After a short but punchy first stage on Friday and a second marathon stage yesterday, the 250 riders of the 2018 Haute Route Alpe d’Huez gathered again this morning in Bourg d’Oisans for a unique experience: an individual time trial up to Alpe d’Huez.
Riders set off one by one from the start ramp to face the 16-kilometre ascent and its famous 21 hairpins. For the 70% of riders participating in an Haute Route event for the first time, going down the ramp was as stressful as the ascent itself, as British rider Duncan Armstrong-Prior explained: “This is my first ever time trial. I’m more worried about going down the ramp and not falling off than climbing up but it’s going be good. I’ve never ridden the Alpe d’Huez before so I’m just going to take it easy.”
Just before entering the start pen, he added: “This is my first organised event and it’s been really super well-organised. Even if you take your backpack to the wrong place, there is always someone to look after you. The Mavic guys are excellent and make sure you feel comfortable with your bike. And we have lived wonderful moments. Going up Glandon without stopping was very emotional, and coming into the finish yesterday you really felt that you’d achieved something.”
Over the last three days, Haute Route Alpe d’Huez participants took on roads anchored in cycling history and lived an unforgettable experience. After crossing the finish line of the third and ultimate stage atop Alpe d’Huez, Alexander Bobkov and Anatoly Sedov from Russia, competing in the Duo category, were extremely proud of their achievement. After immortalising the moment with a photo, Alexander said: “We lived three fabulous days, the best days of my life, I have to say, because all my previous competitions, half-marathons, marathons, half-Ironman, I think helped me for this competition. This is the next step. I am really proud of my good friend and myself.”
Also smiling, Anatoly added: “We heard that the organisation is top-level and it’s true. Also, it’s logistically easy to come from Moscow in Russia, and the dates were perfect for us. It’s our first experience here in Alpe d’Huez and it’s worth its reputation.”
Whilst they didn’t know each other three days ago, Edward Goodwyn and Patrick McLane became friends on the Haute Route Alpe d’Huez and crossed the finish line one after the other. After congratulating each other, Edward and Patrick told us about their experiences. “We rode together for half the time. From Glandon all the way home yesterday, all the way today, and a bit on the first day as well. We helped each other out but there was definitely a bit of competition,” said Edward.
“We pushed each other and we kept up on the climbs”, added Patrick. “The time trial was good even though I forgot how nasty that last kick is… But overall it was fun. My eyes were closed when I crossed the finish line but now it is nice to think that the professionals will arrive here on Thursday.”
“There were a lot of camping-cars on the road, waiting for the arrival of the Tour”, continued Patrick. “That is really inspiring in itself when you’re going up. People are playing music and they’re forcing you to go on. It’s like you are in the Tour, it’s really cool!”
With another stage victory, Jonas Ellignsen from Norway won the second edition of the Haute Route Alpe d’Huez and became the first Scandinavian to win an Haute Route event. In the women’s race, Sharon Bird from Ireland was the fastest female rider over the finish line for the second consecutive day and took home the leader jersey ahead of Brooke Mead from the USA.
Earlier this morning, Sharon explained: “My objective is just to do the best that I can for myself of course, but getting the leader jersey would be amazing. Here the climbs have been amazing, the best climbs I’ve ever done, I think. It’s just beautiful!”
With three stage victories, the team Lux Cycle Club and Team Apricot won the Duo Male and Duo Mixed categories respectively.
The next Haute Route event will take place in the land of the impressive winner of the day, with the Maserati Haute Route Norway taking place on August 3-5 in Stavanger.
The Haute Route will then come back to France with the pioneering Haute Route events: the Haute Route Pyrenees between August 18 and 24, and the Haute Route Alps from August 26 to September 1. After the revamped 3-day format Haute Route Dolomites, which will take place in Predazzo between September 21-23, the 2018 season will end on the slopes of Ventoux between October 5-7.