BUCKET LIST TRI IN THE FRENCH ALPS

ALPE D’HUEZ TRIATHLON

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KERRY HALE

PIC­TURE THIS: Swim in the crys­tal wa­ters of the Lac du Ver­ney, ac­ces­si­ble to swim­mers only dur­ing the triathlon, ride the leg­endary bike course com­plete with three moun­tain passes– the Alpe du Grand Serre (1,375 m), the Col d’ornon (1,371 m), as well as the 21 switch­backs of Alpe d’huez – and run on and off road within the ma­jes­tic set­ting of the Alpe d’huez re­sort.

Billed by race or­ga­niz­ers as “a sum­mit of the in­ter­na­tional world of triathlon,” the ex­cep­tional set­ting and unique course pro­vide a chal­leng­ing and iconic course for ad­ven­tur­ous triath­letes. The 2016 it­er­a­tion of the Alpe d’huez Triathlon is set for July 25 to 29.

In ad­di­tion to the long course, there is a chil­dren’s triathlon, a duathlon (6.5 km/15 km/2.5 km), and a short dis­tance triathlon (1.2 km/ 30 km /7.3 km), which prom­ises “over less than 40 km you will dis­cover a broad range of land­scapes and swim, ride and run through the en­tire ga­mut of hu­man emo­tions.”

But the long course is l’at­trac­tion prin­ci­pale. The 2.2-km swim is held in re­fresh­ing wa­ters at an al­ti­tude of 700 m sur­rounded by wooded peaks, where the wa­ter reaches only 15 to 16 C at the height of sum­mer. South African pro, James Cun­nama, who claimed top spot on the podium in 2010 and fin­ished sec­ond in 2015, says, “The wa­ter is crys­tal clear glacier run-off and you can prob­a­bly drink it safely, but all you re­ally think about when swim­ming is the cold. You are sur­rounded by moun­tains on all sides, a lit­tle re­minder of what is to come, and it is amaz­ingly beau­ti­ful.”

On the bike, the 115-km ride is punc­tu­ated by the 21 turns of the climb to Alpe d’huez – the cor­ner­stone of the event – a route that has gar­nered im­mense fame in the Tour de France. The land­scape on this part of the Ecrins Moun­tains is breath­tak­ing, should you be able to no­tice it amongst a thump­ing heart rate and the sweat of a French sum­mer. “The bike is ba­si­cally three big climbs with fast de­scents in be­tween them,” says Cun­nama. “You climb the Col du Grand Serre, about 12-km long, then drop into a val­ley and climb the val­ley to the Col d’ornon, a long draggy 25-km climb, then drop quickly to the base of Alpe D’huez, which is fa­mous for be­ing steep and long. Climb­ing Alpe d’huez af­ter 100 km of hard rid­ing pun­ishes you.”

On the run, pa­tience and courage are re­quired for the hilly 22-km course, which goes over a mix­ture of as­phalt roads and moun­tain paths. Cun­nama adds, “Then you run at 1,800 m el­e­va­tion, which makes any run tough, but es­pe­cially so af­ter that bike. The run is not easy it­self, with plenty of climb­ing in­volved.”

Add to this the unique flavour of the French fans and you have a truly won­der­ful sport­ing spec­ta­cle. “The French love triathlon,” ex­plains Cun­nama, “and bike rac­ing of course. Com­bine an iconic climb in the world of cy­cling with a triathlon and it is amaz­ing. There is lots of sup­port all over the course. The race or­ga­ni­za­tion is ex­cel­lent too. Cyrille Neu­veu (race di­rec­tor) and his team do a great job.”

In fact, the English/french race web­site of­fers de­tailed ad­vice from Neu­veu for each dis­ci­pline in each of the dis­tances. As an ex­am­ple, for the long course bike leg, Neu­veu writes, “The first six bends up to La Garde (to­ward the sum­mit of Alpe D’huez) are aw­ful – the

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