GranFondo La Marmotte

If the one-day cyclo La Marmotte were to be included in its entirety in the Tour de France schedule, then riders and followers would most likely call the stage the queen stage. And rightly so, because let's be on it: a trip through the French Alps of about 175 kilometers over 4 cols, 3 of which are of the outside category and more than 5000 meters of height to be bridged.

Sometimes they also ride pros, such as Laurent Brochard and Laurens ten Dam, who won the Marmotte in 1992 and 2003. The fastest have arrived in the last few years after about 5.5 hours. The last finishers usually take about nine hours longer.

The first col the riders encounter after the departure from Le Bourg-d'Oisans, at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez, is the Col du Glandon, in the heart of the Grandes Rousses massif. The mountain is named after the fruits of the beeches that grow on the flanks. They are classified in French under the glands (acorns).

Hence Glandon. The mountain pass was already opened in 1898 and is only open from May to October, because it is impassable in the other months due to snowfall.

It was on this long, irregular 24-kilometer climb that the great Eddy Merckx experienced one of the toughest days of his career, actually the end of the super champion. After being two years earlier in the Tour de France was defeated by Bernard Thévenet and had to miss the 1976 edition, Merckx was in 1977 for his 6thvictory traveled to France. But after a food poisoning, Merckx got a stomach walk and in a heavy mountain stage that broke him up. Gaggingly, Merckx climbed the Col de Madeleine. Twelve kilometers below the top he was released. In terms of character, the Belgian joined the leading group again in the descent, but on the Glandon the spectators saw Merckx really suffer. On the spot where cyclists have a view of Mont Blanc in good weather, the Cannibal had to vomit regularly. The doctor assessed his situation as very critical and left an ambulance behind the driver for the rest of the stage. Merckx could not eat all day and lost the Tour, yet he found the strength to hardly lose any time on the final climb to Alpe d'Huez. As an active rider, Merckx would never return to the Alps. Steven Rooks has better memories of the Glandon. In 1988 he was the first to rise, on his way to his victory over Alpe d'Huez and the win in the mountain classification.
Col du Telegraphe

The next col owes its name to the signal installation that was installed for military purposes next to the fort from the time of Napoleon: the Col du Télégraphe. It is also called the Satellite of the Galibier, because both cols actually form one long climb. Le Télégraphe is certainly not the most difficult mountain of the Marmotte, but according to Joop Zoetemelk, "the Télégraphe is not running, you switch off an accident" and Hennie Kuiper noted that "the road only slightly flattens when you get above the deciduous trees." Yet many riders also call it a beautiful, even climb, wooded and, as usual in the Alps, with many hairpin bends. The Télégraphe is deceptive at the end, because if riders suspect that they are almost at the top, it appears that the mountain wall continues to run for a long time.

In the descent (5 km) to Valloire the legs get a little rest, and also the straight stretch of false flat (6 km) to Plan Lachat is pleasant because of the view over the basin of the rivers that end up in the Valloirette. As the road turns to the right, the serious climbing work that Gert-Jan Theunisse loved so much begins. 'Mountains in the Alps such as the Galibier just suited me well. I thought it was great if you were above 2000 meters, so few other riders could do it. In the Alps, the Galibier is the most beautiful mountain, the real climbing. " Theunisse was the first to emerge in 1989 (just like Joop Zoetemelk in 1972). De Brabander was furious with his PDM teammates who did not want to ride for him. His anger resulted in a solo of 130 kilometers, the victory over Alpe d'Huez and the final conquest of the polka dot jersey.

Thin air

Theunisse was able to withstand the thin air and that is a big advantage on the Galibier, because soon after Plan Lachat the riders get above 2000 meters. After 27 kilometers of climbing (from the foot of the Télégraphe) the most difficult moments come with a series of debilitating hairpin bends. Yet there is already a view of the summit, at the end of a rugged and desolate rocky landscape where even in July sometimes a lot of snow still lies. The climb flattens somewhat and continues to rise steadily, around 9 percent, but many riders ride here with trembling legs and pant through the oxygen debt like a sheepdog in a closed car in the blazing sun. A consolation for the riders: Tour winner too called it "a mess thing I never got over well."  

In the long descent of the Galibier and the Col du Lautaret (2058 meters) there is a chance to recover somewhat before the last col of the day, Alpe d'Huez. Normally the Dutch mountain is already a leg crusher, but after 160 kilometers over 3 cols altogether. But whoever has come that far can handle the last 21 turns, right?

Rival points
Where can you eat well during the Marmotte?

  • After the Barrage du Verney - shortly after you have climbed the barrage
  • Le Rivier d'Allemont - village where the road runs slightly flatter
  • After the first descent and steep climb - you can quickly use a gel / bar before you start climbing again
  • After the Barrage du Lac de Grand Maison - another fairly flat stretch where you can gain energy for the climb to the Glandon
  • A few kilometers before the summit - there is a flat descent again
  • On the Glandon - eat a bar here so that it can be digested during the descent
  • After the descent of the Glandon towards the Telegraph
TIP: make sure you can ride with a group in this piece .... This saves a lot of energy that you can use again later
In this part of the Marmotte it becomes extra important to keep eating and drinking well because you will start to get tired. The moments where you can eat are scarce due to the steepness of the road, villages, tunnels and wind ....
  • During the ascent of the Telegraph and on top of the Col
  • The Galibier remains a difficult mountain. Grab every chance that you have to eat ....
Descent of the Galibier .... Until Bourg d'Oisan you have a large part of the valley with another climb in between. Try to eat as well as possible in the descent.
The route
Download the route of La Marmotte here:
The Marmotte is a beautiful but very challenging tour for the experienced cyclist. Beautiful views, large altimeters and above all a mental challenge ensure that the Marmotte is not for everyone. Make sure your energy level is well distributed ... The Alpe d'Huez at the end is a spicy dessert.
Please accept cookies to help us improve this website Is this OK? YesNoMore on cookies »

May we keep you posted?


Create an account

By creating an account with our store, you will be able to move through the checkout process faster, store multiple addresses, view and track your orders in your account, and more.


Recently added

You have no items in your shopping cart

Total incl. tax:€0,00