One week on from riding the Haute Route, these three reflections have lodged themselves firmly in my mind.

1) You with me. I wasn’t the only one putting a lot into this ride. Nine months of training and preparation for me meant nine months of support from those closest to me, of tolerating my time spent on the bike and my frustrations when I couldn’t. Plenty of others backed me in their own way, particularly once I decided to support UK Youth. Those from whom I expected support went beyond my hopes, while many unexpected others surprised me with heartfelt wishes and generous donations.

Until I was out there I didn’t realise quite what this meant to me, but I truly carried your support with me throughout all seven days. It pushed me through some of the toughest climbing moments and hit me during quiet moments on those calm, spectacular neutralised descents towards the end of the week. No more so than on stage six, sweeping down the Col de la Couyolle – clock stopped, only one major climb remaining in the day. In short, that was the moment I knew I would make it round and achieve everything I had set out to. For a short moment the emotion of that realisation hit me hard. In that moment, each of your thoughts was with me.

And with a hard lean into the next hairpin, I switched on again, my focus back to the ongoing race.

2) Rule #5. Riding the Haute Route Alps concentrates into one week emotions and experiences that it could take a lifetime to feel without cycling. Suffering is perhaps the first and foremost. Anyone considering themselves a cyclist is well acquainted with Velominati’s Rule #5: Harden The Fuck Up. It’s as simple as that. Somehow putting yourself through this kind of hurt is life affirming. It gives you the mental strength of knowing your physical limits lie somewhere beyond where you previously imagined. So where do they end? I’ve always admired adventurers who push the boundaries of human exploration and achievement, now I realise why. While I’m hardly doing that, this has been a journey to find my own limits.

The people I most admire are always challenging themselves to go beyond conventional wisdom on what achievement in life looks like. This sort of test teaches you something about going beyond limits that previously held you back.

3) There is always somebody faster.  At once both a necessary curse and unrelenting motivation. I mentioned before the competitive mindset needed to take on the Haute Route. One displayed so evidently on our final stage last week. Surrounded by such a strong field of others equally and more dedicated, it’s natural to feel that any goal met is one lessened. But, the same effect is our reason to keep striving for more, the very essence of what drives us on to greater things.



6 thoughts on “Reflections…

  1. Becks

    Great post. Rule #5 is a mantra on such a hard challenge. You might also reflect on Rule #12

    Rule #12// The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

  2. shoko yamamoto

    Stunned. I will translate your post into Japanese and introduce to Japanese riders? I was there, I mean, Haute Route Alps 2013. I am a manager of Japanese team “Team TAUGE”, and I am pretty sure I saw you!

    1. benjaminsmithers Post author

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my reflections on the Haute Route. Please do translate and introduce to riders in Japan. The international field at the Haute Route was another of many things to make it so special, so I would love to think the same of my readership! If you would be happy to share it, then I’d be delighted to put the Japanese version on my blog and of course to explain that you have kindly translated it.

      I did see you and your team at the Haute Route. Not least because I think you had the coolest kit I have ever seen! Where or how did you come up with the design and get it made? Me and my team are working on some designs for our own kit and have been using Team TAUGE for inspiration!


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