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06-07-2021 | Wouter Fioole

The (un)known climb: Oulles

If you ever go riding near Bourg d'Oisans, I hope you'll all have a coke at La Buvettes after reading this piece. No, we as CycloWorld don't have shares or commercial interest. And no, this is not hidden advertising in a blog. It is an ardent plea for you all to make the climb to Oulles. To where? Oulles!

No bucket list climb

A little introduction. My number 1 goal for this year is the Giro delle Dolomiti. In preparation for this stage race, I've signed up for granfondos that have been rescheduled, postponed, cancelled and that I couldn't go to anyway due to travel restrictions. So my partner is sweet enough to turn 'our' vacation into a training camp. We will do our own Tour de France, starting with Bourg d'Oisans (or rather Les Sables, which is just before the). Unlike Frank, I have no real bucket list of mountains. When I am on location, I open the website of our partner Climbfinder and see what I could do. A bit of fun beforehand by looking at profiles and reading about experiences. And you will regularly find unknown pearls! So also Oulles. And I can tell you, I'm completely crazy about Oulles.

Serious numbers

I found Oulles in the overview given by Climbfinder with the most difficult, highest average %, longest and the climb with most elevation. From Bourg d'Oisans, the Galibier including the Telegraph scores highest here on three of the four criteria. Except on the highest average gradient, where Oulles won. Averaging 9.9% over 6.3 kilometers. And as it turns out, it's just around the corner from us. You start with beginning of the Col d'Ornon and just before the little bridge you suddenly turn right.

You ride up against a wall of well over 10%. The enjoyment with a capital E (and small gear) kick in right away. The road is in excellent condition and nowhere so narrow that my fear of heights awoke. The views are phenomenal - the higher up the better. 15 hairpin bends bring you slowly but surely to Oulles. The first part you see the Col d'Ornon getting smaller. In the first hairpin, I could even turn an even bigger smile from my face. The curves are numbered and given names, just like Alpe d'Huez. The only "danger" I encountered this climb was (estimated) 2000 lizards that really did continually shoot down the road from all sides in front, beside, behind and I'm sure occasionally between my wheels as well. Not so much uphill, but downhill still exciting at times.

Steep, steep, steepest

The data on Climbfinder is fine by the way. Except between turn 2 and 4, where my Garmin indicated 8-9%, the percentage on the bike computer was never below 10%. After turn 11 you see the village (yes, the 9 houses and a church) diagonally to the top-left. On two meadows around the village graze the white cows. The end is then in sight, but the percentages rise to 12-13%. Once at the top there is nothing. Yes, the houses and church. At the top is a small cabin with tourist information, a fountain to refill your water bottle and (luckily) a toilet.

I realize that sometimes my preferred mountains differ from those of the average cyclist and I write more odes to unknown climbs. But, if you are in the area then you really should do this climb. Is the entire climb too much for you? Then at least ride up to corner 4. You ride against one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've seen in the region, just for that alone it is worth it!

I do hope for your sake that, when you reach the top, La Buvette is open... there was - fitting to the climb - nobody to be seen when I reached the top. But anyway, enjoying the view on a picnic table, drinking a water bottle under the fountain and swinging back down around the lizards.

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