Tag Archives: Cycling

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

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Compact vs standard

Moving to a standard chainset seems like a rite of passage for a cyclist. No pro would be seen astride a compact. But hang on a minute… I’m still riding compact.

So, what am I doing? Well, my winter bike is my old bike, bought some 7 years ago when I rode a bit less. Standard wasn’t even a question then. My summer bike is newer, but I wanted to spec it to ride in the mountains. My usual Essex and Regents Park training routes don’t include the sort of climbs that demand fewer teeth than a standard 53/39. That bike is for the mountains too and I didn’t want to be switching chainsets around. So compact is good enough.

Only recently when racing could I really have done with some extra gears at the top end (although perhaps that was me more than the bike). Now I find myself riding a 11-25 cassette to get the most out of my compact chainset.

In two weeks I’ll be in the Alps. Stage three of this year’s Haute Route Alps takes in Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon and the ascent to Alpe d’Huez. One thing I know, is I’m not yet ready to take on its 4,600m of elevation gain on a standard.

That’s the difference between me and them.

Proscore: 3/10

For even more on gear ratios – CyclingTips have a great post here: Beyond the big ring

Tour of Wessex

I’ve been hesitating to write up my Tour of Wessex weekend. Probably out of spite. To begin with, things were going rather well. Unlike last year, we arrived earlier than 12:30am. It wasn’t even dark while we put up our tent. We had the benefit of having put it up before. There was no gale ripping it from our grasp. Lights out early, we slept from 11pm.

I speak too soon. Conditions on day 1 were the wettest I’ve ever known on a bike. Within an hour we were all soaked to the skin. For the next five, that’s the way it stayed. One torrential downpour followed another. It was pretty miserable. A shame, on a good day the route of the Tour of Wessex is one of the best I’ve ridden in England.

I felt strong, especially up the first climb of the day, Cheddar Gorge. It’s one of the few that I’ve climbed in the UK where there’s a real continental feel to the approach. You’re rolling through Cheddar with the gorge looming up in front of you, waiting for it to kick up. OK so it lasts ten minutes, not an hour, but it has a good feel to it.

Come day 2, there were repercussions. I rode the medium route with Becks, but felt weak all day. I ached on the bike. Not unusual after six hours, but this felt different. By day 3 it was clear enough that we were both ill. Reduced to getting our body composition tested at the race village as we watched the brave few roll off on the long road to Exmoor. Definitely a mistake as it turns out.

Day 3 really is a good one too, especially the climb up to Exmoor from the coast. Not one to miss lightly. We’ll be back next year, but hoping desperately for better weather and perhaps not camping either.

Day 1 on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/145830167

Day 2 on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/145830146