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First Stage of Haute Route Completed in Megeve

by Holly Blades

After months of anticipation, Haute Route participants finally completed their first of seven stages in the picturesque setting of Megève. 

After a spectacular start outside the iconic Lake Geneva during sunrise, riders rode in formation with outriders to the French border where their times commenced. The Haute Route is a cyclosportive but held under timed conditions with leader's jerseys and awards available to leading riders. 

After 109km over the Col du Colombière and Col des Aravis in 30-degree heat, the terrain took its toll on some riders with a gap of over two and a half hours between the first and last finishers. 

American Benjamin Blaugrund came home first in 03:46:13, beating multiple World Mountain Biking champion Peter Pouly by only one second. The top British finisher was John Brown in 04:09:05. 

Amongst the finishers of today's stage was Formula 1 hero Alain Prost, who arrived in 04:18:04. "It was, as usual, difficult. But it was okay; it was a good day for me. I had some bike problems so I was a little bit frustrated as I can't push too much. I was with the good group at the beginning but at the front they are going very fast!" 

He continued: "I did not know the first climb, Col de la Colombière, and the last two or three kilometres of that were very difficult and I didn't have the right gear so it was tough for me." 

Prost will now leave the Haute Route due to other commitments but says, "maybe I'll come back in the middle of the week if I can." 

The Haute Route has already brought together a diverse group of people and developed a great camaraderie. In one of a few interesting tales of the day, Brit Simon Morgan received some unpredicted help when a mechanical failure meant that he couldn't continue with his bike. 

"I was going up the first climb my chain came off, it jammed around the inside of the frame and did a lot of damage. So I was waiting for the bus and it was over for me, I was pretty upset," explains Morgan. 

"Then the sweeper bus came and a gentleman on board said 'you can borrow mine,' and I thought 'no, no, no,' but then thought 'actually, okay then'. We tried to change the pedals but we couldn't so I had to use his shoes, which were a size too small, and the saddle was way too low for me." 

But Morgan, thanks to Scotsman Paul Kelly's generosity, was able to continue to finish 2:20:48 behind the leader. "It's been pretty painful but I made it!" 

Tomorrow (Monday), riders will head from Megève to Les Arcs in the 100km stage. With 3000 metres of ascent and three Cols, tomorrow's stage should prove even trickier than the first. The Col du Cormet de Roselend, 63km in, should cause a significant challenge at an altitude of 1967 metres. 

The first edition of the Haute Route includes 300 riders and 58 Brits. In total, they will travel 730km, over 15 Cols and take on 17,000m of climbing; equivalent to climbing Everest twice. Starting in Geneva and ending in Nice, once riders complete the event they will know they have finished the highest and hardest cyclosportive on the planet. 

Find all our latest news about the Haute Route 2011 on the event's official website: 

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