Although cycling in April is possible around Alpe d’Huez you will be taking your chances with the spring weather.
The weather is usually very good and the roads are dry. However, this is the mountains and the weather is very unpredictable. It changes very quickly too.
It’s perfectly possible for it to change from a dry sunny morning to snow in the bottom of the valley in the afternoon.
Temperatures are also hard to predict. It may well be 10°C in the shade but if it’s sunny it will be much more in the sun. That makes it hot climbing and freezing on the descent.
You should forget about any of the big cols. The Glandon, Croix de Fer, and Galibier are all closed. At over 2000m there will be several meters of snow on them in April.
The road to Alpe d’Huez is always open as the ski resort needs access at all times. It’s busy though, with trucks and cars grinding up and down all the time. This is far from a quiet ride in the mountains. Expect to find snow at the top of the climb though not necessarily on the road.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything worth cycling in April. There are many rides that are possible in the area. Some of them are really good but not well known.
These rides aren’t famous because the Tour de France doesn’t go there. But the Tour has very specific needs; space for the team busses and the media center at the finish. These other routes just don’t have the space for that. That means that they will always remain undiscovered gems until you find them yourself.
The Col d’Ornon 1357m
The Col d’Ornon is always a challenge. At 1357m it’s not a high one for the area but it has its demands. There are a series of tight and narrow bends that climb through the trees. they are tough going up and equally difficult coming down. Be careful with positioning on the road and of your brakes.
Oulles, Villard Raymond and Villard Notre-Dame
These three tiny villages, Oulles has a population of 4, are all accessible on tiny back roads. Two branch off the road to the Col d’Ornon and the other starts in the centre of Le Bourg d’Oisans. They are all very quiet in April, you may not see another vehicle all day.
The views are impressive and you get a good view of the 21 bends of Alpe d’Huez from the other side of the valley.
The Vénéon Valley
There is a very gentle climb up to Venosc which has a cable car going to Les Deux Alpes. You can get a ticket to put your bike in the lift and then ride downhill from there if you want.
Past Venosc you can still get the little village of St Christophe en Oisans. The road beyond there to La Bérade is still closed at this time of year, mainly for avalanche danger, not usually something that cyclists have to think about when cycling in April.
A really obscure little place that you get to by taking the turnoff at La Garde on the way up to Alpe d’Huez. Follow the road until you see a small sign to Maronne. the road climbs steeply through dense evergreen forest until you pop out in Maronne.
The Forêt de Maronne Hotel is there and usually open. Probably worth a phone call beforehand if you want to eat there.
Cycling in April has its rewards. The minor roads will be blissfully clear of traffic and the weather can be just about perfect for riding. But the weather is very unpredictable.
Where to stay
You might have a problem getting accommodation at the bottom of the valley. April is still skiing season and all the lodging is concentrated in the resorts. The cycle-based hotels, B&Bs, etc. at the bottom of the valley will not yet be open.
We at Le Château d’Oz close at the end of the ski season and we re-open at the end of May.