the summit and then the road starts to go down. Alpe d’Huez isn’t actually at the top of anything mountain wise as it’s a large ski resort so I couldn’t find the official end point and spent some time cycling round town looking for it. It was a bit of a disappointment, coming halfway up a random street, but at least I can now say I’ve done it.
Official end point of climb
Meanwhile there was no sign of Andrew so I went in search. I followed my route back through town hoping to see him. With no sightings I was starting to worry we could be stuck here sometime when the phone rang. It was Andrew confirming he was lost. As neither of us knew where we were I asked him to describe his whereabouts. He described a bridge he was standing nearby which sounded just like the one I was at and as luck would have it he was only 10 meters away on the other side. The one advantage of having cycled round town was that I had found the only Boulangerie open, so we headed there for a debrief.
The only bakery open in town
It even had one last croissant which I have to say was particularly disappointing, with only views of nearby ski apartments and hot drinks from a machine this was not the top mountain top cafe experience I had hoped for so it was time to move on.
Not a great summit cafe
Alpe d’Huez is probably the most famous climb in the world and that’s why everyone has to do it but to be honest although the views on the way up are good and the hairpins make it interesting it wouldn’t be close to my top 10 although I was pleased to have done it. However once we left, out the back way, we were treated to some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen.
Amazing views down the less cycled side of the mountain
We now rode over to Col de Sarenne without a soul around enjoying the dramatic views.
A lovely empty mountain to enjoy
The summit (with a proper sign and everything) was the high point (literally but not metaphorically) of the day.
Top of Col de Saremne
Once over the top the views were even better although the road was very narrow and a bit gravely in places so the descent was rather cautious.
More extraordinary views
As we approached the bottom we decided to stop to have our emergency ratios from breakfast and we discussed our options from here. My plan was to go up to Deux Alps, another ski resort finish used on the tour, although we could skip it and take a more scenic route back to base. I decided to stick to the original plan (who’d have thought), while Andrew decided that he didn’t need to see another resort so would go the pretty way, although as it turned out he got lost and headed down the main road instead, so here his story ends.
Andrew deciding to take the short way back
Meanwhile I headed up to Deux Alps on a rather boring climb with similar gradients to this morning but without such good views or history.
A rather dull climb up deux Alpes
Once at the top it appeared that Deux Alps was still being built and despite cycling through it in both directions (and it's a pretty big resort) everything was shut.
Deux Alps appeared not to be complete
I decided to have my emergency pain au raisin, take my “I was there” photo and head back rather relieved that I hadn’t encouraged Andrew to come on an extra climb for nothing.
Requisite I was there photo
The descent down started as normal but after I headed through a small village it turned onto the most vertigo inducing stretch of road I’ve ever been on. I hand the brakes hard on and cycled as near to the non edge side as possible with my heart pounding more than on the way up. Any nose blowing would have to wait.
Not a route for anyone scared of heights
I won’t show you what the drop ever the edge looked like as I wasn’t brave enough to take a photo but when I got down further I looked up to see where I had come from.
Route down looked even more frightening from the bottom
For once I wasn’t disappointed to be joining the main road for the last few miles back to town. Back at the apartment I needed a sit down and for the second time this week an almost unprecedented second cup of tea.

Today had been dedicated to TdF ski resort finishes but to be honest they are not nearly as good as the not so famous cols we have done this week. However the views on the two descents were some of my most memorable.

For our final ride tomorrow we are doing a less demanding route away from the cycle tourists and hopefully unearth some more cycling hidden gems.

Todays Route


Cafe ratings
Atmosphere and Ambiance
Col Du Vars
Chez Barulo
Café de Lac
Le Fournil Savinois
Auberge Roche Grande
Salazard, Alpe d’Huez 

Luton Pret
La Marandiere, Barcelonnette
Café du Vars
Le Fournil Savinois 
Chalet la Cachette
Salazard, Alpe d’Huez 


Trip statistics
Average Mph
Time on Bike
Metres climbed
Col Vars
Tour du Lac Serre Poncon
Three Cols from Barcelonnette
Alpe D’Huez
Quiet Cols recovery


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