The Alpe d’Huez postal route is calling

This is what all those hours on the bike have been building towards.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 12.03.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images and Wikimedia Commons
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Do you ever fantasise about just chucking it all in, moving far away, and picking up an honest job of physical toil? If so, great news: France’s postal service, La Poste Groupe, is recruiting a postal worker for a route based in the Alpine town of Le Bourg-d’Oisans, between Grenoble and Briançon – a commune nestled at the foot of l’Alpe d’Huez, with a postal run up its hallowed hairpins. 

Unearthed on Linkedin by cycling commentator Jez Cox (thanks Jez!), the job ad offers a tantalising glimpse of a very different employment future for one lucky applicant. Perhaps you can picture yourself there, gulping crisp mountain air as you propel your little postal bike up the 9% gradient, panniers bulging with bills for the resort owners up the top. Hard work, certainly, but honest.

But scenic surrounds in and of themselves don’t pay the rent, which makes us wonder – what exactly does life as a La Poste Groupe employee look like? Well, like many postal services worldwide, its business is “evolving,” which – if we’re reading between the lines – means less letters and more parcels while confronting the existential threat of digital communication. Or, in the more optimistic spin of the job ad, it’s all about “developing confidence in digital technology and being an actor in ecological transformation.” La Poste Groupe is a big entity – “a responsible company, with its 238,000 employees!” – and it “brings diversity to life” with positions “open to everyone.” Everyone? Apparently so: “you too, get involved with us to give meaning to your profession.”

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard round a corner near the top of l'Alpe d'Huez, enormous Alpine landscape behind them.
These views could be your daily grind.

Brushing up your CV yet? Perhaps a detailed run-down of the Alpe d’Huez postie mission will help. You, the hypothetical Alpine delivery person, will carry out both “preparation work and distribution of mail.” Will you do it sullenly? You will not: you will ensure “quality customer relations” and “contribute to customer satisfaction,” which is code for “place the mail in the right letterbox without squishing it too much, especially if it says ‘do not bend’ on the side.” Most exciting of all: you get supplied the tools of the trade, which includes a “Facteo” smart device – basically a postal-specific phone that you can log deliveries on – and “means of transport adapted to your tour (bike, Staby, car, etc.).”

Now, let’s assume you are on the fence about the job ad and the bike is the make-or-break point. Perhaps you’re dreaming of a taxpayer-funded high-end Lapierre to fly up the hairpins, postal satchel worn jauntily over the shoulder. If that’s the case, you’re likely to be bitterly disappointed, as a trawl through La Poste Groupe’s equipment suggests that your Alpine adventures might be astride one of these guys, complete with fun little bonus wheels on the front. The natural tool for conquering the Alps? Hardly.

A yellow La Poste electric delivery bike, heavily laden with big black bags for letters. It is deeply utilitarian and unattractive.
On the plus side, it is made by a French brand – the formerly FDJ-sponsoring Gitane. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Media 365

Of course, you’ve also got the option of a “Staby,” which is a three-wheeled electric thing with a 1.3 m3 cabinet on the back. Utilitarian, certainly, even if it doesn’t look like the kind of thing you’d want to ride up l’Alpe d’Huez and would probably be even worse on the way down. La Poste is also experimenting with electric cargo trikes; this postman from Clermont Ferrand looks like he’s loving it, but he’s been stunned into perpetual awe by his city’s big sinister cathedral. Or if we’re going cars – I hate to say it, but maybe that’s the quickest choice given the vertiginous terrain of Alpe d’Huez – there’s the Renault Kangoo van, which you can practically smell the burnt clutch of from here. There are options, that’s all I’m saying. 

Beyond the ability to drive a car (if that’s your preferred method of transport), the prerequisites are fairly accessible. You need to “know how to read, write, count and find your way around,” as well as possess the “ability to adapt and memorise,” with “sense of service [and] search for satisfaction of the needs of customers.” Importantly, you – the hypothetical postal worker lugging letters up an enormous mountain to the recluses and tourism industry professionals that live on your route – need to have “integrity [that] is impeccable.” No wage for this “entry level” position is specified, although a trawl through similar La Poste openings in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region suggests you’d be taking home €12.67/h + snack bonus for your Monday to Saturday (7am-2pm) gig, with a rotating day off.    

While it’s not enough to entice me away from Escape Collective, maybe it’s the tree-change you’re looking for: a daily grind up 21 hairpins on a utilitarian ebike, spreading cheer and Shein fast-fashion parcels wherever you go. History beneath your wheels. The shifting seasons around you. A big yellow pouch full of letters. And a front row seat to the worst excesses of Dutch corner during July.

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