On a sunny day in Megève, France, the Grand Depart Village for Haute Route Alps hummed with excitement as 525 cyclists gathered to collect their rider packs and bib numbers ahead of their 7-day cycling adventure through the Alps. Starting tomorrow, the ninth edition of Haute Route Alps, will travel 760 kilometers from Megève to Nice, including 20,550 meters of elevation gain over many of the most famous climbs in cycling.
Haute Route emcee, Fergus Grant, set the stage for the flagship event of the internationally renowned cycling series: “The Haute Route Alps is, without doubt, the pinnacle of the Haute Route events simply because it is the toughest, the biggest, the longest; and it was the first.”
Riders start their journey on Sunday with a 97-kilometer loop that features a succession of moderate-length climbs before a tough finish climb to the airport at Côte 2000, above Megève. But even with 2600 meters of climbing, Stage 1 is just an appetizer for the longer and tougher stages to come.
The route for the 2019 Haute Route Alps includes many climbs made famous by the Tour de France, and provides riders with the opportunity to ride and race on the same roads as sporting legends. “I was here 31 years ago to watch the Tour de France, and for 31 years I’ve been waiting to come back to ride Alpe d’Huez,” said Haute Route Ambassador Randy Warren from the United States. “This is my chance. And that’s an epic stage. Stage 3, with the Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon, and finishing up Alpe d’Huez… that’s a Tour de France stage. It’s super exciting to finally – after all these years – get to come back and do it.”
Many riders cited the challenge of the Alps as the primary motivation for joining the Haute Route Alps peloton. “I’ve fancied doing the Alps for a while, just the general challenge of it, really. A friend at work did it and I thought – that looks pretty nuts, I’ll give it a try,” said Richard Picott, who used his Infinity Pass to ride the 3-day events of Haute Route Oman and Alpe d’Huez in preparation for this week. “This is my first 7-day. I anticipate more pain, but I’ll be good because you have quite a lot of support, the massages, and time to recover at the end of the day.”
The commitment to endure a challenge is part of the draw for Tristan Almada, co-founder of NOMAN, a non-profit that aims to raise awareness about the HPV-related cancer epidemic in men and women, campaign for universal HPV vaccination, while challenging participants to extreme endurance races across the world. “We participate in Haute Route events because the ethos of Haute Route, which is people pushing themselves to the limit, and people embracing a big challenge before them. When people get diagnosed with cancer, treatment is a long journey, but one they didn’t choose. In many ways, all of these people signing up for 7 epic days of riding in the Alps pays homage to that kind of experience.”
As the sun started to dip behind the mountains, riders came together for the Opening Ceremony at Le Palais Megève to learn details about the coming week and meet and greet new and old friends at the post-ceremony reception. But the real party starts at 7:30am on Sunday morning when the peloton rolls out of Megève to create lifelong memories over seven days of stunning views, shared experiences, epic climbs, and thrilling descents.