Seven days ago, many people started the Haute Route Alps not knowing what they were letting themselves into.
For the 600-strong peloton this has been the hardest ever and most demanding edition of the Haute Route, both in terms of course and conditions. Some riders set off more confident than others, but each of them has been full of determination.
So what does it really feel like to finish the Haute Route Alps? Only our riders who have crossed the line will know, so over to you, Haute Route finishers:
“I have lost 23 kilos to be here. I used to be a pro volleyball player but when I stopped I just ballooned and that was 15 years ago. It was only in October last year that I came across the Haute Route and realised that it was a means to an end for me.
My family are supporting me, this has been as much a commitment for them as it has for me. Of course we didn’t know that at the time. To have completed the first week I was happy, to have completed the second I’m overjoyed so goodness knows how I’ll feel after the Dolomites.” Doug Wilson from Canada.
“Two years ago today I did my first ever climb on a bike. Today I came 32nd out of 600 odd incredibly talented riders. Amazing.” – David Cooper-Boileve from England.
“I just feel an amazing sense of achievement. Just looking back over what you’ve done, how many mountains you’ve gone over and it just goes to show it’s so easy to underestimate what the mind and human body can do. Sharing this experience with so many other people has been truly something special.” - Gavin Louis from Wales.
Olympic medallist and former world champion cyclist, Emma Pooley, winner of the women’s standings said: “I feel really quite humbled to see what every rider has gone through. The Haute Route isn’t really about the guys at the front – it’s riders of all abilities throughout the peloton, putting themselves through misery to win their own personal victories that make this event what it is.”
“My family have come to greet me here at the top of the final climb and I’m quite emotional right now. I feel slightly confused and emotional but very happy. I had no idea if I’d even make the cut off time and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Honestly, it was such a challenge for me. I was just stepping into the unknown. I just can’t believe I made it.” - Phillipe Chevrollier from France.
And for Jules Bernie from London crossing the finish line took on a whole different meaning:
“It has been a very emotional time for me. I have broken down a few times on some of the climbs. Big men do cry! My good friend Bob Hobson back in November asked me if I wanted to do the Haute Route - I had only been cycling 3 or 4 years and I thought, ‘wow. Seven days over those cols at 95kg’.
Four weeks ago Bob was out in Gran Canaria, doing some training and sadly he had a heart attack and suffered severe brain damage. And I found out on Monday night that he had passed away in hospital.
He was a great guy. People use that expression a lot. But this guy was unique. He would do anything for you. He is the inspiration for me and my cycling – he has encouraged me to the place I have got to today. He would always go passed me on the climbs and he would be like ‘alright big man, keep going big man.’ I missed those words this week.
It has been a great challenge, fantastic. I have only been cycling three or four years so I have come a long way to do something like that.
It is tough carrying 95kilos up a mountain when the 60 kilos cyclists fly past you! So next time, I am going to bring some scales, a few back-packs and some dumbbells. And whatever the difference is I am going to tell them ‘you’re carrying those dumbbells up that mountain for 12.5 km’! And then we’ll see who gets to the top of it!
I could sense him, I felt like he was with me all the way. Some of the climbs when I was struggling a bit I could imagine him ‘come on big man, get your arse up there’. God I miss him.
Will I do the Haute Route again? Yeah. One of Bob’s best mates, Ox, wants to do it next year. So I will do it with him.”