Small talk edition 1: has La Marmotte lost its shine?

Wednesday 29 January 2020 by Frank Jansen

The Marmotte, the mother of all gran fondo’s, is in decline. That’s not small talk, that’s a fact of life. Just a few years ago the event was sold out within hours, but in recent years there were still tickets available at the day of the event. But has La Marmotte lost its shine? That’s the question we try to answer in this article.

The decreased interest for La Marmotte didn’t happen overnight. This has been a long and complex process, with multiple factors involved. We feel these are the most important ones:

  • Competition. Over the years, many new events have been originated, also within the Marmotte portfolio. Creating awareness for these events is so much easier nowadays using a website like ours.
  • Saturation. Many cyclists have participated in La Marmotte at least once. They broaden their horizon and start looking for other challenges. We feel this makes sense.
  • The date. Years ago, the organizers moved the event to Sunday. Many riders don’t like to ride on Sundays. Furthermore, in many European countries schools are still in business at the beginning of July. This means combining the event with a family holiday could be a challenge.
  • The size. With around 7.500 contestants, the Marmotte is one the bigger events. An increasing number of riders seem to prefer smaller, less hectic events.
  • Quality. With an entree fee of around 100€, La Marmotte is far from cheap so one would expect a high level of organization. The fact that many private company’s offer personal ravito’s, is quite telling. In recent years, the level of organisation has certainly improved, but’s it not yet at the level of for instance the Öztaler of the Maratona.

The beautifull Col du Glandon (Picture: Frank Jansen)

Holy grail?

Back to the original question. Does the reduced popularity make the La Marmotte less attractive? We at Cyclocalander feel that’s a bit oversimplified and here’s why:

  • The route is still epic. 174 km / 5000 meter of elevation with no medio fondo is serious business. The Marmotte is not a walk in the park by any standard.
  • Four legendary cols in 1 gran fondo: we are unable to name events that even match this number.
  • The level of competition is exceptional. We are curios how Nothegger will perform next year.
  • Bourg d’Oisans is still the Mekka of cycling. This French mountain villages has cycling written all over it. The atmosphere is electric and the region offers plenty of options to stay.
  • Apart from the Marmotte’s climbs, there are many epic climbs around the village: Croix de Fer, La Bérarde, Villard-Nôtre-Dame, Col d’Ornon, Col de la Sarenne, Les 2 Alpes, etc, etc.
  • The Marmotte has a very rich history, full of legendary editions.
  • The event has an uphill finish – there is no other option!

Conclusion. Yes, the Marmotte’s popularity is in decline. The golden days of this French GF are over. But in our view, it’s still a great cyclo which every rider should have on their palmares. Doing it 8 times in a row like some older riders have done is past is simply too much and not really necessary in todays GF world.

What’s your opinion? Vote!

Poll: Has La Marmotte lost its shine?

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