The spirit of the Haute Route
Hundreds of riders every year from all over the world head to Europe to take part in the Haute Route events, and take on the most mythical cols of the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Swiss Alps. The attraction of these legendary cols, such as the Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Tourmalet and Stelvio cannot be underestimated, but beyond the sporting challenge is another story, a human story that for many is life changing…
What is the Haute Route exactly? The basic facts can be easily stated - the Haute Route cycling events are the most prestigious cyclosportives in the world for amateur riders, prestigious and professionally run seven day or three day road events, timed and ranked, across Europe’s iconic cols. The three Haute Route events each cover over 800 km, climb more than 20,000 vertical metres, and traverse the greatest cycling terrain in the world – the Dolomites and the Swiss Alps, the French Alps and the Pyrenees. But these basic facts do not portray the sheer magnitude of the challenge, the overwhelming beauty of the landscapes nor the multi-faceted human story of the riders themselves that demonstrate sport really does have the power to change each of us.
The Haute Route events push the boundaries of human endurance to the edge and in doing so create a very special atmosphere. The peloton is home to many different nationalities with many of the riders crossing oceans to arrive in Europe’s legendary mountains and the spectrum of ability and experience is vast.
To finish all seven days of a single Haute Route event is a major achievement for all the riders and to complete two, and receive the accolade of an ‘Iron Rider’, is outstanding. Since 2014 with the introduction of the Haute Route Dolomites Swiss Alps, the challenge exists to take on all three Haute Route Events in a row which Cycling Plus journalist John Whitney claimed: “It will without question make it the toughest mass participation series in the amateur road cycling world”.
With professional level event organisation including medical teams, mechanical support, rolling road security, film crews and, of course, massages, the riders are 100% immersed in the world of cycling and for a short time get to experience what it’s like riding as a pro.
Rookie or expert, the riders tackle the highest, steepest, most world-renowned cycling terrain, and it’s a levelling experience making the Haute Route much more than just a cycling event. Everyone has their own personal reason for doing the Haute Route. It can be life changing for many, it allows those with physical and personal challenges to prove that anything can be done if you put your mind to it; and only those riders who do it, fully understand what it means.