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Skating the French Alpes: Les Deux Alpes and l'Alpe d'Huez. (part 1). (June 11-12th 2004)

A few friends of mine had planned for a trip to the French Alpes to cycle the Alpe d'Huez. This is a famous mountain (and ski resort) because of its very hard and exciting climb to the finish of a stage in the Tour the France (1860m altitude). In the past eight Dutch riders fiished first amongst them Joop Zoetemelk, Steven Rooksand  Gert-Jan Theunisse. And this is the reason why the mountain will be packed by Dutch tourists to watch this stage in the Tour  the France. I did cycle this mountain too, both in time trial and as a finish of the 178km "Marmotte" event, but that was ages ago. Since now I am into inline skating, I couldn't resist in joining my friends on skates. The downhills on skates are really spectacular!

Les Deux Alpes
On Friday afternoon we arrived at the Village of Bourg d'Oisans (at 700m altitude) at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez mountain. After checking in at the Hotel, we decided to start with a "light" warming up and skate/cycle to Les Deux Alpes (1650m), another ski resort, but accesible through a les steep climb (5-6%). At least that's what we thought it would be! After 5km the climb started at the valley of "Georges d'Infernet" when we reached the dam of Barage du Chambon it started to rain. And you know: rain and skates means its get slippery. From here it was a steeper 9km to Les Deux Alpes (6% - 7.5%). All wet, we went into a bar to dry up and get ready for the downhill. At first I though "Oh my god" how will I survive this. You gain so much speed when you let it roll. But I got used to the wet roads pretty soon and mannaged to get back to the Valley in one piece. A nice tour of 46km. You defintely have to watch the video I made.

L'Alpe d'Huez
On Saturday we went up to l'Alpe d'Huez. This climb is pretty hard, because the gradient varies between 6.5% and 11.5% and is 13km long. Especially the first km's hit you like a brick in te face: 10,5% right from the start. Marleen and Wouter had a headstart of 15 minutes, because they had less training. I joined I group of Belgian cyclist and I was wondering how long I could keep the pace. Actually it went quite good! Further up the mountain I had to let them go because I wanted to shoot pictures and video as well. Besides that a bit of muscular pain from Les Deux Alpes could be noticed. It was heavy but great fun. I must say that a lot of people stared at me, most have never seen a skater going up and down this (or any) mountain. The downhill was pretty heavy too. The road is very steep and smooth, so you immediately gain lots of speed (over 60km/h). You have to stay in controll at all times, because the roads is open to all traffic and if you break out of a hairpin, they can scrape you from the rocks, or you experience a free dive over the edge. So breaking is essential. After a few kms I saw that the T-stop had stripped of my front wheel for 70% so I rotated my wheels. On the top of the mountain I had changed all my good "uphill" wheels for old "downhill" wheels, otherwise it would be an expensive exercise. I started to use the heel brake more, or else I wouldn't have any wheels left at the bottom.

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Completely off-centre shaped wheels. This was a new K2 brake on Friday. Lost over 1cm.

Pictures of the Alpe d'Huez skate can befound on this page. And here:  

Pictures of the trip to Les Deux Alpes.

I shot two video's, which I think  are really cool:

Video of the trip to Les Deux Alpes on skates. 6 min. 01 (36MB)
Cool video of skating the Alpe d'Huez uphill and downhill. 6 min. 26 (41MB).

Don't try this mountain skating your self unless you are a very experienced inline skater! I used (extended) four wheel skates, because a shorter frame is easier to climb with. For downhill a five wheel frame would be better. Uphill: 80mm 82A wheels. Downhill: old 80mm (actually 76mm left) 80A wheels. softer, but more breaking power.


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We started at Les Bourg d' Oisans.
Where they had a market going on.
Let's by a yellow jersey in advance. ;-)
This is not the stuff I will need for uphill skating.
Let's start on this warm morning.
Our goal at the very top of the mountain.
Thats where we are going to. 13km hard climbing.
Flushing down the last nerves.
Mental preparation.
Wow these guys look a bit more professional.
Cyclists from Belgium still looking happy.
and now they don't smile any more :-)
I don't think they appreciated a skater keeping up with them, shooting video and pictures.
And here comes Meindert. He gave us a headstart.
He overtakes the Belgians.
Marleen and Wouter had a headstart and are being overtaken by Robert (and me :-)
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Peter Nikkel.