THE MARMOTTE – A guide to what it is and... What is the Marmotte?

THE MARMOTTE – A guide to what it is and how to prepare for and do it..
What is the Marmotte?
The Marmotte is a French “cyclosportif” with a reputation for being yardstick in terms of hardness and
number of riders. In a nutshell it means cycling 175km over 3 famous “Hors Categorie” cols rich in
Tour de France history in the company of 6000 to 9000 other brave/foolhardy souls. (The event takes
it’s name from the animals that live on the mountains of the region, though on race day you are
unlikely to see any..)
It takes place every year on the first Satuday of July, starting from Bourg D’Oisans in the heart of the
Following are some notes to those that may be interested in taking on this challenge. The ride, what to
do beforehand and what to do on the day are covered. At the end are some background notes plus some
statistics from riders who have done the event.
Any feedback/additional comments welcome. Please sent to: [email protected]
The Route
The event starts in Bourg D’Oisans (about 40km east of Grenoble in the Alps of south west France).
It makes a large loop to the north then east, then returning to Bourg D’Oisans to finish on the top of the
climb to Alpe D’Huez.
The Profile
The route takes in 4 climbs, Glandon, Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe D’Huez. (see end of document for
climb profiles)
It’s useful to break the route down into 8 bite size sections and these will refererd to these at various
points later.
A straight downhill section from the en masse start to the base of the Glandon climb.
The Glandon climb (23km at 5%).
A tricky technical descent of the Glandon followed by a 25km or so, slightly uphill, drag to
the base of the Telegraphe
The Telegraphe climb (12km at 7%)
A short descent to the base of the Galibier
The Galibier climb (18km at 7%)
Another tricky descent and then a very long descent almost to the base of the Alpe D’Huez
(there is a short climb and flat section just before this ends)
The Alpe D’Huez climb (13km at 8%)
There is no need to qualify for the Marmotte (or any cyclosportif for that matter). However given the
expense, time and commitment involved it would not be sensible to enter the Marmotte without being
able to answer the following with a definite yes:
- Have you ridden 100 miles on a bike in a day? (preferably on another cyclosportif)
- Do you consider yourself to be of a good fitness level?
- Are you of an appropriate weight for your height?
- Are you willing to spend 5-8 hours per week training for the event in the 3-4 months leading
up to it?
If the answer to any of the above is “No” then the Marmotte is probably not for you. There are other,
easier, cyclosportifs in the calendar, including one most every weekend from March to October in the
UK, plus even more Audax events. You would be best advised to try one of these first to save yourself
much pain, money and disappointment. Another alternative might be the “Mi-Marmotte”, a 76km ride
that starts after the Telegraph climb in Valloire to go up the Galibier and Alpe.
Entry is on-line via this website.
The process is pretty straight forward. On completion you will get a confirmatory email that will say
your status is “incomplete” (see below for e.g.)
Do not worry about this. When you register for the event you need to come along with a note from your
doctor saying you are fit to compete in the event. Most GPs should be happy to provide this for you
(some may attempt to charge you, do not accept this. You are doing them and the public a favour by
trying to take part in an event that requires you to be in good health.) Alternatively if you have a cycle
racing licence this can be used instead of a medical certificate.
If you are already an experienced rider, you might also like to enter for 3 related events that take place
in the week of the Marmotte and which, together, make up the “Trophee D’Oisans” (see below).
Etape or Marmotte?
The Marmotte is one of the two biggest cyclosportifs of the year (though there are lots more e.g. see
here: )
The other is the Etape du Tour, which involves riding one of the stages of the Tour de France from the
current year (usually one of the hardest).
This year (and I think others) both events took place on the same weekend. So you had to make a
choice of one or the other (and even if run on separate weekends, most people would not be able to do
This begs the question of which event to do? My opinion would be that if this is the first experience of
a cyclosportif on big cols then the Marmotte should be the event of choice. This is for a couple of main
 Since the route/timing is fixed, and because the course is circular the logistics of getting
yourself to/from the event are much easier and you can plan much more in advance.
 In terms of pure cycling the Marmotte is the harder event therefore the bigger challenge.
(Local weather may change this, e.g. the Etape of 2006 went over the Izoard, Lauteret and
then up the Alpe. This is a less hard route than the Marmotte. However the weather that year
was extremely hot and that meant this specific Etape was probably tougher than the 2008
Marmotte when the weather was near perfect for cycling, not too hot, little wind and dry.)
Nearest airport to the event is Grenoble. Other options are Lyon or Geneva.
Driving is an option, it will take approximately 600 miles (10 hour drive) from Calais to Bourg
D’Oisans, most of which is on autoroute so, good news will be fast (70mph average) but you will have
to pay (around 70 euros).
Where to stay
Given the number of participants the it is advisable to book accommodation early. This can be hotel,
gite or camping. Highly recommended is the King of the Mountains lodge run by Helyn and Guy, a
couple of UK cyclists who have moved to France. If you stay with them you will be guaranteed good
food, the company of fellow cyclists, support on the day and an ideal location to train for and take part
in the event.
Setting targets Competing to Finish or Finish Fast
You need to decide at an early stage if you will be taking part in the Marmotte
- simply for the experience of doing it and being able to say you finished
- to hit gold or silver target times (see below for these)
- to be able to finish in the fastest time you are capable of.
Be realistic in deciding which of these to go for. If this is your first cyclosportif or cycling is not your
number 1 sport then the first is a sensible option. If you choose the last then you should ride some
other events to give yourself a baseline on which to set a finishing time target (or as I did find someone
of similar ability who has already done the event and set a target based on their performance).
Very roughly, from my own experience if you can ride a 100+ mile UK sportive (e.g. Dragon) at an
average of 30kph then the Marmotte should be doable in around or under 8 hours.
One golden rule to follow is that the bike you ride the Marmotte on should be the one you train on,
including gears, saddle, tyres, wheels, tools etc etc. This may seem obvious but, from personal
experience, it is all to easy to make last minute changes only to find they go wrong on the day.
There are three key criteria for a bike to be used to ride the Marmotte
 it must be comfortable enough to ride for over very hard terrain. Ideally this means getting
yourself measured up in a bike shop and getting your bike customised to fit you. Also it means
finding the right saddle. Your bike shop should be able to advise on this but ultimately this
will end up being a mixture of personal taste and trial and error.,
 It must be reliable.
 It must have the right gearing. Most importantly what sort of chain ring should you have:
traditional double, compact double or triple? (and secondly what rear cassette)
The last topic is worth (and has been) much discussion by itself. However I believe it boils down to
some simple questions.
Are you a professional or elite category rider? If so then a traditional double with a 12-25 on
the rear should do you.
If not above then do you want to finish as fast as possible? If so then you should fit a triple,
53/39/30 with a 12-25 or 11-23 rear depending on how strong you are. The 53 ring will be
used on descents or flats to allow you to join/keep up with fast groups. On climbs use the 30
ring. The 39 will not get much use except as a means to switch from 53 to 30.
Do you just want to finish? In this case I still think a triple is the right chain ring but this time
with a 13-27 rear. Alternatively use a compact.
Other Bike bits and pieces
Having a bike that is reliable, comfortable to ride and has the right gearing is the most important thing.
Some other bits and pieces worth considering are:
 Keep it light. Not everything has to be carbon but it is a fact of nature that the heavier the bike
the harder climbing is. Since the Marmotte is mainly about climbing keep the bike as light as
possible within your budget.
 Use good tyres at the right pressure (ideally nearly new, say 100km of use). Suggestion (based
on experience and a tyre review here force/Resistance Fighters.pdf are Continental GP
4000S. They are fast, safe and puncture resistant, all you can ask for in a sportive tyre. The
right pressure is as high as the max for the tyre, unless you know it will be very wet in which
case go for mid range.
 Fit two bottle cages.
 Use a tri-bag (small back that fits just behind stem) for nibbles.
 Fit your pump to the frame and use a mini saddle bag for spare tubes/levers. You can stick
everything into your rear pockets but, depending on the weather, you may also need these for
 Only use wheels requiring carbon brake pads if you are very confident about using them on
steep technical descents, potentially in rain, hail or snow.
 Don’t make any last minute changes.
Despite the fact that the Marmotte takes place in July it’s best to come with a selection of clothing
suitable for all 4 seasons. It may well rain and this may turn to hail or even snow at the top of the
Galibier. That said do not go overboard. The more you carry the harder the event will be.
As well as having a bike you can trust riding well in Marmotte will require training, most likely in
some or all of the below (depending on your experience)
 Pacing
 Endurance
 Long climb technique
 Good/safe descending skills
 Group riding skills
 Eating/drinking the right stuff in the right amounts
The best training plan will cover all these areas.
The climbs naturally form the main focus for the training and this is where pacing, endurance and long
climb technique will be required.
All three of these elements are important but pacing is the key. This requires, firstly that you have a
measure of the effort you are putting into a climb, secondly that you have a target for this effort on each
climb and lastly that you have a reliable way to check you are keeping to target as the ride progresses
and reality sets in.
Measures of effort vary from individual to individual. My preference is to use a power meter, others
use heart monitors and others rely on how they feel. No one of these is best but since I use a power
meter I will use this example. I will also use the idea of your “threshold” effort which is the maximum
consistent effort you can sustain for an hour (e.g. during a 25TT).
The target you set for your pacing depends on your goal for the event. If you are aiming to finish as fast
as possible then you would typically be aiming to climb at around 80% to 85% of your threshold effort.
If you primarily concerned with just finishing then a target of around 60% to 70% would be more
As a specific example look at the note showing 2 riders statistics for the ride in the notes below, they
give a good and not so good example of how to pace the Marmotte.
Rider 1 (using the benefit of 3 previous years experience) got his pacing pretty much spot on. He
climbed Glandon at 85%, Telegraph at 83% and Galibier at 80%. He then had enough energy to storm
up the Alp in under an hour at 88% effort.
Rider 2 (me) planned to ride at around 80% for all the climbs but got carried away by the emotion of
riding the event for the first time and overcooked the Glandon at 88%. Telegraph at 83% was more on
plan but Galibier and the Alp were a struggle and only done at 75%.
Endurance Training
Huge amounts have been written about endurance training and it’s well beyond the scope of this guide
to cover this in any depth.
The best advice I can offer is that if you want to do your best at the Marmotte it would be worth
considering getting some professional coaching advice. It may be the one of the biggest challenges you
tackle and the cost of this advice will be more than paid back if it turns out to be one of your best
memories rather than a nightmare. I can recommend from personal
One thing any coach will tell you is to follow the rule of “specificity”: that is train for what you want
to do on the day. In the case of the Marmotte this is why having a plan for pacing is so important.
Training should be focussed on achieving and keeping to the pace you want to set.
So if going for a fast time the majority of Marmotte specific training would be 1-2 hour efforts (i.e.
length of the climbs) at 80%-90% with some longer 5 hour rides at around 70% to help provide the
base to join these efforts together and some shorter 20-60 minute sessions at 100%-105% that help
develop extra capacity and also simulates some of the pain to be expected during the event.
What training does not include are any short sub minute sprint type efforts or even many sub 20 minute
intervals, since the event will not include any efforts of this type.
Note what this may mean is the apparent contradiction that training for the Marmotte might not involve
much climbing. Climbs usually mean descents which in turn means rests and as a result the sustained
hour plus effort that is needed for the Marmotte cannot be simulated on many of short hills found in the
Long Climb Technique
The climbs in the Marmotte are long but fairly consistent in terms of gradient and will take 45minutes
to over 2 hours of constant, non-stop effort (ideally)..
The keys to taking on climbs to this length are pacing (covered above) and rhythm….smooth,
consistent rhythm. The French call this “souplesse”. Ideally you set the rhythm at the start of the climb
and keep this consistent right to the end, using your gears to smooth out the changes in gradient.
This sense of smooth rhythm extends to each and every pedal stroke. Stroke is a good word because
that’s what the feet do to the pedals, applying a smooth consistent pressure throughout. The left foot
does 180 degrees of work then the right foot does 180 degrees and so on. The action is similar to
pedalling a mountain bike through a muddy field or any bike up a gravel road.
The sense of souplesse/smoothness also applies to the upper body. This should be relaxed and not
tense. The hands are a good focus for this, if they are relaxed that helps the rest of upper body relax as
While this sense of smoothness should ideally always be there it can be applied in various guises and
it’s useful to be able to practice and use all e.g.
Fast (80rpm+) and seated
Fast and standing
Slow (65-75 rpm) and seated
Slow and standing
If you can do all then you have the option to switch between them on climbs while still keeping the
overall effort constant. You might need to stand to handle a 10% stretch or to take some weight off
your backside. Or, just for variety, then you may want to slow your cadence down and push a bigger
gear. (however beware, below about 60rpm it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the pedal stroke
Coming back to the earlier section on gearing this is why it is useful to have enough gears available to
give you options up climbs. As the event wears on it will naturally become more difficult to turn gears
over and its good to have the option to change down and spin your legs for a while from time to time.
Its especially important if you are liable to cramps.
All the climbs of the Marmotte have sections with hairpins, most obviously the famous 21 that make up
the final climb. The sense of smoothness applies to these too. Most have a route through them that
allows you to keep a steady rhythm and by default this is the recommended line to take. That said from
time to time it may be worth standing up and cutting a corner via the inside steep section, this will give
you the chance for a few moments of respite on the flat section and is also a useful way to close down a
back wheel that you may be chasing.
When standing its worth not putting too much weight on the front wheel or this will act as a brake
making things harder, rather have a sense of balancing with weight centred behind the front wheel.
(you can do this on event the steepest Marmotte gradients, it’s not always possible on some of the short
steep hills encountered in the UK for fear of falling backwards.)
Long climbs are aerobic workouts and that means you need air. A recent article on climbing made great
play of not being shy and breathing heavily, loud enough so that others can hear.
Finally a very large part of long climbing is mental. Long ramps (such as at the start of the Alpe climb)
can be made shorter by fixing on a target 30 yards ahead, holding it until you get within 10 yards then
finding a new 30 yard target and repeating. I don’t like looking up on climbs as even when near, the top
can seem a long way away. On the other hand looking down to see how far you have come and how
quickly the village you just rode through now seems far below can be a real boost. And of course, one
benefit of the Marmotte is that you will always have company on climbs. If all else fails find a back
wheel and stick to it (not too close or directly in line though as you don’t want to go into it if the rider
ahead changes gear or stands up). Try to forget everything else except watching the spokes of the
wheel go round or the hub rotating. It wont be pretty but you will probably make it to the top (where be
sure to buy the guy whose wheel you sucked a beer in return).
What goes up must come down and the Marmotte features two huge descents the first from the
Glandon and then an epic from the Galibier.
Descents of the nature simply do not exist in the UK and so they are difficult to practice and I would
recommend going out to the Marmotte early if only to practice descending. I am pretty useless at
descending but nonetheless have improved greatly by following the advice in this article.
Other advice, always worth following is it’s often worth following someone who overtakes you. Not
too closely but keep to their line and imitate their body position and you will both get faster and (while
it may seem contradictory) also be safer.
Group riding skills
Thousands ride the Marmotte and to get the most out of the event you have to be comfortable riding in
groups. This is definitely an area where there is no substitute for experience and anyone who had not
ridden in a large (20+) group of riders is advised to do so before the event. Best way to do this is find a
local club and join some of their club runs.
That said, on my experience, don’t expect the groups in the Marmotte to be particularly well organised.
Don’t expect everyone to take their turn at the front and expect the unexpected if in a bunch. If the
group is not riding single file (which it most likely won’t be) I would advise staying on the left side so
furthest away from the kerb which will give you somewhere to go in case of problems.
I have included this in training as it’s critical to practice eating and drinking as part of your preparation,
since if you get these wrong then everything else will fail. As a specific example I did a trial run of the
Marmotte route just over a week before the event proper. I was worried about running out of food and
consequently ate far too much on the climb up the Glandon. On the long descent and ride to the
Telegraphe my stomach went into overdrive and when I hit the climb I had no power at all in my legs. I
struggled up the climb and had an even worse time on the Galibier. As a result I changed my plans for
the event proper and rode the Telegraphe and Galibier climbs around 40% better.
This is another huge subject and also it one where personal tastes have a great impact, one mans meat
being another mans poison. For example I know one guy who simply rode the whole Marmotte using
gels, 3-4 an hour. It suited him and he finished fine. Another swears by eating the occasional pork pie.
That said some rules I think hold true. It makes sense to have a good breakfast before the event and to
eat/drink little and often during it. Also eat and drink during training as you would during a the
Marmotte itself. Apart from helping check if you can stomach the food it will help check you can easily
manage to handle it while on the move. A few specific tips I use for this are:
 Use a top tube tri bag e.g. for nibbles (also has
side pocket for route card)
 Put your gels inside your cycle shorts (resting on top of your thighs…this assumes you will
only be having 4 or so not the 16-20 the chap mentioned above has). This makes them easy to
get to and ensures they are warm and easy to digest.
 Cut to the tops of any bar wrappers before the event.
 Have a routine for what goes where in your back pockets e.g. bars to the left, bananas to the
right or whatever.
 Take at least two bottles and drink from both, don’t empty one before you start the other (just
in case, as happened to me, you lose a bottle which sods law clearly states will be the full one
just after you emptied the other).
As a (very) rough guide you will most likely burn up 6000-8000 calories during the ride. However
don’t make the mistake that this is how may calories of food you need eat during the ride (otherwise
you will overload your digestive system).
Your breakfast should provide about 1000-1500 calories and you will have 1500-2000 calories stored
in your body as glycogen. On top of that some of the energy for your ride will come from your fat
reserves. So as a (very very) rough guide I aim to eat around 2000-2500 calories during a ride in a
mixture of sports drink, dried fruit, bananas and jelly babies.
I would strongly recommend that anyone doing the Marmotte try to put everything together (bike,
training, nutrition, clothing, pacing etc etc) in at least one trial event some time during June. I rode in
the Highclere (8th June) and Dragon (15th June) UK sportives. While neither is, obviously, exactly the
same as the Marmotte they can be useful tests.
E.g. I rode the Highclere at an overall average pace/effort higher than I rode the Marmotte itself. This
was possible because the rolling hills and headwind on the run to the finish made it tough, especially if
riding solo. The event also featured a long section of fast group work, perfect for what would be
encountered on sections of the Marmotte.
The Dragon had some hills of similar gradient to the Marmotte. I tried riding these at 100% effort (so
more than the Marmotte to make up for the fact they were shorter). Some of the decents in the Dragon
are also among the closest you will get in the UK to those in the Alps.
If possible I would also suggest coming to the Alps prior to the Marmotte and getting experience of
riding the real thing. That said cost/time may well prevent this. I would definitely not suggest travelling
on the Thursday and riding up a few cols on the Friday before the Marmotte itself.
You should rest for the Thursday/Friday before the event itself. This may be tricky especially if you
have travelled early in order to get some climbing/descending practice or take part in the earlier
Trophee D’Oisans events.
After all it seems a shame with all the mountains around to waste valuable holiday/cycling time. Still
that is the best advice. Do no more than a 30 minute ride at easiest effort possible each day, just to turn
legs over and run in any new tyres. Do not make any last minute changes to your bike.
Also easy to say, harder to do, try to keep of the booze for a couple of days beforehand and eat
sensibly/normally. If you have tried things like carb loading for events before and they have worked for
you then by all means do them for the Marmotte. But don’t try anything new.
Very painless. A simple matter of driving up the Alpe (if not already there) and finding the registration
tent. You should bring with you a copy of your registration email and medical certificate/racing
licence. The medical certificate gets only the most perfunctory check. You will be given a chip (on
Velcro which you wear on your ankle), a number (used to say which pen you will be in. If you want to
find your photos at the end of the event make sure this can be clearly seen from the front) and a goodie
On the Friday we went there was no queuing and we were over and done in 10 minutes. There is a
small selection of tents with various bits of bike stuff/clothing to buy.
The Alpe
If you have never ridden up the Alpe D’Huez before I would advise getting familiar with at least the
first 3-4km before the event proper. These first few km are the worst of the climb and its worth
knowing this before you hit them after 100 miles riding. Best way to check out the route is obviously
via bike but not at the extent of messing up your rest.. The drive up for registration is an alternative.
Event day clothing/supplies
Speak to locals before the day itself and try to get an understanding of what event day weather
conditions will be like. Given the amount of climbing involved you only want to carry what you need.
For 2008 the weather was “normal” so sunny and not too hot. For this I found just a single layer cycle
top was all that was needed + some armwarmers just to keep warm getting to and waiting at the start.
(One advantage of using King of the Mountains is that they will park their van just before the top of the
Galibier. So you can leave clothes/bottles/rations etc with them and pick them up there.)
There are a number of water stops around the course plus food stops at the top of the Glandon, bottom
of the Telegraphe, top of the Galibier and base of the Alpe. If you start in the first group and keep a 89 hour pace you should have no problem getting food/water. However if you start later there may be
problems (feedback from other riders on this topic welcomed).
Getting to the start
The event starts at 07:00 to 07:50 depending on your start number. If you have a later start number
than don’t forget that the riders will be heading down the road from Bourg to Glandon and this may
make it tricky to get into the town if you are coming from that direction.
It will likely be cold, epecially if descending from higher up, so arm warmers may be needed. Gilets
may be required but an option if you don’t want to carry one is bin bag with holes for head/arms that
can be discarded at the start.
Entering Bourg follow the other riders. You will go, what may seem a long way, round the back of the
town, eventually getting to some holding pens where you will be separated according to start number
(top 2000 going at 07:00, 2001-4000 at 07:20, remainder at 07:50). There are no toilets near the
holding pens so if you need to go, go before.
The start
Once in your start pen you will mill around with lots of other cyclists, no doubt getting nervous and
admiring their gear. One piece of advice here is do not judge a book by its cover. There will be lots of
people about with better equipment than you and they may well look fitter and better. This may well
not be the case and don’t psych yourself out. One of the best cyclists I have ridden with this year had a
huge beard, wore Audax clothing and rode a bike with a rear pannier. At a conservative estimate I
would guess he would finish in the top 50 at the Marmotte.
It may well be that the first you know about the event starting is cyclists starting to clip up and move
off. Don’t panic and take your time. Your timing clock does not start until you pass by a band and over
the mat.
Section 1: From Bourg to the base of the Glandon
This is the easiest section of the event 13km on a wide, smooth (roadworks in 2008 should mean that),
slightly downhill road then a right turn to the base of a dam that marks the start of the Glandon climb.
If going for a time then there will be plenty of groups whizzing past that you can jump on the back of.
If just aiming to finish pace this section so that by the time you get to the climb.
Only thing to look out for is be alert for the turn off the main road and watch out for some speed humps
in the village shortly after.
Section 2: The Glandon climb
At 23km this is officially the longest climb of the day. However you will also probably find it the
easiest because you will be fresh, it will not be hot and you will be in the company of lots of other
riders. It should also be free from traffic as the road is closed until around 11.00.
It starts with a zig zag up to the top of a dam then a short flattish section then into the climb proper.
The zig zag can be used as a final warm up and check that gearing OK. The climb proper is mainly
along shaded roads and chances are that you will make good progress and get to the top quite quickly.
Things to look out for are:
 Keep to pace. You may well feel great and let adrenaline get the better of you and overcook
this section (I did..)
 Eat/drink little and often. Some people set a timer to beep every 20 minutes as a reminder and
this is a good tip as its easy to forget.
 As you can see on the profile there are a couple of descents. The first of these is the longest, it
goes down a few hairpins then into a V dip straight into a 10% section that is the steepest of
the climb. If you can get as much speed as possible in the last section of the descent so that
you can hit the bottom of the V fast and use your momentum to carry you into the start of the
steep section, changing down rapidly to your climbing gear. Be alert and don’t follow others
too closely here. Quite a few will be surprised and come to a sudden halt.
 Right at the end of the climb don’t be dispirited if you can see a restaurant then look right to
see another section of climb going into the distance. This is the route to the Croix de Fer
(which was the original route and may return). If using the Glandon just after the restaurant
you will make a steep hairpin turn left then just have a short run to the finish
At the top bear right to go over a timing mat that acts as a control.
As with the top of all climbs, if not stopping change into big gears/pull up armwarmers/put on
gilets/eat/drink etc on the run into the summit. It gets very steep very quickly afterwards.
Section 3: Glandon descent and run to St-Michel de Maurienne/base of the Telegraphe
The steepest part of the descent is immediately after the Glandon summit with tight roads and hairpins.
Its possible that traffic may be around. After first few km descent opens up a bit but still has tight turns
aplenty later on so stay alert. Total descent is around 20km and will take 20-30 minutes or so.
At the bottom of the descent you go through a village (Saint Etienne des Clunes) in the middle of
which you turn right to take a small D road east. After a while you pass under a main road which you
then join to go past St Jean de Maurienne and onto St Michel de Maurienne.
This is (IMO) the worst part of the event. The road is wide, slightly uphill and often has a headwind.
Once at St Michel de Maurienne you turn off and up the Telegraphe.
Things to look out for:
 On the descent stay alert at all times. Faster riders may overtake you and if they do follow
them or at least keep an eye on their line.
 Assume cars will be coming up hill and beware on blind corners.
 If following and being balked by a car going downhill take the opportunity to pass if it
presents itself (there are several sections mid descent where it is safe to do so)
 As you enter St Etienne look out for quite severe speed bumps and the marshal indicating the
right turn you need to take
 If you are not in a group of at least 10 riders (preferably more) by the time you leave St
Etienne ease up and wait for a group to catch you up (it will). The last thing you want to do is
slog down to St Michel on your own.
 The groups going to St Michel will probably be disorganised. If you are lucky some will
volunteer to pull the group along however don’t expect a well organised pace line to emerge.
If at the front do your fair share but then sit up and move back.
 Take advantage of rest periods to eat/drink and recover.
 Don’t lose concentration, expect riders around you to brake/change line.
Section 4 Telegraphe climb
The climb starts the moment you leave St Michel. It’s an easy climb to pace as it pretty much keeps to
the same gradient throughout its 12km with a mixture of switchbacks and more straight runs. It will be
warming up by now, but the climb has a lot of shelter so you should not get too hot.
Things to watch out for
 Pace the climb. Hopefully you should have recovered during the Glandon descent but
remember that there is only a very short descent after the Telegraphe so you need to have
plenty in reserve once you get to it’s top.
 The summit is not very obvious and you won’t see it until the last minute.
Section 5: Descent of the Telegraphe
Once over the Telegraphe there is a very short descent into Valloire. Right at the bottom of the descent,
in the middle of the town is a time control. However no food/drink here (I think) but rather a km or so
into the climb up the Galibier.
Things to watch out for:
 Roads/roundabouts in Valloire
 Control at the bottom of the descent
Section 6: Galibier
All too quickly you will be at the end of the Telegraphe descent and starting up the Galibier. Though
not apparent in the profile the first km or so of the climb (still in Vallois) may feel the toughest as it
ramps up quickly along a straight road. However just after this there should be a feed station.
This may be the hardest climb of the day, it’s long and you will have had little rest from the
Telegraphe. However the scenery is beautiful and the roads should not be too busy. If you have any
support arranged, somewhere on the Galibier would be a good point to meet up with them. Eventually
you will hit the snowline and the summit will come into sight. Unfortunately the last km is also the
steepest so keep a little in reserve. Food and drink are available at the summit.
Things to watch out for:
 Feedstop out of Valloire
 Heat. If it gets too hot you are allowed to take your helmet off on the climb.
 Pacing. This climb will take well over an hour, maybe even two. Pacing will be key to getting
to the top.
 While the last km is quite steep don’t be too intimidated by the profile and hold too much in
reserve. In practice adrenaline will probably get you over the last km and once at the summit
of Galibier there is a massive descent with plenty of time to recover before you hit the Alpe.
 Also don’t be too intimidated by the fact that it is at 2600m. The air here is not that much
thinner and if you are feeling tired at the top its more likely to be due to length of the climb
than the altitude.
 If you have never been to the top of the Galibier before take 5 minutes to enjoy it even if you
are going for a time.
Section 7: Galibier descent to the base of the Alpe D’Huez
For many this will be the section that sticks in the memory longest, near an hour of descending, with
plenty of variety on the way down.
From the top of the Galibier the first section of descent is down twisting roads with plenty of hairpins.
Steepest section is right at the top so be alert from the off. Also beware of cars, they will not be allowed
to the summit but will be able to use the tunnel just below.
After 600m or so of descent you will come to the Col de Lauteret. Its pretty obvious when you reach it,
as it has a number of large buildings and you will be marshalled to take a right turn down the road to
La Grave. The road gets much wider and straightens up after this point but beware, the road surface can
be very bad and traffic will be far more common.
During the descent you will go through a number of tunnels, some several hundred metres long. Be on
the lookout for these and be ready to flip your sunglasses down your nose as you enter them. Its
probably safest to stick to the middle of the lane. If you are lucky you may get a marshal or police
motorbike escort to lead the way.
Eventually you will pass through La Grave which is easy to spot as it’s the only town and the roads in
it are the worst on the route.
Once out of La Grave the worst of the bad roads are behind you but there are still some tunnels to
Eventually you will pass over a dam and notice that the road surface improves markedly. Shortly after
this point is a short climb, then its downhill again. There is a final tunnel that you will recognise by its
blue lights as it goes downhill with a consistent turn right. At the end you will turn left and downhill
through some final hairpins. Then it’s a 8 km or so of flatish straight road to the bottom of the Alpe.
Things to watch out for:
 If you feel the cold this is the descent to use a gilet/armwarmers. But get them on at the
 Trickiest sections are at the top until you hit the Lauteret. After that main danger is the road
surface and traffic, though there are a few hairpins.
As the descent progresses groups naturally tend to form. Its probably best to join one as there
is some safety in numbers and whoever is at the front will most likely be a good descender
whose line you can follow. However, as in all group riding, expect the unexpected.
I think (from memory, not 100% sure) the first tunnel you hit is the worst in terms of road
surface. On the remainder I think if you keep a line in the middle of your lane the surface is
Use lights of oncoming cars to check road surface in tunnels
The roads in La Grave are bad.
It may seem strange but beware of getting bored and losing concentration. The descent seems
to go on forever, especially to someone used to UK roads and you can lose focus.
Once past La Grave you should be in a group of other riders. If not try to catch one up or wait
to be caught. You will want to share the load on the last 8km drag to the Alpe.
Section 8. L’Alpe D’Huez.
After 100 miles of cycling its just one more climb to the end of the ride. Hopefully you will have done
a reconnaissance of the Alpe beforehand. The bottom can come as a bit of a surprise as you turn left
and straight into a 10% ramp. The hairpins (21 in all) are numbered and once you get past 21 the worst
of the worst is behind you. However there is still a way to go, hopefully this is where the pacing done
earlier will pay off and you can keep a constant tempo to the end.
Its pretty much uphill all the way to the finish, but once you get past bend 1 the incline eases a bit. You
will probably get some cries of encouragement on the way up and for sure once you enter Alpe D’Huez
The finish will be at the same place you registered the day before. Cross the mat, check that your time
is recorded and give yourself a pat on the back.
Things to watch out for:
 There is a drink stop at the base of the Alpe. Use it if the weather is hot and your bottles are
not full. (There are some more stops on the Alpe itself but its difficult to restart if you use
 Use the bends to count down your way to the top. You will quickly get into the teens and
hopefully it will not feel too long before you hit single numbers.
 The bends are not evenly spaced. So some come quickly one after another, others seem to take
an age.
 There are no downhills but some bits are less up than others. Use these to take a breather or,
alternatively, get up some speed to jump onto a back wheel you want to follow.
The Finish
Your goodybag should have included a chit to get yourself some pasta, coke and cake at the top. Even
if you forget this you should be able to blag something if you look suitably exhausted (which you will).
You can pick up a certificate to record your finish time and standard if you like. Only problem with this
is if you are planning to cycle back as it may get lost. There may also be long queues. An alternative, if
you do the Grimpe (or can get to the Alpe) the next day, is to pick the certificate up then when queues
will be less.
Once you have got some pasta inside you my suggestion would be head about 1km or so down the
route where there are several bars. You can then celebrate while watching/encouraging later riders and
check out when your pals pass by.
If you are not staying on top of the Alpe you will need to head back. For those planning to cycle a
suggestion is to take a sharp right after bend 6 and take the balcony road to Villard Reculans. This
leads to a descent that takes you back to the road you came along (an age ago) to start the Glandon
climb. While a bit longer this has the advantage of being much less busy.
The day after the Marmotte, 9:00, the Grimpe D’Alpe takes place. This is not a bad way to get rid of
the hangover you may have….just turn up at the car park at the bottom of the Alpe and cycle up again.
“Cyclosportif” is mass participation cycling event over a set course, which typically will be
around 100 miles and often include a variety of climbing. Each participant will wear an
electronic tag that will allow them to get an individual time for the event. This is one feature
that distinguishes them from Audaxes. The other main differences are that the routes are
signed/marshalled so that competitor and that the events are, on mainland Europe, effectively
treated as races with results published in time order and prizes for winners. (In the UK the
latter is discouraged due to legal difficulties).
“Hors Categorie” a climb that is literally “beyond category”. In the Tour de France climbs are
classified from 1 (hardest) to 4 (easiest). Riders competing for the famous “King of the
Mountains” red polka dot jersey will be given points for finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd over climbs, the
more difficult the climb the more points are awarded. Some climbs are “Hors Categorie” so
even harder than a Cat 1 climb. Many of these have become part of the mythology of the Tour
de France. The Galibier and Alpe D’Huez included on the Marmotte route are two of the most
famous of all.
“Trophee D’Oisans”: Four events that take place in the week leading up to and just after the
Marmotte. These are:
The Vaujany cyclosportif: A 175km ride on the Sunday before the Marmotte that
climbs less famous cols but is still very hard. Especially so because it finishes with a
long (4km) steep (10%) climb.
“Les Grandes Rousses”’ Short (just 40km) event on the Wednesday before the
Marmotte that involves 1800m of climbing, linking a climb up the Alpe D’Huez to
the the Vaujany finish (except latter is even longer at 6km, all at 10%)
The Marmotte itself
The “Grimpe D’Alpe” which is a time trial up the Alp at 9.00 on the Sunday after the
Example confirmation notice:
Climb profiles
Glandon profile
Telegraphe Profile
Galibier Profile
Alpe D’Huez Profile
Sample ride statistics
To give a flavour of the effort required for the Marmotte the table below shows some key statistics of a
couple of riders who did the event, one in 2007 the other 2008. (Both were similar in terms of weight,
power and descending skill).
Rider 1 was riding the event for the forth year in a row, Rider 2 was doing the event for the first time.
The columns show:
Distance of the section
Time spent
Work (approximately = to number of calories burned)
Power/Npower = average power for the section and average normalised power. “Normalised” power
takes account of the fact that producing a constant effort is easier than having to always change power
and is usually used as a measure of how tough an effort is. If the two values are very similar (e.g. the
Telegraph climb) then you know the section is pretty constant and easier to pace. If different (e.g. the
descents and the Glandon climb) then you know that the section has varying demands so is harder to
Power % is the normalised power divided by the riders 1 hour power. This gives a rough indication of
which training zone they are in.
Rider 1 2007
Rider 2 2008
DistanceTime Work PowerNpowerPower % Time Work PowerNpowerPower %
1 Start to Glandon base
13 0:21 260 199
77% 0:28 230 152
2 Glandon Climb
23 1:21 1193 245
85% 1:22 1262 254
3 Glan descent to Tel base
42 1:05 469 120
60% 1:09 572 137
4 Telegraphe
12 0:48 732 251
83% 0:49 763 250
5 Tel descent to Gal base
5 0:07
43 100
46% 0:06
6 Galibier
18 1:14 1077 241
80% 1:22 1112 224
7 Gal descent to ADH base
48 1:06 352
50% 1:06 396 101
8 Alpe D'Huez
13 0:58 928 263
88% 1:09 934 222
175 7:04 5054 199
7:34 5298 195
Screenshots of the rides from WKO below (the heart rate and power curves for the Galibier and Alpe
clearly show how rider 1 paced the event better than me (rider 2)
(Lines, red = HR, yellow = power, green = cadence, blue = speed)
Rider 1
Rider 2
Standards for the 2008 Marmotte are as per the table below: