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.