Stage 1: Ripoll – Font-Romeu
93km overall, 88km timed
2500m of ascent / 1400m of descent
3 climbs: Coll de Merolla 1090m (3rd class), Coll de Creueta 1888m (2nd class), ascent to Font-Romeu 1750m (3rd class)
Stage difficulty: 3 out of 5
Three hundred riders representing 42 countries arrived in Barcelona over the weekend to complete the final requirements needed before the start of the Haute Route Pyrenees – the third and final Haute Route event of 2014. Despite the excitement in the race village at the World Trade Conference centre in Barcelona, the scale of the undertaking was dawning – 790km, 21 cols and ascents, 19,500m of climbing, against the clock to finish in Anglet, Basque coast in seven days time.
This morning the dream became a reality as the second edition of the Haute Route Pyrenees departed the Catalan town of Ripoll on Stage 1 to Font Romeu.“I’ve been looking forward to this moment for weeks, bring it on” tweeted Jos Boomsma.
On the start line, the rider’s faces were wreathed in smiles, that soon changed… 25+ degrees, little shade, strong headwinds on the second big climb of the day - 20km to the top of Coll de la Creueta at 1,888m – sweat was dripping off the riders and their complexions were now matching the colour of their Lemarq kit– red! “Today it was very hard on the cols, the sun was so hot and the wind was so strong for the last kilometres, at the end it was a bit too hard for me” said Klauss Kitzelmann-Jaberg from Germany.
“I did the Alps last year and it was really exciting, I wanted to try the Pyrenees this year - change the countries, the cols and have a great new experience and get to the end within the first 30 riders! That’s my goal!”
Soon enough what goes up, must come down and so followed a nice long descent to the ski resort of La Molina before the long but gradual climb to the finish line at Font Romeu at 1,750m. “Today was great, the weather fantastic, after seeing the videos of the Dolomites and the Alps… that was heaven!” joked American rider Jeff Cisco. “This is my first time on the Haute Route, first time on the Pyrenees. I’m going to take it day by day, and I hope by the time I get to the Tourmalet, for example, I won’t be crushed! I’ll take it easy if I have to, but it’s all about getting to the end.” It was a day to ease into the Haute Route and acclimatise to the surroundings and how life will be living and breathing cycling for the next seven days. “I don’t know what I want to feel during this week but I know how I’m going to feel, that’s a lot of pain,” commented John Kelly from Ireland at the stage 1 finish. “I did the Alps last year and the year before, you quickly forget the pain you just remember the good times.”
This is the Haute Route – live it, suffer it, love it!
At the Spanish-French border is the medieval town of Ripoll which is known as the birth place of Catalonia. Surrounded by coal mines the small industrial town sits at the junction of the Rio Freser and the Rio Ter, and is home to one of Spain’s finest works of Romanesque art, a 12th century stone doorway adorning the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria which dates back to 879 AD.