I’ve not actually done much road biking, generally preferring the thrills of the downhill mountain bike, however, when I received an offer of a place on the Haute Route, one of ‘the highest and toughest cyclosportives in the world’ I couldn’t resist. There are two Haute Routes, the Alps and Pyrenees- and from next year there will also be a Dolomites version. Both cover over 750km and traverse the greatest cycling terrain in the world – with the Alps version traversing the entire length of the French Alps, over 866km distance, with 21,000m of vertical ascent. I picked the Pyrenees event as it’s the inaugural race and I joined the cyclists from stage 4 of 7 of their journey across the Catalonia-Basque Coast, meeting the Pelaton at Argelès-Gazost…… Here is my blog about the event for Rutland Cycles
My nerves had been building for a few days, as I’ve not really done as much road biking as I’d intended to this summer- longer trail runs being the priority-so I was glad to join the Haute Route Pyrenees at Stage 5, missing the marathon Stage 4 -a 4 col, 4000m+ epic.
I met the 400 odd riders, who had started 4 days ago in Barcelona, in the spa town of Argelès-Gazost, after a very relaxing massage in L’institut du Jardin des Bains in the town. Argeles-Gazost is strategically located at the foot of the Aubisque and the Tourmalet – 2 of the most legendary Tour de France climbs – and I was about to take on the famous Tour de France climb to the ski resort of Hautacam, – a 16 km climb with 1100m ascent:
Argeles-Gazost to Hautacam (Individual Time Trial)
16 km to cover, including 13 km against the clock
1145 meters of elevation gain / no descent timed.
1635m altitude at the top
Average gradient : 6.8 %
Maximum gradient : 11.5%
The night before I picked up my very sexy looking bike, courtesy of Look, and it was a joy to actually have a bike that fitted me- ( I’m 5 ft tall).
I’m given a huge bag and a rucksack so for the next days when we move on to Pau, I can pack all my belongings into it and have it taken to the next hotel, and my kit for a shower and change of clothes into my day pack which will be ready for me at the finishing line. However, today was “just” the time trial so we had another night in the pretty town of Argeles-Gazost .
My start time for the Hautacam was 9:30, more nerves building as thighs of steel were on display everywhere; so I just put my head down and got going. The Hautacam was the climb that set Lance Armstrong up for his victory in the 2000 Tour de France, until being disqualified for doping……. I made the most of the road that descends towards Lourdes to spin my legs for a bit, before turning into the hill and heading upwards.The road up is irregular and unpredictable, with some sections reaching up to 12% incline – I noticed the climb getting particularly stiff after 5.5 miles then again towards the last 3km.
Right from the start people were overtaking me–with cyclists setting off every 30 odd seconds. The day wasn’t too hot either, with most of the route in the shade…. But the steepness really did get to me and I had to stand and pedal for many sections. I did get a burst of energy when 11 time Everest summiteer, Kenton Cool , bounded past me shouting ‘come on come on’….. and pegged it as best as I could to the finish!
I was pretty elated- the good thing about a time trial is you don’t know how far back you are- as it goes I did it in 1 hour 34- so wasn’t quite last! (The winners completing it in 45-50 minutes odd!)
After a quick spin on the Luge at the top of Hautacam – a great way to get your mind in gear for the downhill about to come – I bombed it back down to town and headed for a carb fuelled lunch, provided on a hall by the Haute Route team and booked in for a massage….
I opted for an early night that night as at the 6pm briefing I realised what was ahead: Stage 6
Considering I’ve not really cycled more than 40km without being pushed up the hills, I was a little worried…
Here is a video of the days cycling- can you spot me?