A warriors’ stage


Rolling out on a rainy morning from Innsbruck for the start of Stage 1, the international peloton of Haute Route Dolomites riders set off for a 154km loop with two ascents and a total of 2,790m of climbing.

After a short neutralised section that took riders out of town, the peloton crossed the first timing mat of the week in Zirl before heading into the bottom of Seefeld. Riders worked together in small groups in the first 25km to conserve energy as they rode in the Lower Inn Valley before the first climb of the day.

The first challenge of the week took the riders up to the ski resort of Seefeld in Tyrol, host venue for the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games. With 632m of ascent in 7.7km, this first ascent was a good introduction to start the week for the riders who then took on 20km of rolling hills in the forest and through a few iconic Tyrolean villages.

Chinese rider Hu Hao was excited with his first experience of multi-day events in Europe. “The first climb was short and enjoyable”, he said. “During the timed sections I worked hard to try and get a good ranking. This is my first time in Europe and first time riding in the Dolomites. We don’t have stage events like this at home, usually just 1-day events”.

“Coming to Europe here is fulfilling a dream, and a great chance to try an endurance race”, he added, “The environment here is really nice, regardless of the weather, rain or sun it is fantastic and beautiful.”

After an untimed descent off the Seefeld plateau, the peloton was back in the valley along the Inn River before taking a sharp left to start the ascent up to Sattele, the second difficulty of the day. Averaging over 10% for 10km, this relentless climb truly tested the riders’ resilience in tough conditions.

Othman Harakat from Morocco, the youngest rider this week at 19 years old, was happy with his first day of riding. “I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line”, he said atop Sattele, “it was a great day despite the weather conditions.”

Whilst refuelling and layering up atop Sattele before heading into the valley to return to Innsbruck, Brazilian rider Rogerio Pires shared his impressions of the day with us “I’m feeling very good. It’s very nice to ride in the snow,” he said, marvelling at the environment, “we don’t have snow in Brazil. It’s unbelievable to be here”.

Reaching the finish line in Innsbruck, Johan Herland from Norway, newcomer to the Haute Route, was delighted to have managed to pace himself well on this first day: “It was hard mostly due to the wet but it was good. I’m very happy with how I managed the stage and the conditions for my first time on the Haute Route Dolomites.”

At the front of the peloton, Cédrick Dubois from France took the first stage victory ahead of Ruari Grant from the UK and Roedi Weststrate from the Netherlands. In the women’s category, British rider Sophie Slaney took the first leader’s jersey of the week.

In collaboration with local authorities, and after carefully studying the weather forecast for tomorrow, Haute Route organisers have decided to ensure riders’ safety by cancelling stage 2. With snow expected above 2000m and both scheduled cols peaking above this altitude the stage was deemed unsafe to ride; riders will be transferred to Vipiteno in the morning and will get to relax in the afternoon in the city.

Stage 3 will set off on Monday from Vipiteno for 116km and 3,360m of climbing on the way to Brixen via the ascents of Passo Pennes, Renon Plateau and Lazfons.