Tag Archives: Alps

Haute Route Alps 2014 – Day 2

A two-week holiday without the bike turned into my off season. A break from the bike and a less-intentional break from blogging. Today my 2015 season begins with a zone 3 session, aimed at clawing back aerobic capacity lost in the last couple of weeks. With it my blog returns, to catch up on the end of last season and begin a new.

Day 2 – Expectancy (Megève to Courchevel 1850. Col des Saisies, Col du Cormet de Roselend, Courchevel)

I woke in Courchevel happy not to have suffered any bad reaction to the first major test of this Haute Route. I knew then that I was on an upward trajectory and would be able to step up from  day 1, but as the stage unfolded I realised it wasn’t all going to happen overnight.

The Col des Saisies passed almost without incident. On the Haute Route that can be a good thing. Some climbs are unimaginably tough and this wasn’t one of them. Next up, the Col du Cormet de Roselend, which remains up there among my favourite climbs. Its lower reaches twist through deep forest in a remote, far-away valley. So very different from the open vistas that reward any rider reaching the Lac du Roselend on its upper slopes. It’s a beautiful view towards the twisting switch backs of the climb’s final section, one that lulls you into a false sense of security. The last kilometers are tough, but the descent to Bourg-Saint-Maurice makes for an intoxicating mix of super-fast straights and twisty switchbacks. This is a mountainside that rewards focus like few others, whose curves conceal an enveloping rhythm that leaves nothing left but you and the road.

Courchevel was a slog. A long neutralised section leading to the bottom of the climb deadened the legs. Mid-stage recovery is all well and good, but doubles the effort needed to spin up for another effort. I begun the climb with my team mates, but as I dropped my chain, they dropped me. Some I would see again later in the climb, others not.

Two kilometers from the line I encountered Emma Pooley running down the mountain, shouting words of encouragement, having already finished the stage. What an awe-inspiring athlete she is.

Comparing last year’s times to this year, I knew I wasn’t yet on form, but did go into day 3 with a new confidence. Little did I know what it held in store.

GC after day 2 – 107th

Day 2 – http://www.strava.com/activities/185179385/overview

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Haute Route Alps 2014 – Prologue + Day 1

For a while the Haute Route and a holiday got in the way of writing blog posts. Now I´m back, this is the first of a few posts that will recount both. On reflection, Haute Route week was one defined by a rollercoaster of emotions.

Prologue – Anticipation (Genève)

This year´s Alps edition of the Haute Route began with a prologue. 10kms on closed roads alongside lake Geneva. A great addition to the event for those who who could get there on time.

Not by design, my preparation for this first test was two weeks off the bike due to illness. Yes, I wanted to taper, but not that much. Still, with 900kms to go over the next seven days, this was´t a day to worry about winning or losing time. The adrenaline I felt on the start ramp still exposed my desire to post a respectable time. With legs that felt good off the ramp, I fought the remnants of illness and effects of the time off, but the burning in my lungs was a  wake-up call. After that I new the first days were about damage limitation.

Day 1 – Containment (Genève to Megève. Col de la Colombière, Col de Croix Fry, Col des Aravis)

After a decent night’s sleep in one of Geneva’s surprisingly habitable nuclear bunkers, we hit the start line. The first day is always a shock to the system, a fight to wake yourself in time for a 7am start. Today even more so. The bitter truth was that I could´t push hard. Once riding, a sky-high heart rate told me what I knew already, I needed to hold back.

My experience of riding the Haute Route Alps in 2013 taught me that I had a long week ahead of me. Once I´d accepted the need to ride within myself, I really enjoyed this first day. For the first time in a long time I really did leave something in the tank, hoping that it would pay off later in the week.  Sure enough, the first steep kilometres of the Colombière came as a shock to the system, but that climb passed under a shroud of low cloud. It left behind the persistent sense of awe that for me defines an Haute Route week.

The Croix Fry passed without incident (a good thing in this case) and our descent dropped us off most of the way up the Aravis. By that time I was reeling in riders who had passed me earlier, panting their way up the first two climbs. Winning the battle to stay strong mentally is half the challenge, so I told myself this was a  good sign for my recovery and the days ahead.

As with so many days on the Haute Route, the final ‘flat’ 10kms into Mègeve proved the hardest all day. It was all I could do to hold onto a bunch hammering home on fresh legs. Just a starter for the week ahead. Disappointment at my overall position was tempered by satisfaction at  containing the raw enthusiasm of day 1 and hope that it would deliver form later in the week.

GC after day 1 – 122nd

Prologue – http://www.strava.com/activities/184703024

Day 1 – http://www.strava.com/activities/184742000