Cyclists from around the world gathered today outside the Palais des Sport in Alpe d’Huez to pick up their bib numbers and backpacks, and watch the Tour de France on the big outdoor screen! Tomorrow they will start an inspiring three-day challenge that features some of the most famous Tour de France climbs: the Col de la Croix de Fer, Les 2 Alpes, Col de Sarenne, and of course the 21 bends of the Alpe d’Huez itself.
For Oliver Hambidge, riding his first Haute Route event has been a long time coming. “It’s been on my radar for 4-5 years, but for a variety of logistical real-world reasons it’s been difficult to get around to, particularly based in Australia now and with little kids. I’m looking forward to all of it.”
While the 3-day format and the availability of Compact courses has helped more riders experience their first Haute Route, many riders find they can ride multiple Haute Route events in the same season. “This is the second one. We were in Dolomites,” said Alper Akcan. “I hope the weather will be as nice as in the Dolomites, and I’m looking forward to the Norway and Ventoux events, too.”
Bradley Walker, who has experienced both the 3- and 7-day events, added, “I think you can cram a bit more in, in the shorter space of time, and it’s just breathtaking. I’m looking forward to getting the pace right. You learn from the 3 days, because they are different from the 7 day, and if I can apply what I learned at the Dolomites I can have a much better result on this one.”
Kelsey Tanner and Kristin Milne were unified in their reasons for coming to Haute Route, saying, “We’re drawn to the challenge, and in such a beautiful place. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
Sergey Yakubanets arrived in Alpe d’Huez for his first Haute Route, drawn by his love for the mountains and teamwork. “My teammate and I just did an Ironman, he was riding the bike and I was running, so this is our second event as a duo. I race skimo in the winter, and then start my preparation for Ironman or Extreme Ironman. An event like this is great preparation for my Category A race.”
Some athletes come to Haute Route to compete, others to train and enjoy epic scenery, and everyone enjoys riding with new and old friends. For American Charlie Rowland Alpe d’Huez is the second of eight Haute Route events he’s doing in 2019. “I bought my Infinity Pass and figured I would get the most out of it, and so I’m doing everything that fit into my schedule. I love the challenge, and also the camaraderie. I have a lot of friends that do these now, and we see each other between events, too. When I go to London, Belgium, Switzerland, I now have friends I can visit and ride with.”
After tonight’s safety briefing and traditional Pasta Party, riders will get ready for the first stage tomorrow. With 123 kilometres and 3700 metres of climbing, 2019 Haute Route Alpe d’Huez Original course tackles the longest stage with the most elevation gain on Stage 1, including climbs of Col de la Croix de Fer in both directions, and the ascent to Alpe d’Huez via Villard Reculas. The Compact course features 92 kilometres and 2800 metres of climbing, including one visit to the spectacular summit of the Croix de Fer.