The third stage of the 2018 Haute Route Alps got underway this morning from Valloire under bright blue skies. The ascents of three major alpine cols were on the programme for this 107-km stage: Galibier, Sarenne and the ascent to Les 2 Alpes.
This third stage was the only one of this Haute Route to have a timed start located at kilometre 0 of the stage. On the start line, the spectators could see an unusual scene with riders doing a recce of the first metres of the mythical ascent of Galibier. Most of the riders, like Didier Stoeckli from Switzerland, would be relying on their experience: “The ascent starts straight away. I know the Galibier, I climbed it several times already so I know that you can warm up until Les Verneys and after 7-8km of ascent it gets tougher”.
Having participated in the Haute Route Alpe d’Huez last year, Didier gave us his last advice about the stage before setting off: “Sarenne is an easy ascent in the second third but the last third of the ascent if difficult. And the ascent up to Les 2 Alpes is not long but can be tricky as a final ascent.” A few metres away from him Andrew White from the UK and Josh Darling from Australia took a selfie before the start. This stage is a true discovery for them as explained by Josh: “A bit anxious, I’ve never been to 2,600m before, that’s a first time for me!”
As expected, the peloton stretched out from the first kilometres in a gorgeous setting with empty green fields and jagged rock landscapes. As they climbed up, riders could appreciate their progression and see groups of riders scattered throughout the ascent above and below them. The most attentive riders might have spotted flocks of sheep and cows on the side of the road.
Atop Galibier, the well-deserved feed station gave the opportunity to riders to recover and enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding mountains before the untimed descent to Col du Lautaret. From Lautaret to the bottom of Sarenne, riders could also do a recce of tomorrow’s first ascent.
The Chambon lake marked the end of the descent and the beginning of the ascent up to Sarenne. Once again, the first ramps surprised the riders with a first kilometre averaging over 11% gradient until Mizoën. Antonio Casablancas from Spain particularly liked this stage with no flat sections. “I like climbing and descending so today is a good day for me”, he said with a big smile.
After reaching the summit of Sarenne, riders then rode down via the iconic bends of Alpe d’Huez. With the timing stopped at the top, participants could really enjoy this unique moment, Then they took on the final ascent to Les 2 Alpes via the Balcons d’Auris, a meandering road on the side of the mountain offering a breath-taking view on the Oisans valley. A few seconds after crossing the finish line, Josef Babický from Czech Republic described this last ascent with stars in his eyes: “Alpe d’Huez is iconic! In the descent, I stopped twice or three times to take some pictures because it was very nice. It’s great to see the name of pro riders on the roads, it kept me motivated!”
The three ascents of the day changed the general classification because Carlo Fino from Italy will start in the leader’s jersey tomorrow morning after his second consecutive win. In the Women’s division, Maria Camila Giannella won her third stage in three days. In the Duo categories, team Brao Caffè – Unterthurner and McPherson are still leading the Men and Mixed division.
Tomorrow, riders will take on a 111-km stage between Les 2 Alpes and Saint-Véran, the highest town in Europe located in the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras. They will face the ascents of Lautaret, Izoard and Saint-Véran.