Haute Route Blog: Day 3
by Adam Tranter
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.
“It pretty much did what it said on the tin, it was very hard and very hot,” a rider told me at the finish. That was one that was willing to talk to me, one of the few managing to fend off their distant gaze and “what just happened then?” daydream. This stage, incorporating three major climbs into 134km, had been rated 5/5 and was dubbed as the hardest stage of the Haute Route. He, like almost all others, looked like they’d been to hell and back. They practically had.
Stunning scenery, if you can concentrate
I haven’t actually seen people look that bad for a while. Normally-chirpy people turned into unrecognisable creatures, unable to string a sentence together. When Tour riders finish a stage, they looked tired, but they’re fit and used to it. When our group of amateurs finished Stage 3 of the Haute Route, their faces really personified pain and achievement.
My best example of pain and achievement today is that my bottom went numb, giving up on me after I put it through hours of motorcycle sitting around. My achievement? Learning to text live updates on my phone with one hand while hanging on for my life during alpine descents with the other.
The course made this stage difficult with its three major climbs. It started with the Col de la Madeleine, and was followed by the Col du Glandon; an obscene climb with the added bonus of always being able to see just how hard it is and just how far you have to go. Towards the end, it becomes hideously steep – there were a lot of cautious riders out there today who knew it was damage limitation. Attacking the Glandon would have meant an early bath for most of them. It finished with a climb up to the iconic Alpe d’Huez – some remarked this was the easy bit, which is saying something.
The road ahead
Smiles for the camera, pain thereafter
The thing the organisers couldn’t control was the scorching sun that ensured practically every rider not from the Sahara struggled. There’s a strong British contingent here on the Haute Route, and the majority of them wouldn’t have experienced before what they experienced today.
These guys struggled, but not as much
As I write this, riders are still trickling through to the finish line. That means they’ll have been on their bikes for over nine hours. They’ll miss the time limit cut off; so will lose their ranking. But that won’t matter, the feeling of being at the finish and not riding your bike anymore will far outweigh an official standing. They will start tomorrow unranked, and maintain the same objective – trying to finish.
After the marathon stage today, tomorrow is short and sharp, just one climb in the Alpe d’Huez time trial.
I suppose one mountain is better than three.
Haute Route 2012
- 19/08/2012 - Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France
- Haute Route Alps 2013 - 18/08/2013 - Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France
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