Racing on the Hills: Alpe d’Huez Tri

Entered Alpe d’Huez, Ironman France or any other hilly M-Dot this year? Here are our hill riding tips


Location: Bourg D’Oisans, France


Date: 24 July 2013

Almost anyone who’s ever pedalled a bike in anger knows Alpe d’Huez. This iconic Tour de France climb forms the last 14km of a seriously hard 115km bike course at the Alpe d’Huez tri. There aren’t many more testing hill challenges than this.

“The biggest mistake that people make preparing for Alpe d’Huez is changing their training to include heaps of hill work if they’re not used to it,” says elite coach Brett Sutton, who will once again be taking his Team TBB athletes to the mountain this summer. “Do that and you’ll destroy your race before you get there.

“Incorporating hills into your workout a couple of times a week is plenty. When you do them, try one session where you hit them hard and one where you go easier and let your legs soak it up as you ride. This will allow you to adapt to hills without flattening yourself in training.


“Be warned, though – the weather at Alpe d’Huez is unique. No matter how hot it is on the day, it will be cold in the water and out of it for the start of the bike. So to avoid losing your breath at the beginning of the swim, enter the water early to adjust before the start.

“If it’s going to be a wet bike, then take time to dress properly in transition before setting off. It will help your race no end. Even when it’s warm, the descents on the bike will soon cool you down if you’re not dressed correctly. Plenty of people’s races have finished for this reason on the first descent.

“When it comes to bike choice, if you know you climb well on your TT bike, there’s no harm in using it. I think wheel choice is more important than bike choice for this race. Discs or deep rims are not the answer – you want shallow-rimmed wheels and tyres with good grip for the descents. This is not a race to start on new tyres.

“For gearing I recommend putting your ego in the cupboard and packing a 25-39 for men and a 27-39 for women in case of a bad patch. It’s a game saver. “Finally, the run. Being at altitude on top of the mountain helps runners who usually go out too hard – they can’t here and are naturally held back to an aerobic level. Few people struggle on the run here if they’ve got their nutrition right on the bike.”


Ironman France, Nice, 23 June 2013

With over 1,500 vertical metres on the bike course, Ironman France makes you work for your two-wheeled mileage. And the scenery’s stunning, assuming you get a chance to look up that is…


Remember that what goes up, must come down. In this case, much of that is on some very twisty roads. A pre-race ride (or at least a drive) of these will pay great dividends, as your knowledge – and, therefore, confidence – will allow you to make up places over more cautious riders.