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Haute Route – Day 1

| Blog, Cycling Plus | 20/08/2012 10:54am

The second edition of the Haute Route is underway. 780km and 19 mountains; a monumental challenge for every one of the 600 riders, it’s also a fairly substantial challenge for the 150-strong support crew. In that crew is Adam Tranter, who is taking on the 780km himself, on the back of a motorbike, which we’re fairly sure is cheating.

Words and photos Adam Tranter
 “It’s that time of year again,” I thought to myself last week. It’s odd for me to have an event that’s only in its second year so engrained in my mental time line. But its importance in the diary is likely to be shared by the majority of the riders here.  The Haute Route has definitely earned its place in the busy international cyclosportive calendar.
A good proportion of entrants rode last year’s edition and just couldn’t get enough of it. Some heard good reports from their peers and in their press so thought they’d bring friends to give it a go. However we got here, we’re all in the same boat and having a great time. Well, when I say in the same boat, they’re cycling 780km and I’m on a bike with an engine. But let’s not let that get in the way.
My Haute Route experience started at 4am on Saturday, with an early wake up call to get to the airport. In the predictably long check in queue, people with bike boxes muttered about ‘this race in France’. “Are you doing it too?” started the conversation. “How much have you trained for it?” finished it.
Once in Geneva, the event village created a fairly incredible atmosphere. Riders signed on, built and tweaked bikes, enjoyed the sunshine and listened to the all-important rider briefing, in two languages, in a fairly impressive auditorium (complete with big red cinema seats, no popcorn, mind).
But all that preparation was just for today’s big moment – the start of the Haute Route 2012, from the Jardin Anglais. The plus side to getting up at 4.50am is that it gives you an opportunity to take some stunning pictures of the scenery.
There was an air of anticipation as riders warmed up and prepared for the depart. Each day, 75 of the top riders on the General Classification would start in the first group. But with no rankings set yet, riders who thought they had a serious chance of getting on the podium lined up. Nearly 100 riders lined up, which means this could be a hugely competitive Haute Route, or some riders have delusions of grandeur.
Starting right at the front were Haute Route 2011 winner and French MTB champion Peter Pouly and World Time Trial champion and Olympian Emma Pooley. Both were extremely active in the racing throughout the day, with Pooley pulling out an amazing performance and eventually finishing 4th overall, making her first female in the race. Peter Pouly led the male overall with a time of 03:03:07. Proving that if your name is Pooley, or Pouly, or any other similar sounding variants, then you’re probably going to be very good at cycling.
I can never get bored of mountains. Nearly every rider I spoke to today couldn’t get over how amazing these climbs are. “It was just fantastic. The climbs were beautiful, but brutal. I don’t think I stopped looking at my front wheel, just dragging myself up – it was just unbelievable. I don’t think my heart has gone to those places before,” said Andy Foster, just one of many British riders on the event.
Andy is a good example of a good proportion of riders here at the Haute Route. While Pooley and Pouly might be mixing it up at the front, people like Andy just want to get to Nice. The challenge is the 7 stages and 19 mountains; getting over them is the achievement. Entering as a present for his 40th birthday, Andy is here with four other friends and despite not having ridden anything like this before, he’s admirably optimistic, “If I get a massage and get some food down me, I should be alright”.

About Haute Route
The Haute Route is the toughest and highest cyclosportive in the world. The second edition takes place from the 19th to 25th August 2012, covering 780km and 21,000 meters of ascent and featuring seven world-famous cities and mountain resorts: Geneva, Megève, Courchevel, Alpe d’Huez, Risoul, Auron and Nice.
19 mythical Alpine cols will challenge cyclists over the 7 timed stages, including Madeleine, Glandon, Izoard, Cime de la Bonette and the famous climb to Alpe d’Huez for an epic individual time trial. The Haute Route will continue to highlight the cols and ascents that have created the legend of cycling.


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