The challenge known as La Marmotte

You’ve mastered the hills in your home town, completed cyclosportives in the UK or maybe you’ve been on a few cycling holidays. Now you’re wondering, “What’s next?”. The answer comes in the form of one of the biggest events on the amateur cycling calendar, La Marmotte. The challenge, classic Tour de France climbs and the potential bragging rights make this a special sportive to complete. Pack your bike box and take your bike abroad to the French Alps for the ultimate test.


La Marmotte is the oldest and toughest European sportive. It’s quite possibly the ultimate challenge for any cyclist. With hours of climbing and technical descents, this is one of the toughest days you will ever have on a bike. A lot of people train for a year and even then, plenty fail.

Take your own bike

The huge demands of the course make training vital and bike setup is everything. Getting your bike to the Alps in one piece is easy with a Bike Box Alan. Hire a bike box from Banbury Bike Box Hire for the big day – Reserve Now.

The Course

The route begins in Le Bourg Doisans and features Tour de France climbs including the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and finally a summit finish on Alpe d’Huez. What more could you ask for? It’s 174km in length and climbs a lung busting 5,000m.



It’s 18 miles uphill from the start, then 20 minutes downhill very fast. Then the Telegraph and Galibier for the next 20 miles, there’s not let up. You’ve then got 30 miles of downhill. Then come the tunnels – pitch black and potholed. The worst is yet to come. After 100 miles, when it’s baking hot, you’ve got to get up the Alpe d’Huez to the finish.

To give you an idea of the amount of climbing this involves, if you were to start off at sea level, start pedalling and tilt yourself directly skywards until you reach 5,180 metres elevation you would end up at the same altitude as the northern base camp on Mount Everest! To say that’s a lot of climbing would be an understatement.

Classic Climbs

Although not the biggest, the Col du Glandon is not one to be underestimated. Pace yourself for the 25km ascent and take note that the steepest section at, over 10 per cent gradient, comes just after a short downhill 12kms in.


The Col du Télégraphe is all about finding a good comfortable rhythm and sticking to it. It’s a constant gradient of around 6-7 per cent over its 12km length which means you don’t have to worry about changes in pitch that can sometimes unsettle the legs – the next climb on the menu will do that!

From Valloire, the Galibier is 18km long, with the first handful of kilometres gentle in gradient. The gradient rarely drops much below double figures until the last couple of kilometres when it pitches up even more just to give the legs another wake up! At 2,645 metres elevation the views are breathtaking, as is the sheer magnitude of this fantastic mountain.


Alpe d’Huez needs little introduction as one of the most iconic climbs in the Alps and a frequent centre piece of the Tour de France. At this point in the day it could be stiflingly hot. The first two kilometres are the steepest at over 10 per cent gradient before the road eases back and you can start to think about trying to turn your legs in circles once more. With each of the 21 hairpins named after stage winners from the Tour, it’s a welcome distraction as you battle your way up to the finish at 1,815m.



As you come around the last bend with the finishing line in sight, you can remind yourself that this is one of the hardest cyclosportives in the world. All pain will disappear and the sense of achievement will be massive.

Top tips for first timers

There’s a wealth of information and advice available for completing this sportive. Here are just a few tips for first timers:

  • Make sure your nutrition strategy is spot on. It really helps knowing exactly how your body would react to certain foods and products. Staving off bonking due to a lack of energy is crucial knowing that your body was almost guaranteed to suffer.
  • Adapt your bike for the conditions. Make sure you put a compact chainset on your bike, it isn’t macho riding a standard, especially when your legs turn to jelly and you find yourself unable to maintain 40rpm.
  • Make sure you’re clued up when it comes to mechanicals. A bit of extra knowledge can go a long way in order to get yourself going again quickly without waiting for roadside assistance.
  • Make sure you train! It will be a whole lot more enjoyable, less painful and more satisfying if you’re fully prepared.

This year’s event is being held on 8th July 2018. Check out the website for more information.

When travelling keep your bike safe and secure by hiring a Bike Box Alan from Banbury Bike Box Hire. Get in touch for a quote today.

07927 490070


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