The final stage of the 2018 Haute Route Pyrenees got underway this morning on a misty Altiport in Peyragudes. The riders set off from where they finished yesterday’s stage, heading down into the valley to reach the first timing mat of the day and the real start of the stage. With only one climb on the menu up the Col d’Aspin, today’s stage was a long one but relatively easy compared to what the riders had already overcome earlier in the week.
The lower slopes of the Aspin climb split up the peloton, as each rider settled into their rhythm for the final climb of the week. Weaving in and out the trees, making their way through the morning mist, the riders triumphantly rose to the summit of their last col of the week, cresting it rapidly and heading back downhill to make their way towards the finish line in Pau.
Emotions ran high for some riders, the summit of the Aspin marking the culmination of a long week of tough riding and the final challenge that they would have to overcome before riding triumphantly into Pau as Haute Route finishers. All the riders were overjoyed and relieved to make it over the final col, looking forward to the final descent and being able to ride in a group again.
Once they had negotiated the twisting descent from the Aspin, a long flat valley section separated the riders from the final timing mat of the week and then the finish line in Pau. As was commonplace throughout the week, riders regrouped into packs in order to ride and work together to make their way to the finish line. Lars Peter from Denmark quite enjoyed this final roll towards the finish line, making the most of it to reflect on a great week of riding: “The Col du Portet was probably my favourite climb of the week,” he said, “even though it was really hard it was nice to do it. This was my first Haute Route and the whole thing was just amazing!”
Once they had crossed the final timing mat and congratulated each other, the riders took it easy on their way into Pau, coming full circle for the week and heading towards a finish line right where the race village was situated on registration day. Finishing his first Haute Route this week, Marcelo Agudo Martínez was already thinking about the next one, “This was my first Haute Route,” he exclaimed, “but I already know that it won’t be last one!”
Raul Michoud from Switzerland was finishing his second Haute Route, and had enjoyed this one even more than the previous one, “I finished this one in better form than when I did the Dolomites,” he said, “it was a great week all around. I’ll come back even stronger again next time!”
Kathrin Walther from Germany was also planning ahead for her next Haute Route: “that was fun,” she laughed, “I love it so much, I’ll definitely be doing it again.”
At the front of the race today the stage wins went to Alex Nazarewicz of Australia and Sophie Poza of Switzerland, taking their first and second stage wins of the week respectively. Overall, the race was won by the ever-impressive Ruari Grant for the men and Hannah Rhodes-Patterson for the women. In the Duo competition it was Team Minttulina who took both the stage win today and the overall win.
After a full week of riding in the Pyrenees, the Haute Route peloton will let their hair down tonight at the closing ceremony in Pau, celebrating their achievements, their new friendships and the memories to last a lifetime.
Tomorrow morning the Haute Route Alps will get underway in Megève, with registration day taking place before riders set off for seven days of riding through the French Alps to reach Nice.