Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux are both infamous for their challenging cycling routes, featured in the Tour De France and completed by many cyclists from around the world each year. In this blog, we discuss how to prepare yourself for each of these challenging rides so you can complete your next big cycling adventure.
So is Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux harder? Both of these epic rides provide a different challenge for cyclists, requiring proper training, pacing and advance planning. Alpe d’Huez is considered one of the most iconic parts of the Tour De France and includes the famous 21 hairpin turns however, Mont Ventoux is the longer route with steep inclines and would be considered a tough climb.
Read on to find out more about these iconic routes and how to prepare for them.
Which is Harder to Cycle - Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux?
If you are more familiar with longer routes, Alpe d’Huez may pose more of a challenge due to the number of hairpin bends as these can be hard to master. On the other hand, the intensity of Mont Ventoux comes from the length and intense inclines. In general, Mont Ventoux is considered harder to cycle due to its longer length and steeper gradients, but both climbs can test even the strongest of riders.
Both the Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux routes require a lot of training and preparation, for cyclists of all levels. Training, planning a route and bringing the right equipment are all key steps in preparing for these huge rides. Comparing the difficulty of these routes mostly comes down to your personal experience.
How Should You Prepare for Cycling Alpe d’Huez?
Known as the 21 bends, Alpe d’Huez is considered one of the most iconic parts of Tour de France and is a very popular route in the cycling community. Here are our top tips for preparing yourself for this iconic route.
If you are looking to beat or set your new personal best on this route, it can take anywhere from 50-75 minutes to complete Alpe d’Huez, however, this depends on your personal fitness level. While practising cycling, work on pacing yourself so you don’t overexert and cause injury; this will help once you start the actual ride. Alpe d’Huez is an intense ride so get plenty of rest beforehand.
Training for big alpine climbs requires a combination of physical and mental preparation. Here are some tips for preparing for the climb:
- Build endurance: Long rides at a moderate pace can help build endurance, which is crucial for attempting a climb like Alpe d’Huez.
- Incorporate interval training: Interval training, such as short bursts of high-intensity cycling followed by periods of recovery, can help build your power and speed.
- Climb regularly: Practise climbing on hills or mountains to get used to the demands of cycling uphill. The average grade of Alpe d’Huez is 8% but it has some parts that are 11% so try and find some hills near you that are like that and get used to them.
- Strength training: Incorporating strength training exercises such as squats and lunges into your routine can help build muscle and improve your overall cycling performance.
- Mental preparation: Climbing these mountains can be mentally challenging, so it's important to focus on visualisation, positive self-talk, and deep breathing.
- Fuel your body: Eating a balanced diet beforehand and staying hydrated are essential for performing at your best during the climb.
- Gradual progression: Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your training can help you avoid burnout and injury.
Plan A Route
When completing the iconic 21 turns route, made famous by the Tour de France, you’ll quickly realise that there are no flat stretches after crossing the starting line at the bottom of the hill. From here on it's straight up. Where to stop is an interesting one though as you have two options. The first is in the village where you will see a podium, the second is further through the village and up a bit more hill - and this is where the Tour de France finishes. I would recommend going for the later so you can truly say you ‘did it’.
How Should You Prepare for Cycling Mont Ventoux?
Completing Mont Ventoux is a challenge, even for seasoned riders and, as an iconic French route, is often considered a bucket list ride for many. Spanning over 20km and with a 1500+m ascent, this is a difficult route. Here are some tips for preparing for this epic ride:
As with any big climb, a high level of fitness is required, and being the minimum weight you can be at the time, to ensure you don’t overwork yourself and can complete the route. It’s going to be hard no matter what you do - I can’t put it better than the famous Greg LeMond “It never gets easier you just get faster” which we just happen to have a poster to hang if you need some extra motivation!
For the average cyclist, completing Mont Ventoux will take around 2 hours of intense cycling due to the incline. Getting plenty of practice is essential to build your fitness and energy levels. Mont Ventoux has a fair few hairpin corners that can prove difficult if you have never encountered them before, therefore, we strongly recommend that you practise descending corners before even attempting this route to get used to doing so safely.
Follow the same basic training tips as we suggested for Alpe d’Huez but extend your tolerance for pain from 1 hour to 2 hours. You want to be able to ride hard for 2 hours. This is really tough to get your head around.
Plan A Route
Knowing your route before you approach this challenge is a great way to reduce wasted time by helping you stay on track. You can focus on your goal and have an understanding of how fast you need to cycle to meet this goal. There are three different recommended routes for completing Mont Ventoux depending on your personal preferences. The route from Bédoin covers the usual Tour de France ride, riding at a gradient of 9-10%. But, if you don’t want to follow the popular route, starting from Malaucène is a quieter alternative that still offers plenty of challenges for seasoned cyclists with varied gradients. The final option begins from Sault which is a longer but more relaxed ride.
And if you want to take this to the next level you can try and complete the Club Cinglés challenge. All three ascents within 24 hours. Find out more here: https://www.clubcinglesventoux.org
Choosing the right time of year for completing this epic ride should provide a good inclination for what you need to wear. Mont Ventoux is known for its weather among the cycling community as it features thick fog and chilling winds close to the summit. It is preferable to pick a day where the summit is clear and the wind direction is behind you, propelling you without requiring additional effort. However, stay vigilant especially on turns and inclines as wind can push you off your bike, potentially causing injury.
Celebrate Your Achievement with English Cyclist
At The English Cyclist, we stock both Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux prints, with personalisation options available to help you celebrate your amazing achievement. Alternatively, you can create your own personalised cycling map print, showcasing your chosen route along with your completion time. Contact us today for help creating your print.