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Unravelling the Marmotte Granfondo

The Marmotte - possibly the toughest Granfondo in the Alps? Historically anyway, however every year we see another extreme event added to the calendar. That said, the Marmotte retains a special place in Granfondo history and its popularity continues.

Not to be underestimated, with 179kms and nearly 5000M of climbing its a tough day out in anyones book. From my perspective I have a love hate relationship with the event. I've completed it 4 times. I've had the elation at finishing in under 7 1/2 hours, and the devastation of the death of a dear friend shortly after he finished the event.

Every year upto 7500 riders will take to the start line in Bourg D'Oisans for the loop over the Glandon, Telegraphe and Galibier before the final tortous ascent of Alpe D'Huez.

The 2021 event saw a reduced field of just 3000 riders due to Covid travel restrictions with the event taking place in September rather than July. The 2022 Marmotte returns to its traditional July date. A muggy damp start turned into another hot ascent of Alpe D'Huez having experienced a baltic descent of the Lauteret. Whilst it was my 4th Marmotte, it was probably my toughest despite the training I'd done and my day unravelled on Alpe D'Huez but still managing to finish in just over 8 hours. No matter how much training you do it will always be a challenging day on the bike.

How to get to the start line

Winter miles equals Summer smiles. Unless you are an elite rider and aiming for a time, for most of us the goal is to finish the event. I'm lucky to call the French Alps home but still its those long rides that helped me to cross the finish line and testing the legs before the event with rides of up to 4000M of climbing. Go for your longest ride, then jump on Zwift and ride up the Alp - its is pretty realistic!! - its also the opportunity to ensure you have the right equipment and gearing.

Gear ratios

No matter what gearing you have, you will wish for another tooth on your rear cassette when you reach the Alp. For me I've tried compact chain sets however in recent years I've settled for 52-36 11-34. I've this gives me the comfort for steady climbing whilst retaining the ability to keep pedaling on non-technical descents.

Staying hydrated

Whilst the event has excellent feed stations, they can be crowded, especially if you are starting mid-field and beyond. With some forward planning its possible to seek out some additional water stops to stay on top of your liquids.

With such a long course there are inevitably danger points along the way. The Col du Glandon descent, the train crossings in St Jean de Maurienne and the tunnels on the descent of the Lauteret

Wheel sucking

The Maurienne Valley has the usual alpine valley wind which gets stronger throughout the day hence the further down the field you are, the likelihood of a stronger head wind. Its a similar story on the long descent of the Lauteret. From the top of the Galibier to the bottom of the Lauteret it can be around an hour of descending. On both of these sections, unless you feel super strong its time to wheelsuck.

The clock is ticking to the 2022 Marmotte Granfondo and it seems many riders are doing the Etape / Marmotte double on consecutive weekends. Good luck with that!

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