Haute Route Stage 1 – Geneva to Megeve

Total Distance: 130km
Total Ascent: 3000m
Key climbs: Col de la Colombier, Col de la Crois Fry, Col D’Aravis

Team Stage Results
Ian: 3:37:31 – 42nd
Simon: 3:37:31 – 43rd
Niel: 4:03:18 – 133rd
Team: 11th

Team GC
Ian: 3:49:57 – 40th
Simon: 3:49:58 – 41st
Niel: 4:16:21 – 129th
Team: 11th

Wow what a day. All cycling days should be like this. Beautiful route and scenery. A real mix of riding from a gentle roll out, to 200 people in a fast moving peloton, hard climbs and awesome descents. Then finishing and having your bag of clothes handed to you. Shower, food, massage within an hour of crossing the line. An afternoon sat in the sun with a coffee and a recuperative beer. Topped off with a nice steak and chips for dinner. I think I must have woken up in cycling heaven this morning.

But let’s go back to the beginning….

The alarm dragged me from my nervous sleep at 5:45. Plenty early for breakfast. Except everyone in the hotel had the same idea. 50 cyclists all grabbing bread, cereal, pastries, it was carnage. I think the queue for coffee was 7 deep at one point. Leaving the bags in the hotel lobby it was then a quick clip through Geneva to the start line. Suddenly 450 people is a lot of riders. Anxious faces throughout the starting pen. Ian and Simon were in the first peloton, I got myself into the third wave leaving.

Before we knew it the countdown had begun, 3….2….1…. GO! We were off. Team Hurt Route’s adventure had begun. The 25km neutralised zone became a social affair. Chatting to the people around you about the usual bike stuff. What events you’d done, how long you’d been training, what kit you’d bought.

Crossing the timing mat signalled the start of the real race and everything went up to 11. Pretty soon at least the first three starting waves all combined into one big peloton rattling through the French countryside at 40km/h. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself not to go out too quickly you can’t help but sprint to stay in the group.

Funnelling into the timing mat at the start of the Col de la Colombiere was like a bun fight. The peloton was still bunched up and being forced through a narrow gap. I saw one guy fall off and in trying to get out of his clips, pulled his cleats from his shoe. I hope the Mavic service car managed to sort it out.

Now we were on what we came for. Hills!! Colombiere was a fairly straight forward climb. The first 6 or so km were about finding your rythmn. Then trying to work out if your rythmn was going to be good for another 6 days! I wont know the answer to that for a while. A lessening of the slope half way up allowed a brief recovery before launching into the second half of the climb. This was more challenging and after a while you came round a corner and see the climb stretching away to the summit. I later found out that on that section I hit a new VAM record of over 1000m/h – 1074 to be precise (rules are, has to be a segment of over 30 minutes – handy that Strava often splits climbs so it takes care of flat sections messing it up!).

My pre-ride strategy had been to fuel at the top of the Colombiere and at the top of the Aravis, after the start of the neutralised section. That would minimise the stopped time. So quick stop for food and water then on down the decent.

The decents never last long enough and are always too cold. I came into the Crois Fry wanting a little bit more recovery and wanting to be a bit warmer. I really struggled with the first 10 minutes or so. My power was down on where it was on the Colombiere. Luckly the warmth came back to my legs and the speed went up. 50 minutes later I came over the top and sped past those at the feed station. Interestingly I climbed the Crois Fry at a lower VAM (989m/h) but did better in the rankings for the climb. On the Colombiere I was 177th, but on the Crois Fry 111th – maybe a few people went out a bit quick 🙂

The Aravis was just a 17 minute warm up and was over before it really got started. Probably a good thing as I don’t think I wanted too much more climbing today. Then my strategy paid off, crossing the timing mat I could then relax and enjoy my food stop without worrying about timings – this is a race after all.

The descent down to Flumet was the best of the whole day. Lots of switchbacks and tight turns meant you could work on your braking and lines through the corners really nicely. All that was left after that was a short sharp ramp followed by a gentle rise for 10km into a slight head wind. A group of us formed up but I think we all showed our lack of practice at running a chain gang as it was pretty disorganised. But by now the sun was shining and the finishline beckened. I crossed the line with a race time of 4 hours 3 minutes. Good enough for 135th on the day and putting me in 129th over all on mens GC. Ian and Simon again rode a strong ride coming in 40th and 41st seperated by metres. I’ve told them if they get to Nice together then they clearly haven’t been trying hard enough. I expect to see fireworks later on this week as they try to attack each other. As a team we stayed in 11th place overall.

Tomorrow will up the level a few notches. The same distance but with 900m more of ascent. I think how I do tomorrow will tell me how today went. Let’s hope I can still type tomorrow evening.

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