Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

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Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby fionahills » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:36 pm

Hi there

very new rider - really really new - have a husband that is a bike tragic - he has supported me for years riding horses so my turn to enjoy his sport - trying to get all the basics established and hoping that by Sept 2013 will be able to ride with him in France and do Alpe d'Huez - I have driven and walked up it - so am under no illusions about how hard it will be - don't care how long it takes me - just want to be able to met him at the top - preferably on the same day!!

any tips hints etc how we should approach it - know the area fairly well and happy to bring our own bikes - but would I be better hiring something with a triple on it? I ride a giant avail advanced 2011 - its a 105 compact - just learning to use gears and know nothing about them -

anyway any advice re independent versus organised - what kind of effort should I be able to do before contemplating the climb etc would be greatly received - only donw two 50 km group rides so far - only just started to learn to ride hills and concentrating on cadence (85 to 90 aver) - my speed is woeful - and that is on a 4 to 5% 3 kms slope. (did not even know that cadence was important on the flat til last week!!!) - told you very new.....

alpe d'huez is 13 km at 8-12% - is it possible for a newbie 50 year old to get there with a year's work???? BMI is average - fitness probably Ok for a old girl - honesty appreciated

thanks so much
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by BNA » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:07 pm

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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby toolonglegs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:07 pm

Don't over think it :D ... you have a year, ride lots and enjoy yourself, lose weight if you need to ( this will make life on a bike much easier ). Just slowly build up your pace and endurance and you will notice the gains quick enough.
If in doubt hire a bike with a triple when you get there, Alpe D'huez has no "very" steep bits so you can plod up at your own pace especially in a triple quite happily. It will take you up to two, two and a half hours to do it though... but the views are fantastic as you know.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby The 2nd Womble » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:15 pm

Just looked at this. Alpe d'Huez is 3300m vertical by road(?), and the climb up to Paluma north of Townsville is 2900m. If I could do it first time out on 9kg bike with no more than good fitness, it should be achievable by almost anyone provided the determination and your husband don't leave you hanging :)
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby toolonglegs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:28 pm

3300 feet vertical maybe
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby splint » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:57 pm

just ride, ride, ride.......and to give you some inspiration, did a Tour de France group ride this year, one of the blokes who is 71 took up riding 9 months before the tour and successfully rode up most of the cols this year, slowly, but he made it and most importantly thoroughly enjoyed it. As for myself, while I ride quite a lot, always struggled up hills, at 55 years of age and not exactly built like a jockey, in January this year could not make it up King Lake here in Melbourne, collapsed about 2ks from top, anyway, with lots of training, including hills, loosing a bit of weight, changing to a compact, made it up all the climbs, just go at your own pace, have a few stops to "smell the roses" and take lots of pics, the sense of satisfaction when you reach the top is amazing.......GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby The 2nd Womble » Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:41 pm

toolonglegs wrote:3300 feet vertical maybe

Less altitude gain on the black stuff?
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby toolonglegs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:15 pm

The 2nd Womble wrote:
toolonglegs wrote:3300 feet vertical maybe

Less altitude gain on the black stuff?

Alpe D'Huez village sits at 1,860m... Bourg D'Oisan at the bottom sits at 720 metres. So vertical climb is about 1120-1140m I think. Still a long way up in 14kms :D .
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby Meditator » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:41 pm

My tips:

But it would help to know if you expect to be carrying your gear with you all the way. For that you will need to be fitter still.

Work on increasing your knee fitness. There is such a thing as bike fitness and that involves getting those muscles used in shape for bikes. If you can go on any tours in australia with riding say 100km per day with all your gear that would quickly get your fitness up. You don't need to do big hills but it would be good if you could tackle a few small ones.

Don't overwork your knees when you start out. The first sign you get of any inflammation in your knees. Stop and rest. Don't push through knee pain. Always let knee pain recover properly as much as you can. You can build up general fitness with any type of exercise, running is probably the best for cardiac fitness but riding a bike for muscle fitness. Running is also good for increasing bone strength where as riding is not since you are not carrying your weight.

What i did when i got knee pain from a strain whilst on tour was to take frequent breaks - ie about every half hour i think. Just frequent short brakes helps relieve the pain and slows the exacerbation rate. I actually got better from this strain as the tour continued and i would suggest that this was due to improving strength as the tour went on and sufficient rest to recover from the problem.

Also make sure you include protein in your diet for muscle repair and building whilst you are in training and whilst on tour. YOu can do this on a vegetarian diet. You don't have to eat lots of meat. Milk and beans and parmesan cheese, are the sources of protein that i rely on whilst on tour (and basically whilst at home also).
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby fionahills » Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:03 pm

thanks so much everyone - great advice - will not overthink it, just practice as much as possible and generally get as fit as I can and improve confidence on the bike - think my hubby will probably go on ahead and we will meet at the top - I find it hard to follow someone else's pace and imagine it would be awful to have to wait on someone else going at half your speed.

He thinks I am being a a sook looking at triples but already have a compact and think i might need a bail out option!!

We won't be carrying any gear - will hire a car for the trip & stay in Bourg d Oisans for the AdH ride.
Might take me a few goes to get to the top!!
We scouted out some other lovely small bike friendly hotels during our visit last - but it was too late in the year for bikes (November) and I had only ridden once in my life before the trip- 25km on a flatbar at a local charity ride - nearly killed me- told you I was very new!!

We will probably move around a little and just look for other great rides - hopefully some nice flatish ones for me too. I think my hubby has a list of 'climbs' he wants to do but after AdH I will be in the car - only the one mountain for me!! I can drive to the top and cheer him on while not feeling completely useless.

thanks again for all your help - I found the information and advice really reassuring - will let you know when I book the tickets

thanks Fiona
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby The 2nd Womble » Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:19 pm

Remember, photos or it never happened :)
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby RonK » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:09 pm

When you have mastered Gyndier Drive, tackle Palmwoods to Montville, Buderim from any direction. Nambour to Mapleton, Kenilworth to Maleny. You'll be ready for the Stelvio in no time... :lol:
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby fionahills » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:53 pm

Hi all - thanks for all the trip tips - new to sunny coast so great to have options of where to ride - hopefully my stubborn streak and the gentle competition I have with hubby will keep my wheels turning!!! Alpe d'Huez will be enough for me - Tony is desperate to do all sorts of hills so I will be support person - we'll have to hope the weather is kind over the summer and that I don't start to pike it as it warms up - don't think so, its a great sport and really nice to have something we can do together as we approach our dotage!!

- fiona
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby brett.hooker » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:56 pm

Jealous here... What an awesome holiday that will be !!!!
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby Meditator » Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:08 am

I nearly posted the bit below cause i hadn't read your post but i'm going to leave it in case you can become persuaded to become a proper bike tourer. Have you ever read Anne Mustoe's book A bike ride. She was 54 when she took up cycling and set out on a journey around the world. She continued doing bike tours until she died on one some years later from a bug she caught in Syria. I think you should consider more than just riding up one steep hill. cycle touring is such a lovely way to travel. Also check out the noosa trails. There was one that i heard about and wanted to do but never got around to it. It goes from cooroy up to Kin Kin. I did one or two of the other trails which were nice. The one i just mentioned is quite tough though and you probably wouldn't like it but your hubby might. Its a mountain bike ride though. What sort of bikes are you taking to France?

lol i forgot the important point that i meant to make in the first place. You and your partner should split the weight so that you are not lagging so far behind. Certainly it is unfair for the female to carry half the weight. Men are so much stronger and should carry more gear when there are two of you. Its generally nicer to travel more or less close together anyway. If he complains tell him he's being a brute.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby RonK » Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:55 am

fionahills wrote: Alpe d'Huez will be enough for me - Tony is desperate to do all sorts of hills so I will be support person - we'll have to hope the weather is kind over the summer and that I don't start to pike it as it warms up - don't think so, its a great sport and really nice to have something we can do together as we approach our dotage!!

That is what you say now Fiona, but watch out - you could be bitten by the bug, if you come to understand Tony's attraction to the riding the mountain passes. But I do counsel Tony to take care on the descents and to be very alert for traffic coming up, particularly on the many blind corners. Friends were involved in a very nasty incident in France just a few years ago.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby ldrcycles » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:06 pm

Unfortunately here on the coast we haven't got any really long climbs, if you want a workout you pick the steeper ones. My suggestion would be to ride Gyndier until you can average say 18kmh up it, then hit up the climb up Bald Knob, as it's longer. I would definitely recommend triple cranks and at least a 28t cassette when you go over there, i haven't been O/S but you never know if you are going to feel a bit off on the day and need that super low gear. About the toughest climbs going on the coast are Razorback Road from Palmwoods up to Montville, and Obi Obi from Kenilworth up to Mapleton. I reckon if you can clear those without feeling like you're cheating death then you should be easily able to do the Alpe.

And just so you know, i am terribly jealous, make sure you take lots of photos :) .
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby RonK » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:46 pm

ldrcycles wrote:About the toughest climbs going on the coast are Razorback Road from Palmwoods up to Montville, and Obi Obi from Kenilworth up to Mapleton. I reckon if you can clear those without feeling like you're cheating death then you should be easily able to do the Alpe.

There is no need for Fiona to train on any killer climbs. Alpe d'Huez is not steep, just long, and Palmwoods-Montville Road far more representative of the typical grades which will be encountered.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby toolonglegs » Sun Sep 30, 2012 4:05 pm

Ummm... Alpe d'huez is steep, 14kms at 8% with ramps at 11%... That is enough for most people to suffer.
Yes you can put it in the granny and do 4kms an hour but then it will take 3 hours to get to the top.
The biggest thing is not to go hard at the bottom as the first ramps are steep...just settle into a rhythm that you can hold for an hour or more.
If it is hot make sure you have enough fluids for two hours.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby ldrcycles » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:20 pm

RonK wrote: Palmwoods-Montville Road


Slight problem there :) .

http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/~/media/Proje ... p2011.ashx


Bald Knob would probably be the closest, but even that is only a couple of kilometres.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby Meditator » Mon Oct 01, 2012 1:13 am

OMGosh, only 14kms!
Fiona, don't worry, training for this should be no drama at all. I have another tip for you, if you don't have hills around just ride everywhere with panniers full of weight. This will build up your knee strength.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby scirocco » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:58 am

fionahills wrote:
any tips hints etc how we should approach it - know the area fairly well and happy to bring our own bikes - but would I be better hiring something with a triple on it? I ride a giant avail advanced 2011 - its a 105 compact - just learning to use gears and know nothing about them -

anyway any advice re independent versus organised - what kind of effort should I be able to do before contemplating the climb etc would be greatly received - only donw two 50 km group rides so far - only just started to learn to ride hills and concentrating on cadence (85 to 90 aver)


Alpe d'Huez is perfectly doable for a newbie with moderate fitness IF you (a) have suitable gearing and (b) can pace yourself and go as slow as you need not to blow up. If you are riding a double ensure it has a 34 front and at least 32 or 34 rear. A 28 rear may not be low enough. You still won't be riding at 85 or 90 rpm but you will be happier than a lot of recreational riders grinding up at 60 rpm on their 28s. Learn the tricks like avoiding the apex of corners where the gradient is steepest. Eat and drink enough. Consciously go slow and don't stress about the time - no-one will remember that you took 2 hours instead of 1 hr 30 but everyone will remember if you don't finish.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby Meditator » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:20 pm

If i can get up a hill of 18kms with 29 hairpin bends, fully loaded with panniers and the most uncomfortable and old touring bike out there, in three hours, then Fiona can do this easily with as you say a normal level of fitness.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby fionahills » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:18 pm

Thanks so much for taking the time to reply with such great advice - I am definitely going to do it either august, september next year - depnding on Tony's leave from work - I might be slack and only work part time so I can ride lots and catch up a bit.

Twin Waters - Noosa ride today - there is one really short but nearly 10% hill on the way back- OMGosh it nearly killed me but I got over and next time will be better - trying to keep cadence (88) up by spinning in lowest gear needed and did a 23kmp average today - this is very impressive for me - til you guys helped out I was only managing 20-22 on the flat - so heaps of thanks for your advice and help.

no more big rides til after B2GC - (got to save myself!!!) but am feeling like with the right work & preparation I will make the trip and be able to get up - definitely going to see the LBS about putting a bigger cassette on the back so I can spin those granny gears
There is an awesome bike shop in Bourg D Oisan that sells great jerseys with a map of the ride - when I do it I am going to buy myself one.
Thanks for the encouragement - fiona
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby Meditator » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:48 pm

Well you didn't say how far your ride today was but i would suggest that if you keep doing rides that nearly kill you will end up iwth an injury soon. I would not be pushing yourself quite so hard if i were you. It is safer to build your strength and fitness slowly and you do have a heaps of time.

I suggest walking up stairs for inbetween ride training.

DON'T over do it. Seriously you will cause yourself an injury and it will flare up again and again and you will be pissed off that you did something so stupid.
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Re: Possible for newbie to train for and ride Alpe d'Huez

Postby fionahills » Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:25 pm

Hi M
good advice thank you - it was only a 60 kms and really the hills are very short - but steep for me - you are right - I was feeling good and probably trying to show off a bit by not getting off the bike before the hillier part (i used to have to turn around before the last 10 kms into Noosa as I really was awful on hills before and seriously had problems getting up an off ramp....

I will be more tempered in my approach...but the books do say to push yourself sometimes - I was wondering how I know when and what to do to push without being stupid - thankfully not sore...


It's hard sometimes to know the balance - my hubby is a long term rider with good endurance - he thinks I am a bit of a woos.. and keeps being very 'encouraging' to go harder.....his view is once I have done it I will only get better, and subscribes to the what does not kill you makes you stronger.....

anyway I will take your advice (its great to be able to say that on the forum they say........) But would love to know how hard to push it a bit and when -

thanks so much Fiona
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