Report 1: « Alpe d'Huez Report 3: Villard Notre Dame »

The stunning, dramatic scenery of the French Alps

Cycling Col de Sarenne — The B side of Alpe d'Huez

23 photos and movies (movie) by Steven Hill, steephill.tv
(The free QuickTime player may be needed to view the movies)

col-de-sarenne-panoramic

An easterly view two km after summiting Col de Sarenne (scroll right » for full panoramic)


Listen to Casey Kasem!
“It's a dance track that touches my heart(rate) like hidden treasure on the B side of a 45 rpm record; the east side ascent of Alpe d'Huez, over Col de Sarenne, literally rocks by all standards. So without further ado, this week's long distance dedication goes out to all the viewers who prefer the road less traveled to last weeks AM chart topper. Keep your feet on the pedals and keep reaching for the stars” — Casey Kasem,
King of the Mountains Countdowns

There is a terrific loop starting from either Bourg d'Oisans or Alpe d'Huez that is a favorite among the locals who have seen the star of the show enough times. At just 55 km, it's very sane, but I actually researched it over three different days. In July, I did a short out and back to Col de Sarenne on my La Marmotte recovery day and then another out and back to le Freney d'Oisans during the day of Etape du Tour. I was hoping to continue past le Freney but I encountered an Etape road closure. Finally, during a return visit in August with Rebecca, I was able to do the full loop. The photo gallery is a collection from all three days.

corniche and col de sarenne video
Click the pic to watch
Corniche and Col de Sarenne feature video

The tracks for this ride cue up in the following order when started from Alpe d'Huez: the slalom ride down the famous climb until La Garde which is 4 km from the base (Bourg d'Oisans), the spectacular traversal of the D211A corniche looking over the Romanche Valley and Bourg d'Oisans, the bridge across the dam on N91 at Barrage du Chambon and the quintessential (quiet, narrow and scenic) 11K climb up the B side of Alpe d'Huez via Col de Sarenne.

I only have one anecdote to tell before cueing up the slide show and letting the images tell the story. While returning along the D211A corniche on the way back from le Freney during the day of the Etape, I'm coasting slowly looking for the right shot when a car widely rounds a corner on the narrow one lane road. I'm going so slow that I don't need much road to work with but even so the driver never sees me until the last moment. With a good head of steam going into the corner, I would have had three options: a head on collision, a launch off a cliff, or a carving by jagged mountain rocks. Those are the only options on a corniche if you can't stop in time. Incidents like this are a reminder. Don't descend like a fool especially when you're thousands of miles from home on an unfamiliar road (at the start of seven week trip) because you are never in control. Besides you never know when you're going to stop and take a picture. winkSteve, October 4, 2006

Next... French Alps Episode 3: Villard Notre Dame »


Turning off onto quiet D211A at La Garde.jpg
Turning off onto quiet D211A at La Garde
The start of the corniche.jpg
The start of the corniche
A precarious view of Bourg d'Oisans.jpg
A precarious view of Bourg d'Oisans
There is no room for error so don't ride like an idiot.jpg
There is little room for error
A preview of the next episode... Villard Notre Dame.jpg
A preview of the next episode... Villard Notre Dame
Tunnel Vision.jpg
Tunnel Vision
Like cycling into a postcard.jpg
Like cycling into a postcard
Romanche Valley and dramatic peaks.jpg
Romanche Valley and dramatic peaks
So captivated by the view that we forgot the water bottle.jpg
So captivated by the view that we forgot the water bottle
A Chambon chalet adds scale.jpg
A Chambon chalet adds scale
N91 is a busy road, but we only needed it for 5 km.jpg
N91 is a busy road, but we only needed it for 5 km
The Romanche River at Barrage (Dam) du Chambon.jpg
The Romanche River at Barrage (Dam) du Chambon
The B side of Alpe D'Huez is something to dance to.jpg
The B side of Alpe D'Huez is something to dance to
15% always peaks our interest.jpg
15% always peaks our interest
This switchback was no picnic.jpg
This switchback was no picnic
Hillusion.jpg
Hillusion
Sarennity.jpg
Sarennity
It's a quiet interesting road don't you think.jpg
Follow the switchbacks
The top view from Col de Sarenne (el 1999 m).jpg
The top view from Col de Sarenne (el 1999 m)
Ian is not about to make a moot point regarding the scenery.jpg
Ian is not about to make a moot point regarding the scenery
Looking down on our road up.jpg
Looking down on our road up
In the other direction, from the top of Alpe d'Huez, here's Huez Village and Bourg d Oisans in the valley.jpg
In the other direction, from the top of Alpe d'Huez, here's Huez Village and Bourg d Oisans in the valley