Geneva to Nice key features:
21,400m of ascent, 17,800m of descent
20 cols and ascents
90% of the course is new
1 Prologue, 5 Classic, 1 Marathon, 1 Individual Time Trial
7 days, against the clock
The first part of the Haute Route Alps has been conquered, 412km and nine iconic cols; next comes the second part - 492km and the remaining 9 cols - and today’s short Individual Time Trial gave the riders some well-earned ‘half time’ to recover ahead of the final push to the finish line on the prestigious “Promenade des Anglais” in Nice.
So far the 450 riders competing in the fourth edition of the Haute Route Alps have endured four days of ‘pain and pleasure’ since leaving Geneva on Sunday, 24th August. However, the outstanding Alpine scenery has more than made up for the hardship of life in the saddle.
The seven-day challenge against the clock started with stage 1 from Geneva to Megève. And, as always, it served up a great ‘tasting’ menu – three perfectly proportioned cols were on offer, with the Colombière, the Croix Fry and the Aravis served on the side. “The first day is always a shock to the body, you have to listen to your senses and pace yourself,” said Mark McKillop (641). But it certainly whetted the appetite for what lay ahead. It was a case of onwards and upwards on Stage 2 for the Haute Route peloton as they tackled three big cols between Megève and Courchevel – including the Cormet de Roselend at 1,967m, the highest point of the entire Haute Route Alps course. The amazing view on the descent was so outstanding many riders could not stop themselves from dismounting to take photos, trading memories for time! It was a bit of a ‘monster’ compared to stage 1 as ex-pro mountain biker, Karim Amour pointed out: “It was tough, tough, tough!”
But the biggest test came on Stage 3 – the 5* Marathon Stage. As if the 137km stage and 4,650m of ascent wasn’t going to be tough enough, the weather turned nasty – cold, torrential rain from start to finish and 50km/h headwinds on the Col du Glandon: “You just switch off the brain and you keep going - col after col, kilometre after kilometre,” said David Fussell. Unfortunately, 52 riders did not finish this ultra testing stage as they were swept up by the broom wagon.
Today’s Individual Time Trial, marking the halfway point of the Haute Route Alps, almost came as a relief. Alpe d’Huez from Bourg d’Oisans is arguably the most iconic climb in cycling history, following in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest cycling heroes. Its 21 hairpin bends, the signs and the graffiti on the road make it a memorable moment in a cyclist life: “That climb is a legend. I’ve never been up the Alpe d’Huez before, so I’m no longer a virgin!” said Erica Fogg when reaching the finish line.
It was another chapter in the rich history of the Haute Route Alps riders and the remaining three final chapters will be written over the coming days before they arrive in the Mediterranean city of Nice on Saturday, 30th August.
Read the 2014 Haute Route Official Guide here
Entries for the 2015 Haute Route events are open