Pro Cycling Tours

Former Pro-Cyclist Steve Cunningham takes a look at the difference between climbing the Old Freeway and the most famous climb in the French Alps, Alpe d’Huez in the lead up to Boileau VeloAdelaide. 

Here in Adelaide, we’re literally blessed with brilliant climbs, arguably THE best place to go riding in Australia. No two rides have to be the same, with so many roads that meander, twist and turn through the foothills and hills of Adelaide. People often ask me how does the Old Freeway climb compare to a climb in the French Alpes, I’ve ridden through the French Alpes countless times and while the scenery is indeed epic, the climbing is surprisingly achievable. Let’s look at the most famous climb in Adelaide -v- France. The stats:

Old Freeway (Tollgate to Bollards)                       Alpe d’Huez

Distance             8.6km                                                13.2km

Av Grade              5%                                                    8.1%

Max Grade           15%                                                  10.6%

Elevation gain    415m                                                1071m

OK, so Alpe d’Huez needs a little more pedalling than the Old Freeway, but we should be very proud of our ‘d’Huez’ of SA. And if you also take into account the additional climbing needed to reach Mt Lofty, you’re only about 3km shorter than d’Huez and 400m in elevation.

Both climbs start with a bit of a ‘bang’ with gradients above the total average. The Old Freeway leading up to Devils Elbow is where you want to really pace yourself, keep you heart rate in check and maintain a nice even cadence of around 80. It’s the toughest part of the climb so provided you treat it with some respect, it will pay you dividends on the second half.

From Devils Elbow, The climb takes on another chapter, riding on what is essentially a disused double laned road into the hills. We operated a number of Tours during Tour Down Under largely for interstate travellers and the overwhelming feedback was how lucky us South Aussies are in having such an amazing road leading into the hills – they’re totally right!

The toughest part of the climb is what those Strava enthusiasts call ‘Koala Corner” near Eagle Park and before Eagle on the Hill. A nice high cadence and relaxed upper body will get you through this well, leaving you with enough energy to push the rest of the climb out. The secret to ANY good climbing is to have the mentality to start slow and finish fast! If that ultimately means you have measured out your effort to be consistent, that’s a pretty good outcome. Provided you take this approach, The Old Freeway climb can be conquered by anyone!

So have a great climb, remember to save some for Koala Corner, and look forward to conquering Adelaide’s Alpe d’Huez.

Steve runs  international tours with procycling tours. You can join him for a Classic France / Italy Tour where you can actually conquer Alpe d’Huez! Classic France / Italy