What? 787kms, 20650m d+ according to the race book – 743.86kms and 18.737m d+ according to my Garmin ! WTF ? Did I miss something? Or did I really ride the entire Haute Route Alps 2018?!! F*ck yes, I’m sure I did… OK so I may have taken the inside on a few downhill bends here and there. Forgetting for a minute I’m not really a pro… Or maybe the Garmin doesn’t add the distance when you’re doing too many wheelies???
FULL DISCLOSURE: This year, I teamed up with OC Sport. The guys who organise the Haute Route, to take in a few events as an influencer – dammit I hate that word! Politicians influence people, I don’t; I just share my love of endurance sports. I try and make people laugh or smile. Anyway, whatever.
One of those events was the Haute Route Alps, so I got a nice pretty ticket to come along for the ride! Having said that, I don’t do bullshit and all the words here are mine. I’m not paid to tell you how f*uckin’ amazin’ it was. So all of what follows is influenced by me, myself & I, not by any partners or contracts.
If you’ve never heard about the Haute Route – check out my first blog here.
Megève to Nice
Spoiler alert: I made it from Megève to Nice. I never really doubted I would make it. Come on I’ve been riding and racing my bike for the last 20 years. Even if that was usually on flat roads and however much salad I eat I will never be anything but a rouleur. A few kilometres over some of France’s most brutal climbs wasn’t really going to scare me. I was never going to fly up the mountains (thanks Carlo Fino for reminding me of the tough reality of physics…). But I was going to make it up at my own speed, and take some photos along the way!
On paper, the Haute Route means serious business: 6 stages and 1 time trial over seven riding days. It was initially designed a few years ago as the toughest amateur race out there. It has since mellowed a little and for those of you considering it but too scared to take it on. I can say from experience that is more than manageable – even for an oversized sock-wearing rouleur*.
* more on socks below!
The Haute Route is only as tough and long as you want to make it! The racebook may scare the living daylights out of anyone but Alberto Contador. In fact when you get there you realise it’s simply about riding bikes in some of the most beautiful landscapes the Alps can offer.
Climbs, sweat and camaraderie
How many opportunities do you have to ride La Colombière, La Madeleine, Le Télégraphe, Le Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, l’Izoard, La Bonette & Co in quick succession, with a bunch of cool people who just get a kick out of pedalling their bikes all day?
Dammit, I’ve never been a fan of the whole cyclo-sportive thing where Dave Smith rocks up on his red and green Cannondale with hairy legs, saggy jersey and helmet askew… Fuck it if I sound like a bike snob, you know I am. But it wasn’t really like that and even if it had been. I’d have been in the mix anyhow. From day one, I pedalled alongside Christian from Canada, Carlo from Italy, Jim from the US, Gilles from the village next to mine, Patrick from Florida, Alan from Perth… and had a laugh with them all.
Parts of it were definitely taken on in race mode. Lacaze enjoys blasting out the watts on a bike and the hills weren’t really going to change that. There is a start, a finish line, a ranking and prizes, so it remains a contest. But at the end of the day you’re there to race against yourself ! The biggest fight of the week is you against YOU.
Photos & Wheelie contest
But beyond the heart-pumping, lung-searing, “shut up legs” moments. The relationships built as the kilometres went on made things so much more fun! There were countless photo stops, a few wheelie contests, lots of selfies, daily live videos and the odd moment sitting neck deep in a fountain. Trying to cool off with the gorgeous alpine landscape laughing at us from all around… We drank coffee (thanks Cafepod for the awesome support). Shared a joke or ten with the organisation staff, stuffed our faces on post-race meals (& sorbets), screamed in pain at the daily massages (Jean-Marc you’re my hero)…
The #sockporn contest
… Oh yeah, and the sock game! Because while I was more than happy letting the skinny little climbers leave me standing on the steep ramps of the passes. There was once contest I wasn’t willing to lose: yep you guessed, it was the prize for the coolest socks!
I didn’t win any of the stage best sock awards that were handed out every evening and I’ve got to admit I was kinda disappointed… but I kept choosing carefully every morning and in the end I won the final sock doping classification. how’s that for a prize?!? How do you like them apples??
The moment which best summarised the week was one shared with Christian Müller, my roommate / bike buddy / teammate / partner in crime for the week. We were halfway through one of the stages, admiring the view from the top of a climb and happily snapping Instagram shots. Then he turned and said “have we got enough photos for today? Shall we do the last part all out?” and we shoved out phones in our pockets and hit the gas. Seeing how far we could race the big guns up the last hill. See if we could drop them on the flats, dripping sweat and quads burning like they were about to burst… Friendship and bikes and fun and pain.
All that is why and how I fell in love with the Haute Route Alps. I didn’t think I would but yeah, I even got the post Haute Route blues… Severe enough that I unpacked my bike kit and repacked it 24 hours later to hit some of… the most brutal climbs of the Pyrenees… Port de Bales, Portillon, Peyresourde… but that’s another story !
Content partnership : Haute Route
Photo Credits : Olivier BORGOGNON / Photo Running
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