Whether your Haute Route is just a few months away in early-season Oman, or seemingly a lifetime away in Autumnal Ventoux, you can start preparing yourself now. The earlier you start preparing your body, your bike, and the brain, the better your ride and your enjoyment will be when you reach the start line. And the same principles apply whether you are riding just three days, or whether you have decided the 14-day Iron Pyrenees-Alps double is for you.
Having ridden over 10 Haute Routes in the last four years, including three doubles, here’s a few things to start thinking about and bearing in mind, even if your event is ten months away.
Consistency is Key
There can be days where you just can’t face going out to train, or when you do ride, the legs just aren’t there. Remember, sometimes, consistency is key and just turning the pedals is better than not at all. All saddle time is valuable time, and if you’re struggling to hit your targets in an interval session, or finding it difficult to get yourself on the bike at all, just remember that every day counts for something. Even a little is better than nothing. If the motivation isn’t there, try to get in at least one hour of easy spinning, and if today isn’t your day in that gnarly interval session, just remember consistency is key – sometimes, just the act of trying and failing your workout is enough.
And on the flipside, remember you may have up to nine months until the Haute Route of your choice – be sensible! Don’t go training too hard-too early, and burn out before the season even starts. If you find yourself frequently failing your sessions, or are hating the thought of getting on the bike altogether, take a step back and consider how well you are resting. You get stronger when you rest —not when you train. Finding the balance is key.
Manage your Body
Respect your body in training. You cannot expect to be riding full gas for hours on end every day; your body isn’t built to manage this. Respect your body and it’s need for rest. Be sensible and listen to what your body is saying to you – it’s easy to get carried away early in the season when you feel determined and fresh, but remember building up for your event is a marathon, not a sprint!
Similarly, some people get preoccupied with their weight when preparing for a Haute Route – in theory the lighter you are, the faster you climb. However, from experience, it’s not always the lightest riders that prevail on an Haute Route; it’s the slightly more robust, hardy, healthy members of the peloton. Don’t get caught up in extreme dieting measures. It won’t help you get to the finish line. Continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet that fuels the body and the hard training you’re doing. A car doesn’t run on an empty tank, and a race car runs more smoothly with the highest-grade gasoline. Feed your body a nutritious, fortifying diet.
Manage your Time
Training can be a time-consuming business, and getting the miles in when you have a family and work commitments can be tough. However, with a well-structured plan and sensible approach, you can get into the shape you want on as little as eight hours of riding a week.
Using intervals in your training is a great way to boost your fitness on relatively little time, and this can become even more efficient if some of the sessions are done on an indoor trainer – using a smart trainer paired up to Zwift can make the time pass super-easily, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. And hey, you get to ride up Alp D’Huez in your garage! When using the trainer, make sure you have a plan – don’t just aimlessly ride. Use a workout available on Zwift, TrainerRoad, Sufferfest, or from an accredited cycling coach, and you’ll be making the most of every second of your valuable time.
Consider Your Kit
Just as Haute Route requires an investment of your time, it also may require an investment in some kit. Is your bike suitable? The main things to think about are the gearing and the wheelset. You don’t necessarily need to buy a whole new bike, but you want to have at least a 36-52 crankset and 28-tooth cassette on the back, and ideally you want to be running a lightweight set of wheels rather than some deep sections!
Similarly, your clothing – obviously, you’re going to spend a lot of time training in the coming months, and so you need to have suitable kit for all weather. And likewise, on the Haute Route itself, you’re going to need clothing to cover both the hot and sunniest of days, as well as wet and maybe even snowy conditions.
It can feel easiest both psychologically and in terms of your bank balance to spread out these costs, particularly if you’re thinking of investing in a new bike. So, start thinking about what you need to buy now, and don’t leave it to the last minute or it can all feel a bit traumatic.
Share the Load
It can feel a little lonely when training and preparing for a Haute Route, especially when doing it for the first time.
Having training buddies in the area can help get you out on the cold winter rides, or push you harder when fighting for a KoM! They don’t need to be riding a Haute Route as well, they may be preparing for other Fondos, or may be road racers or just others who love to ride. Having a network of riders to get you out and keep the pedals turning can really help, so consider joining a local club, or seeking out other Haute Routers near you. We are organising Haute Route ride outs around the world and these provide a great way for you to meet fellow riders and share the training load. Likewise, if you’re a little overwhelmed by how to prepare for the event and what you need to know, but don’t have a buddy riding the event, be sure to join our online communities and engage with your future friends in the peloton. Our communities are found on Facebook at @cyclingHauteRoute. See you on the road virtually or irl training for an Haute Route in 2019.
About the Author:
Jim Cotton is an Haute Route Ambassador and an 11 time Haute Route alum most recently finishing the Pyrenees in the top 25 overall. Look for him at the Haute Route Pyrenees and Haute Route Ventoux in ‘19 where his goal is top 20 in both events. His blog is full of Haute Route stories and insights: https://mountainmutton.wordpress.com