Am I Good Enough to Ride Marmotte Granfondo Alps?
Marmotte Granfondo Alps is a gruelling one day sportive set in the beautiful and awe inspiring French Alps.
Like all great cycling challenges, Marmotte Alps is hard to complete. It is not impossible, however, and the sense of achievement when you cross the finish line makes the dedication, training, and the event itself worth it. Over the years, we've looked after hundres of riders that took on this fantastic sportive.
So, are you good enough to ride Marmotte Alps?
That is a question that is answered on the day. This insightful guide lays it all out. And, let's face it, if you're thinking about riding it you will. It is in your heart to take on this fantastic challenge.
Marmotte Granfondo Alps Overview
Marmotte Alps began in 1982 and is one of the oldest sportives for amateur cyclists. It has become a Legend in cycling circles and is seen as one of the great challenges on the amateur circuit. The 174 kms route features over 5000m of climbing and is considered to be the toughest alpine cyclosportive and one of the best in the world.
On the day, you’ll ride four legendary Tour de France cols starting in the picturesque village of Boug d’Oisans. The cols are:
- at 36km – Col du Glandon (1,924m)
- at 92km – Col du Télégraphe (1,566m)
- at 115km – Col du Galibier (2,645m)
- at 174km – Alpe d’Huez (1,880m)
Not to make it too easy, the organisers have put the finish line at the summit of Alpe d’Huez!
For many, Marmotte Alps represents a bucket list challenge and if you use a Marmotte official tour operator to ride it, you’ll be supported like a pro in the Tour de France!
Each year, around 8,500 riders take part in the great event with many returning year on year to do it again. It is not just the challenge that attracts so many riders. It is the mythical cols, the big event feel and the magical sense of achievement you earn when you reach the summit of the legendary Alpe d’Huez.
When you look at it like this, what’s not to love?
Training for Marmotte Alps
Marmotte Alps demands focused training to get into the condition to take on the challenge. Endurance and fitness are needed to complete the event. It is a good idea to put together a twelve week training plan to ride the granfondo. This will help you in several ways. You’ll be able to:
- Work out how much time you can dedicate to training.
- Log and plan training sessions.
- Determine what aspect of cycling you are going to work on.
- Factor in recovery days and rides.
- Chart progress.
If you have a power meter you can use training zones to refine and improve your training, as they give good insights into your cycling and will help you negotiate the French Alps.
As well as power meters you may want to consider using some of our cycling technique articles as guides. They have been designed to improve strength, power, and endurance which are needed to climb the cols of Marmotte Alps. Consider:
- High Intensity Interval Training.
- Overgearing and fasted rides.
- Gear use.
- Increasing distance.
- Group riding.
- Pedalling technique.
- Upgrading your bike and gear.
- The importance of fuelling during the event cannot be overstated. Read our articles on food and drink to get this aspect of your training nailed down. They will give you a good starting point and with a little experimentation on long rides, you'll work out what you need to take and when to propel you up those alpine cols!
Also consider reading our guidance on enjoying your first sportive.
As well as working out your own training, it is a good idea to attend a cycling training camp or holiday to get expert pro coaching advice and to put your skills and techniques to the test. This is an invaluable opportunity to refine your skills prior to riding Marmotte Alps.
Marmotte Alps Cols
The cols of Marmotte Alps offer climbing and descending challenges and have been used in the Tour de France and other major tournaments.
Col du Glandon
The first col you’ll encounter on Marmotte Alps is the demanding climb of col du Glandon. The ascent is far from smooth and gradients can hit 11%+ in some places. To complete it demands respect and control. It is easy to get lost in the event and go too fast especially as this is the first major ascent. As with most climbs, pacing is key to success.
Remember, your pacing is not just for this col but the whole event. Going too fast here could lead to disaster later on.
Once you reach the top you’ll enjoy a steady descent to Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines.
Col du Télégraphe
It is a good idea to join a peloton as you approach the col. To reach it, you ride through the Maurienne Valley. By riding in a peloton, you’ll save your energy for the climb col de Télégraphe which begins at St Michel de Maurienne.
Despite the average gradient of Télégraphe being 7.8%, it may feel like more especially for the first 2.5kms where gradients are at their toughest. After this, the climb eases a little until you approach the summit where gradients begin to bite once more. As you climb, remember the short descent to Galibier is a great rest for your legs!
Col du Galibier
After the short descent into Valloire, you encounter a 9% gradient for the first 1kms of this climb. This is followed by a small descent before hitting an 8% gradient for the next 5kms. Galibier saves the best till last, however, where the last 8kms gradients hit 15%, a real sting in the tail! If you can get this far, however, not only are you doing well, you’ll be greeted with one of the most scenic parts of the sportive. So take a little time to take it all in. You’ll love it.
Fun fact! The summit of Galibier is 2645 metres and is often the highest point of the Tour de France!
Once you reach the summit, you can look forward to an amazing 40 kms descent back to Bourg d’Oisans. Once you’ve reached the picturesque village you’ll be taking on the mighty Alpe d’Huez.
The 13.8 kms climb features 21 switchbacks with an average gradient of 8.1%. Turn 21 to turn 16 at the start of the col are the most difficult, where gradients hit 11%. After this, it gets easier until you reach the top where the last 5 turns gradients do return to 11% in some places. The last few kilometres the gradients ease a little.
To get to the summit it is important not to underestimate the col, but to pace yourself. It is very easy to go hard too early and run out of gas.
Instead, take it easy and keep focused on crossing the finish line. You’re so close to one of the greatest cycling achievements of your career, you don’t want to mess it up now!
Riding Marmotte Alone
It is possible for you to arrange riding the sportive and overcoming all of the logistics, getting your race entry and taking on the event carrying all your food and spare clothes in a backpack. That said, if something goes wrong you are pretty much on your own, and if it is your first time in the Alps, you don’t really know what to expect.
Riding with an Official Tour Operator of Marmotte Alps
Riding with an official tour operator of Marmotte Alps is easily the best way to do it. To become an official tour operator the company had to pass certain criteria which put the cyclist first. This includes logistics, race entry, strategy meetings, light training rides to acclimatise to the altitude, together with Tour de France style support for the event itself.
At SportActive, we have 15 years experience in riding this great event. We ensure you are well briefed on how to ride this fantastic event and support you with every kilometre you ride.
Riding with a tour operator offers the best Marmotte Alps experience.
Can I Ride Marmotte Alps? We both know you can!
Marmotte Alps is one of the great cycling experiences and one of the best amateur cycling sportives in the world. With the right endurance based training, focus, and dedication, you’ll complete this incredible event and proudly wear your well deserved gold medal for many, many years.
Talk to us
In the first instance, talk to us by email or phone to discuss the event. We can answer your questions and give you an idea of how to train.
Talk to us.