As I was struggling up the little mountain behind Nîmes today, I got to thinking about being slow and how that would affect my bragging rights after finishing the Haute Route next summer. Then I remembered – it’s all about The Cut-Off.
You see, each stage of the Haute Route has a cut-off time, just like a professional stage race. The difference is that, with the HR, you don’t get your ass booted out of the race. You DO however get erased from the list of overall finishers, i.e. you won’t be ranked (shudder..). I’ve read a few accounts of riders not making the cut (18% this year) and most seemed to take if philosophically, which is admirable, but something I think I’d rather not have to be philosophical about, if you get me. When I got back from my ride I needed to get to the bottom of this, so did a little research.
For the cut-off it seems as if the organizers are going with 15 kph for most stages and 17 kph for ‘easy’ ones. Now, you really have to know what you can do in very mountainous races for this to mean anything because obviously your average speed in a flat or rolling gran fondo will be much higher than one of the monsters that await us in the Alps.
Good thing I’ve done an Etape du Tour or three. In my first Etape last year, I managed a respectable (if I don’t say so myself) 2037th place out of over 8000, I think. My average speed was 19.28 kph.
Then, after a year of Coach Rob’s punishment (aka the training program) I finished 585th out of around 4000 in my 2nd Etape of the year – with an average of 23 kph. The stats are to give you an idea of where an average speed MIGHT put a person within the standings of a big international event.
I feel much better now, of course, but there is one small problem with projecting these Etape averages onto the Haute Route – the Etapes were one-offs, meaning I could bury myself completely and not have to worry about the following day (other than driving home, which was painful enough). In the Haute Route – 7 consecutive Etapes, more or less – the trick will be to pace yourself, I suppose, or be in such awesome shape that you can take a week of ‘full on’.
All the nitty gritty is ahead of me and I’m very fortunate to have a roommate like Coach Rob to do much of the thinking for me. For now, I shall rest easy and train hard and hope that I didn’t make any errors in my calculations above.