Too Haute To Han­dle?

This multi-day event, cen­tred around the classic climb of Alpe d’huez, proves to be a se­ri­ous test of both body and spirit

Cyclist - - Contents - Words JACK EL­TON WAL­TERS Pho­tog­ra­phy DAVID AZIA

Cy­clist ex­pe­ri­ences the highs and lows of the three-day Haute Route Alpe d'huez sportive

Ileave my bike propped up against the gazebo of the feed sta­tion and stag­ger over to the open door of a van. Sit­ting inside is a young French as­sis­tant for the Haute Route Alpe d’huez. ‘ Ça va?’ he asks as I ap­proach. ‘ Non,’ I re­ply wearily. ‘ J’ai fini.’

At this point I am strug­gling to re­mem­ber my own name, let alone my A-level French from over a decade ago. With a frown and a cut­throat sig­nal to re­it­er­ate that this is probably the end of the ride for me, I sit down on the step of the van. I’m glad of the shade but not at the prospect of a DNF on a sportive.

In fact, I’m gut­ted that I will not be able to fin­ish the event. For a mo­ment I en­ter­tain the no­tion of con­tin­u­ing af­ter all, but the truth is this isn’t the first time to­day that I’ve con­sid­ered stop­ping. It’s the third, and the se­cond at this very feed sta­tion.

Per­haps I made a mess of my nutri­tion and hy­dra­tion strat­egy. Maybe it’s the al­ti­tude or the tem­per­a­ture, which has been creep­ing up­wards all day. Or maybe it’s just the sheer dis­tance and the leg-sap­ping as­cents that have beaten me. What­ever the rea­son, my body (not to men­tion the race doc­tor) is telling me it’s time to quit be­fore I do my­self some se­ri­ous dam­age.

And it was all go­ing so well af­ter the first stage yes­ter­day…

Wel­come to the Alpe

The Haute Route events are per­haps as close as most am­a­teur cy­clists will get to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what it feels like to ride a stage race. While they are es­sen­tially sportives, the Haute Routes are dif­fer­ent from your av­er­age sportive in that they are held over sev­eral days, and the dis­tances in­volved are truly bru­tal.

The Haute Route Alps, for ex­am­ple, is run over seven days, cov­ers around 800km and takes in more than 20,000m of climb­ing. It was the orig­i­nal Haute Route event, first staged in 2010, and since then it has spawned sim­i­larly will-crush­ing seven-day edi­tions in the Pyre­nees and the Amer­i­can Rock­ies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.