It was a cool and clear morning when a record number of Haute Route Alpe d’Huez riders departed the start line to descend through Villard-Reculas. As the peloton began the Col de la Croix de Fer climb, they warmed quickly from the effort and the sunshine.
The competition at the front split the peloton into small groups, with three riders – Rauri Grant, Martin Palmer, and Jaime Corredor – reaching the summit of the 24-kilometer climb together. With the first timed section in the record books, competitors turned to friends as they stopped to fill bottles and compliment each other’s performance. “I like it. It makes it more friendly,” said Grant of the timed segment format. “You can stop and chat.”
When it was time to depart for the descent, the three leaders took off to the east to continue on the Original course, and the leaders for the Compact course went west, back down the way they had come.
Back on the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer, German rider Philipp Stratmann was admiring the views during his third Haute Route Alpe d’Huez. Asked what keeps him coming back, he replied, “The nice scenery here, of course, very little traffic, and the nice climbs. And my wife really likes Alpe d’Huez. Because you can stay in one place, this becomes a nice holiday weekend. She’s climbing and I’m cycling.”
Asked what drew her to Haute Route Alpe d’Huez, Katherin Stausberg commented, “I have been doing triathlons and I wanted to try something new. This is my first road bike race. I want to finish and have fun.”
Rebecca Johnson, who has done more than five Haute Route events over a period of years, said, “The day is super. The organization is great at road safety, and has improved over time with things like pointing out corners and holes. The route is nice and the weather is great. I think it’s also very hard. There were some really steep parts, and with 3700 metres total today, I might have some tired legs at the end.”
By the finish, after climbing up to Alpe d’Huez via Villard-Reculas, Kelly Grillo was the winner of the Compact stage. Grant Rauri was the Stage 1 winner on the Original course.
Renato Valle and Lais Helena Araujo traveled all the way from Brazil to ride Haute Route Alpe d’Huez together. “It is our first time. It was hard, and the Croix de Fer is a beautiful place. The weather was perfect,” said Renato at the finish line. “We did the Compact. It’s a lot of climbing all together. For us it was exactly what we could do.”
On Saturday, riders start in Bourg d’Oisans and climb up the first few switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez before turning right in La Grande to climb and traverse the cliffside road toward the Romanche River. After crossing the river, the Original route crosses the bottom of the valley and climbs Les Deux Alpes. The Compact course takes a left toward Lac du Chambon and heads up the Col de Sarenne to reach the finish line in Alpe d’Huez. With Les Deux Alps behind them, the Original course riders will also head up the Sarenne to finish the stage.
After 123 kilometres and 3700 metres of climbing, Ruari Grant took the stage win on the Men’s Original Course in a time of 3:33:02. More than six minutes behind him, Philippe Bechet finished second in 3:39:49. Colombian rider Jaime Corredor rounded out the top three, finishing in 3:41:10.
In the Women’s Original Course competition, Rebecca Johnson won in 4:35:11, followed a few minutes later by Gretchen Miller in second place with a time of 4:43:55. Ingrid Saupstad rounded out the podium in third with a time of 4:54:46.
The fastest Compact Course rider of the day and Stage 1 winner in the Women’s Compact Course competition was Kelly Grillo, with a time of 3:53:06 for 92 kilometres and 2800 metres of climbing. Going into Stage 2 tomorrow, Marco Augusto Duenes Cepas is the leader in the Men’s Compact Course competition.