A Blur: Haute Route Alps, Stage One

After a fine Italian dinner on Place Masséna then a reasonably restful sleep, some of the team assembled outside the hotel for our first team photo. From left to right are Henry, Patric, Katarina, moi, and Chas The Destroyer. If you nod your head up and down rapidly we come into focus.

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Mark, my old teammate from 2013 and roommate this year, stayed with his wife on the Promenade des Anglais, so we only get to see his crotch and new nationality. Mark, born in Northern Ireland, was by far the fastest Iranian in HRA ’13.

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Last time we did Haute Route we had two neutralized descents over the entire 7 days we were on the road. This time around we had at least that many on the first day alone. I am not sure why this mass-neutralization has been implemented, but I can take some guesses. Whatever the reason, this stage, along with most others, ended up being basically a series of uphill time trials. For example, the first climb out of Nice was timed, then you went over a timing mat at top and could take as much time as you wanted on the descent, hitting another timing mat somewhere at the bottom (like the one below). The process began again with another mad rush up the hill. For me it broke up the day uncomfortably, taking away the ‘race’ and replacing it with short (or long) extreme efforts, followed by similar recoveries. I didn’t like it.

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A few of us taking a break before a timing mat. I saw people sleeping on the grass in similar places later on in the race.

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This first day ended in Auron, scene of one of the hardest days I have ever spent on the bike. This year it was much better, but I still need a rest afterwards.

I think I came in around 155th on the day.

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6 thoughts on “A Blur: Haute Route Alps, Stage One

  1. The neutralised sections must be tedious for you but you can’t help wondering how many people would have to get killed or seriously injured before they stopped having events like this. Perhaps they are letting too many people enter.

    • They must have done this for safety reasons, of course. I think the general consensus around the dinner table was that the organizers will have to decide what they want this event to be; a competitive sportive (i.e. race) or something less so. Although it is inherently more dangerous than climbing, descending is a pretty crucial part of a bike race. I imagine it’s a tough balance for OC Sport.

  2. I recall the story of the guy who died on the penultimate day of HRA 2012 with his family already waiting in Nice (my teammate Neil told me) so I was happy they neutralized that descent when we did it in HRA2013.

    But I fully agree with you: it turns the event into something very different (cf., your observation of folks sleeping on the grass before crossing the next timing math). Tough tradeoff but OC Sport may want to go for other ascents that have reasonable descents. (Personally, I’d actually prefer one less climb per day, no neutralizations, and then more of an “exhilarating race” versus an exhaustion-driven event, which the Vuelta today seemed like.)

    • That was a tragic story and I hadn’t heard that last part about his family being there. That’s just horrible.

      I think Haute Route would lose its niche if they made the 7 days easier by deleting a col each day, but I did hear a few people (at the back of the pack) complaining that it was too hard. It’s impossible to make everyone happy, I guess.

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