Yes, you read the title correctly. Alpe d’Huez is overrated. I realize that it’s just my opinion and that others may disagree, but I’m sticking to it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ride it. If you follow cycling and you haven’t ridden it, then without a doubt you should ride it. And it’s going to remain a key part of our French Alps Bike Tour. So it’s not that it isn’t worth climbing either. It is, if for no other reason to see it for yourself and experience it firsthand. Alpe d’Huez is the stuff of legends. If you ask many cyclists to name a famous climb in the French Alps, they’ll name Alpe d’Huez. It’s not surprising. Alpe d’Huez has been climbed 28 times in the Tour de France over the years, which is particularly remarkable since 27 of those times have been since 1976! It’s usage in the race has practically made it synonymous with the Tour itself. One has to look no further than the village of Bourg d’Oisans, located at the foot of Alpe d’Huez to see the impact of cycling on this twisty climb. In summer, the village is awash with jerseys, bikes and cyclists in cafés.
But is it all worth it? Sure, if you’ve never seen it before, but in my opinion the French Alps hold so many wonderful, challenging, and scenic roads to climb, I wouldn’t put Alpe d’Huez anywhere near the top of my list. Instead, I’d much prefer to climb the Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col de la Télégraphe, Col du Galibier or Col de la Madeleine. And the list goes on. All of the aforementioned alternatives have something Alpe d’Huez does not. They have a sense of the Alps themselves and at times, a sense of solitude amongst the mountains. Alpe d’Huez is a road to a ski resort. Yes, there are the 21 turns that take you to the top, but ultimately you’re ascending to a crowded hilltop, filled with condos, lodges, restaurants, ski lifts and parking lots. Are there views from the top? A few. But it pales in comparison to the likes of other great climbs in the Alps. Is it a challenging climb? Yes, but it is neither longer or steeper than any of the climbs mentioned above.
So climb it if you must, but know that there are many more climbing options in the area that hold far more than a famous name.