How do you know if you are good enough to take on the Haute Route?

This event is one of a kind and in some respects rather difficult to grasp. How can just anyone take part in an event that attracts former pros and even Olympic athletes without diluting its competitive challenge.

This article is for those people who are thinking of taking on this potentially life changing experience, those of you out there who are asking: am I really good enough?

The first thing you need to know is that there isn’t a single Haute Route rider that has ever, in the history of the Haute Route, ever arrived on the start line and thought; ‘I’ve got this, I’m going to get through this no problem’. Not even the guys at the top.

“You can’t train enough for an event like this,” explains Craig Muller, 54, a company owner from Australia. “I’ve been pretty surprised at how well I’ve done to be honest. My training depended on how much time I had, which was on average 3-4 times a week, 70% of the time on hills, 30% on the flat.”

This is a tough event. There’s a technique to doing it right and it’s not all about the cycling. Although the Haute Route organisation provides as much support as is possible, there are a lot of things you will need to manage yourself. There’s the management of your gear to consider, even more importantly your own body management. Getting to grips with the ins and outs of moving locations everyday, things like the regular bag drop, that night’s dinner location and so on. The fact you must pay extra attention not to lose or forget something when you’re mentally and physically exhausted. In essence it’s like learning to become a one-man cycling team from beginning to end by teaching yourself to train properly, eat properly, sleep properly and be organised - without exception.

“When I got here I panicked. I looked around and panicked because some of the people here are very serious about cycling whereas I just ride on my own,” said Sam Groombrige, a website manager from the United Kingdom. “I started cycling after being diagnosed with diabetes about eight years ago. I booked the Haute Route because I wanted a big challenge to work towards, I didn’t know if I’d be good enough and coming here my only aim was to finish within the cut off time. I’ve managed so far.”

©Manu Molle / Haute Route
©Manu Molle / Haute Route

The Haute Route doesn’t start in Anglet, Nice or Geneva. The start line is in January on a freezing, rainy morning when you get outside and ride when you normally wouldn’t. On average it takes a minimum of six months training covering around 5,000km to create an Haute Route rider.

‘But I have a job’ we hear you say. Of course you do, many Haute Route riders have highpressure jobs and families but when you break the 5,000km down it averages about 5 hours training a week. It’s about doing what you can.

“The Haute Route is a personal challenge for each rider and the level of dedication is high but if you want it enough of course you can succeed. As long as you’re motivated and determined and you take your training seriously you will be fine. The first thing before any of these things is to love cycling, that’s the most important thing,” says Jean Lou Paiani, an elite French cyclist riding for Roubaix-Lille Métropole competing in the Alps.

The Haute Route is impossible to some, achievable to others. There is no actual difference between those two sets of people other than their mind-sets and of course a lengthy amount of training.

As any Haute Route finisher will tell you, the things you learn from riding a bike extend way beyond being in the mountains with beautiful scenery. You can push yourself to the limits, you can achieve these goals and that’s a lesson you can take and apply to any situation. If you can get through a week of the Haute Route then you can get through almost anything by learning to accept that quitting isn’t really an option.

The only way to know if you are really good enough is to bite the bullet and do it.