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 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.