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Part 5 - Transition to Bourg d’Oisans
After the climb to the Col du Lautaret you’ll be keen to make up time. But you must be careful here and concentrate. The first 5 kilometres of descent are probably the most dangerous of this year’s Etape – fast but twisting with a poor road surface, scarred by snow and chains. They hadn’t resurfaced this section by 26th May, and may not do so before the Etape.
After La Grave the conditions get better and you can pick up speed. You’ll drop through two long tunnels (both well lit, but with snow melt and rain water to watch out for). The road surface is generally good, though there are some pot holes on the corners, caused by rock falls.
The barrage and lake before Freney are beautiful. After passing the left turn to Les Deux Alps (visions of Pantani racing through here alone in 1998), there is another km of fast descending, but watch out for a sharp right hand turn at Freney.
As the river falls away into a dramatic gorge, the road climbs again. It’s only 1km long and not severe, but there will be groaning here – we haven’t even reached the start of the Alpe d’Huez…
The final 5km to Bourg d’Oisans is a fast descent down a long straight road. Bourg d’Oisans is, literally, the lowest point since Gap. You’ve lost all that height (all that effort for nothing) and will be feeling low too.
It’s vital to take on as much food and drink here as possible. The final climb will take you well over an hour, but could take twice that if you blow up through lack of fuel.