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1 Spring 2019


UNDER THE LENS Oman. A beacon of tranquillity.

EVENT STORIES Weathering the storm… A day to remember in the Alps!

RIDER PROFILES Alex Stewart: Black Widows Cycling Club




LAUNCHING SPRING 2019 *webshop and onsite boutiques available during events



Dear riders, Welcome to Grimpeur by Haute Route, your brand new quarterly digital magazine. Featuring event previews, training and preparation advice, rider profiles and some of the best stories from previous events, this is your go–to reference for all things Haute Route throughout the year. Brought to you by the Haute Route, Grimpeur aims to keep you connected with the Haute Route, provide you with valuable advice and insights and share with you some of the best content around the Haute Route.

UNDER THE LENS Oman. A beacon of tranquillity.


EVENT STORIES Weathering the storm‌ A day to remember in the Alps!


Wishing you enjoyable reading, we look forward to welcoming you on one of the 13 events this year, Ride safe and see you in the mountains, The Haute Route team

Editor: Ross Williams Contributors: Ross Williams, Jim Rutberg Graphic Designer: Edouard Hanotte

RIDER PROFILES Alex Stewart : Black Widows Cycling Club


Copyright: Haute Route SA Published: February 15th, 2019.


Inside the mind of an Haute Route rider “I’ve developed a strange habit of talking to myself on the bike, not out loud, just in my head ‘7km to go, come on mate, just 7km, let’s go’. That gets me through the first half of a climb. Beyond there, I save some thoughts for the last kilometre when I know I have to give that final push that can only last a few minutes. I’ll think about my family then, those that I love and that are close to my heart. There’s a tingle that goes through my body when I ride with them in mind. I’ve learnt a lot from riding my bike, you’re pushing yourself to your limits and achieving things you never thought were possible. Through the turmoil of climbing, you could just pull over, sit on the verge and make it all stop, but the lessons you learn from riding a bike extend far beyond cycling. You can push yourself to these limits and achieve these goals, and that’s a lesson that you can take and apply to any situation. If you can get through a week on the Haute Route in the Alps then you can get through anything. Quitting isn’t really an option.“ –Arthur Tye, one of over 8,000 incredible Haute Route Finishers




2019. Another landmark year for the Haute Route Cycling Series is in the making. Starting in Oman in March and ending in China in October, with another 11 events in–between, it promises to be an exciting season full of incredible cycling adventures and memories. Continuing its rapid growth from three events in 2016 to thirteen events in 2019, the Haute Route has expanded from Europe to North America, China and the Middle East as it aims to deliver premium and memorable cycling events in the most iconic cycling locations world wide.

What’s new in 2019? Haute Route Infinity Pass The Infinity Pass is the first all–access pass for any amateur endurance sports series in the world. Ride as many Haute Route events as you wish for one fixed fee. Launched at the end of August, and on sale for only a limited period of time, over 1,000 avid cyclists purchased their prized Infinity Pass for the 2019 season. Providing access to all 13 events in 2019, this is a world first in amateur endurance sports events. Three New Events Extending the calendar of events at both ends of the season, new 3–day events in Oman, Mexico and Qingcheng (China) have been added to the list of Haute Route destinations in 2019. These events allow riders to discover three vastly different cycling cultures in three stunning locations that offer both beautiful and challenging climbs. 6

Updated Calendar Several events have moved on the calendar in 2019. The San Francisco event now takes place in September, whilst the Utah event has been moved forward to August. In Europe, the Haute Route Dolomites and Haute Route Stelvio have swapped places on the calendar to take place in June and September respectively. Original and Compact Courses A new concept in 2019, all 3–day events (except for Haute Route Oman) now offer the possibility to choose from two different courses. The Original course is the course that all alumni riders will be familiar with, averaging between 100km and 140km with 2,500M+ to 3,500M+ of climbing per classic road stage with an uphill time trial on the Sunday. The Compact course is a more accessible version of this with 70km and 100km with 1,500M+ to 2,500M+ of climbing per classic road stage and the same uphill time trial on the final day.

What’s still the same? The challenge of a lifetime in the Alps The founding and now flagship event of the Haute Route Cycling Series, the Haute Route Alps presents the biggest challenge on the calendar. With over 800km and 20,000M+ of climbing on the menu, the route takes riders from the heart of the Alps in Megève to the Mediterranean Sea in Nice via some of the most renowned and feared climbs in all of cycling.

continue to deliver this same level of premium services across all 13 events in 2019. From rolling road closures where every rider is looked after like a pro, motorbike escorts, to Mavic technical assistance, medical support and feed stations out on the road; to post–stage meals and massages, briefings, customer support and a wide selection of hotel packages to choose from.

Memorable riding in the Pyrenees The Pyrenees hosts a week–long event once again, offering a slightly different challenge to the Alps. Take on the long, steep climbs of the Pyrenees on empty mountain roads and enjoy simpler logistics with fewer host towns and the same start and finish city.

New 3–day events have been added to the list of Haute Route destinations in 2019

Premium services both on and off the bike World–renowned for the level of services and rider experience both on and off the bike during the events, the Haute Route will



Oman. A beacon of tranquillity. Beyond the stunning roads and mountains that it has to offer for cycling, Oman is an incredible destination to visit that is perfect for a winter getaway. In, Oman, Under the Lens we take a look at some of the Sultanate’s hidden treasures that you will be able to enjoy around the Haute Route Oman.


Visit Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites Home to a number of different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you can enjoy five incredible tourism destinations in Oman. The first two destinations on this list were the Bahla Fort and the Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al–Khutm and Al–Ayn. Added to the list more recently were the Aflaj Irrigation Systems, Land of Frakincense and Ancient City of Qalhat. The ruins of the Bahla Fort stem from a fortified Oasis settlement. Its mud walls and watchtowers were home to the Banu Nebhan tribe between the 12th and 15th centuries. Restored and reopened to visitors in 2012, it is located near the foot of the Jebel Akhdar mountains that Haute Route Oman riders will conquer in March. Immerse yourself in the culture and history of the Sultanate by visiting and learning about these UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Meander Through The Mystical Souks Whether it be the Nizwa Souk, Muttrah Souk, Ar Rustaq Souk or Ibri Souk each offers you a unique and colourful insight into the country of Oman and its culture. Located inside the walls of the Nizwa Fort, the Nizwa Souk is extremely photogenic and is one of the oldest Souks in the country. It features a livestock sale on Friday mornings and has a dedicated handicrafts section to cater for tourists. Situated on the harbour in Muscat, the Muttrah Souk sells everything from clothes to jewellery, pottery, wooden crafts, food and snacks. Regardless of which Souk you visit, each will be a voyage of discovery, an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and disconnect from the outside world to enjoy the ambiance of these bustling markets.

Be Amazed By The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque A must–see for all visitors in Muscat, this stunning modern Mosque can welcome up to 20,000 worshippers at a time and is one of the only Mosques in Oman that welcomes non–Muslim visitors. Opened in 2001, as a gift from the Sultan Qaboos to the Omani people, it took over six years to build. The sheer scale of it is jaw–dropping, as it dominates the skyline of Muscat with its five minarets and central dome stretching over 40,000 square meters. Meander through the peaceful and perfectly maintained gardens, and let yourself be astonished by the architecture and finishing touches inside this astounding Mosque. And there’s more… Beyond the natural beauty of Oman, visitors also get to enjoy the open–armed welcome of the local population, ready to share their culture and their knowledge with those willing to learn. Some may invite you into their home for coffee, and you will get to enjoy the local delicacy of Kahwa (coffee flavoured with Cardamom) served with dates, fruits and halwa, a sesame–based sweet treat.



Race Director Interview In the lead up to the biggest year yet for the Haute Route, we sat down with Jean–François Alcan, Race Director of the Haute Route events in France, to discuss his role, his memories from previous events, and what he’s looking forward to in 2019.


Haute Route: So, Jean—François, tell us a little about how you see your role as a Race Director on the Haute Route? Jean François Alcan: I would say that as a Race Director I have multiple roles and multiple missions, both ahead of the events and during the events. In the lead up to the events I design courses that I think riders will enjoy challenging themselves on, and I evaluate the risk areas on each stage to ensure that as an organisation we put in place the necessary safety precautions. During the events my main responsibility is to ensure the safety of all the riders, from the leader all the way to the Lanterne Rouge. To do this I manage my ‘Race Team’ via radio throughout the peloton as we progress throughout the stage, executing the plan we agreed on ahead of time to ensure everyone’s safety. HR: You talk about designing the courses, how far ahead of time to draw out the courses for each Haute Route? J—FA: I would say that typically the host towns are picked about 14 months out from each event, and the specific stage routes are drawn out maybe 10–12 months ahead of time. These are always subject to confirmation by the local authorities, and small changes often occur through this process, but typically I have a good idea of the stage details nearly a year ahead of time. HR: So, what is the process for confirming the route details with the rest of the Haute Route organisation each year? J–FA: The host towns and the stage routes are for me to choose, and they often depend on the agreements I can negotiate with the various towns and on the network that I have created in each region. I try to vary the routes each year to give riders a different insight into each area every year. With the rest of the Haute Route team I present to them my 11

courses, and if anyone has any feedback or ideas I am always open to discussion and review of the routes, but ultimately like I said it is my responsibility to design the routes. HR: When it comes to designing the routes then, would you say there are any climbs that can't be missed in the Alps and Pyrenees? J–FA: I wouldn’t say any col is unmissable, but you have to include some of the big names every year to keep attracting the riders to the events. Names like the Izoard, Tourmalet and Galibier speak to all the cycling fanatics out there, so it’s good to include them as often as we can. HR: In the history of the Haute Route do you have a single favourite stage that stands out from the rest? J–FA: Having lived through 110 stages of the Haute Route it is very hard for me to choose one single favourite, I’d say however that three of them definitely stand out. 2011: The first stage in the history of the Haute Route, Geneva to Megève. It was the start of the adventure and a huge sense of pride. 2014: A monster stage on paper from Courchevel to Alpe d’Huez with 4,700M+ (see article p.17) of climbing, made even tougher by the conditions as it rained and was windy all day. The riders suffered but triumphed at the finish, and the Race Team and organisation came together to overcome a number of challenges, demonstrating in the process that we were ready to take on any trials and tribulations that could be thrown our way in the future. 2017: Pau to Tarbes in the Pyrenees. A particularly special and emotional moment for myself personally as these were the two towns that first brought me into the world of cycling events when the Étape du Tour was created in 1993. HR: And what would be a legendary stage 12

that you would like to include on an Haute Route in the future that you haven’t yet? J–FA: Well firstly, it is the story of the race and the riders that make a stage legendary, not the course alone, so it’s up to the riders to make a stage legendary by doing something memorable. But otherwise, one col I would like to bring into the Haute Route is the Col d’Agnel. We’ve never done it before. HR: Talking of cols you haven’t done before, are there any new cols in 2019 that the riders are going to enjoy? J–FA: In the Pyrenees we have the Hourcere/ Station d’Issarbe on the way to La Pierre St Martin which offers some breath–taking views. In the Alps there are all the climbs on the first stage (Bettex, Plateau d’Assy, Megève 2000) with views of the Mont Blanc throughout, and then there is the Col de la Loze which is a new road above Courchevel. The finish is sublime at 2,346M above sea level, with a 360–degree panoramic view that is just jaw–dropping. HR: Moving from course design to the reality of the event, can you give readers an overview of what your typical day on an Haute Route looks like? J–FA: It’s quite a busy day that starts early and finishes late, but I really enjoy it as its part of the fun of being a race director. 5:30AM: Wake up, shower, breakfast. Spend some time thinking about the day ahead to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. 6:30AM: Arrival on the start line 1h before the start of the stage, where I welcome the Race Team, give the final instructions for the day and then meet and talk with the local representative who will be giving the start of the stage. During the stage: A constant presence from within the race, on the radio with my Race Team, managing the flow of my race vehicles, motorbikes and marshals,

constantly aware of as much as possible, ready to act and react to anything that happens out on the road. Finish line: Arriving with the first riders I stay in contact via radio with my Race Team to ensure everything remains in order. Occasionally I drive back out onto the course if needed. My Race Team is only given the all clear to stand down for the day once the final rider has crossed the finish line and everyone has safely arrived in the host town. After the stage follows a number of different briefings, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm with the Race Team, then with the riders and finally with the Haute Route team managers before I have dinner either with a local dignitary or with the rest of the Haute Route team. HR: Quite a busy day indeed! And amongst all that, what are your favourite moments? J–FA: Well firstly the start of the stage in a convoy, it’s always impressive and then obviously the moment the final rider crosses the finish line. I also enjoy the meeting with my Race Team, and obviously the beer with the whole team and all the riders after the 6:30pm briefing. It’s a great moment where everyone comes together.

" It is the story of the race

and the riders that make a stage legendary, not the course alone, so it’s up to the riders to make a stage legendary by doing something memorable." Jean–François Alcan



Asheville Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, Asheville is a cyclist’s paradise. Within minutes of the city’s vibrant downtown, sinuous ribbons of tarmac take cyclists into the quiet countryside. And after an exciting day of challenging climbs and sweeping descents, riders can unwind in some of the South’s top restaurants, breweries, and galleries. If you’re thinking of coming to Haute Route Asheville, here’s a deeper dive into what makes it a special destination.

Blue Ridge Parkway The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is a 469–mile road that connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it is arguably the most iconic scenic drives in the United States. Proposed in the 1930s and not completed until the 1970s, the Parkway winds its ways along some of the highest ridgelines east of the Mississippi River. Outside of Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway skirts Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet above sea level. This purpose–built roadway was designed to showcase the natural beauty and breathtaking views along the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In May, the wildflowers are in full bloom, and the clear, clean mountain air stays a bit cooler than the valleys below. The Biltmore Estate Situated on 8,000 acres, the Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in the United States. Built by George Vanderbilt II, the nearly 180,000 square foot home includes 65 14

chimneys, a grand hall with 70–foot ceilings, and the Vanderbilts’ personal collection of priceless artwork. Tour the home, visit the Rose Garden featuring 250 varieties of roses, and stop for a wine tasting experience at the Biltmore Winery. The River Arts District The renaissance of Asheville, was fueled by art, food, and beer. While revitalization efforts in other North Carolina towns in the 1980s and 1990s meant tearing down buildings and replacing with new construction, Asheville retained its character by protecting its architecture. Artists renovated the factories and warehouses by the French Broad River to create a thriving arts district. Today the River Arts District is home to hundreds of artists and galleries showcasing paintings, pottery, jewelry, glass, metal, wood, and much more. Stroll the district and visit working studios, meet the artists, and sit a spell at one of the District’s great cafés.


Restaurants The rich culinary tradition in Asheville combines fresh and organic local ingredients, classic Southern cooking, and a diverse community of internationally renowned chefs. You can find everything from world–class barbecue to authentic international cuisine and restaurants that cater to vegans, carnivores, and everything in between. Two of our favorite dinner spots are:

Highland Brewing Co. Where: 12 Old Charlotte Hwy, Asheville, NC 28803 The brewery that started it all in Western North Carolina.

Curate Where: 13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 Style: Spanish/Tapas Share small plates of authentic Spanish cuisine in a thoughtfully renovated historic space that served as Asheville’s bus depot more than 70 years ago.

One visit to Asheville is never enough. Whether it’s the unforgettable roads and climbs, the galleries and breweries, or the authentic Southern hospitality, your next visit won’t be your last.

Posana Where: 1 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 Style: Contemporary American/Farm–to– Table With a focus on serving local, seasonable and sustainable cuisine, Posana sources unprocessed, premium ingredients from nearly 65 different local purveyors & farmers and our gardens in West Asheville. Known for exceptional gluten free dining. Breweries Attracted by the clean water of the French Broad River, brewers established Asheville as a must–visit destination for beer lovers. With more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., there’s always something great on tap. Here are our favorite places for a post–ride beer: Wicked Weed Brewing Where: 91 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 Wicked Weed gets extra points for sponsoring Gran Fondo Asheville!


Asheville Brewing Company Where: Three locations in Asheville Grab an award–winning beer, fresh pizza, and even a movie at their North Asheville location.


Weathering the storm…

A day to remember in the Alps! Courchevel – Alpe d’Huez 137km/4650M+ Haute Route Alps 2014 17

Labelled the “Marathon Stage” in the lead up to the event, nothing could have prepared riders for how much of a marathon this stage 3 of the 2014 Haute Route Alps would turn out to be. Stepping out of their hotels in Courchevel, riders were greeted with a cold shower en–route to the start line at the foot of the Tremplin du Praz ski–jumping slope. After a mild–weather start to the event over the first couple days, this third stage delivered the complete opposite as the entire mountain range was engulfed in a wave of rain, fog and strong winds. Setting off downhill to start the stage, riders headed in the direction of the first climb of the day up to the Col de la Madeleine. Rising out of the towns and sparse trees, riders began to realise what Mother Nature was about to throw at them throughout the day. Visibility levels dropped below 20m and the wind picked up, blowing over the top of the mountain into their faces. Soaked to the bone, but undeterred by the weather conditions, riders fought on and battled their way up the Col de la Madeleine, even through 50km/h headwinds. Cresting the summit riders began imitating the professionals of yester–year, with many stuffing newspapers down their jerseys while others donned plastic ponchos to isolate themselves from the dampness. Motivated by the challenge at hand, they wasted little time in making their way carefully down the descent and into the second climb of the day up to the Col du Glandon. Rising 21km out of the valley to an altitude of 1,924M, the Col du Glandon’s toughest slopes came right before the summit, the final kilometres average 11% and 10% respectively. Once again, undeterred 18

by the challenge thrown at them by the conditions on the day, riders battled to the summit and ground through the gears to make it through the final two kilometres. Displaying their courage and determination, the riders knew full well that if they could finish this stage, nothing tougher would stand between them and becoming Haute Route finishers. The final climb of the day came as a relief to many riders, knowing they wouldn't have to descend the other side. Instead, they could head straight to their hotel for a warm bath to savour the challenge they were about to complete. Tears were shed, smiles were shared and congratulations were offered all around as riders crossed the finish line opposite the Palais des Sports in the iconic town of

Alpe d’Huez. The 400–strong peloton had overcome a test of mind and body that would prove a memory to last a lifetime and an after–dinner story to impress guests for years to come. Summed up perfectly in one sentence by Australian, Will Levy, the Haute Route would forever remember this stage: “An epic day, it’s going to be hard to beat this one.”

"An epic day, it’s going to be hard to beat this one." WILL LEVY



Alex STEWART DOB: 1983 Nationality: British Country of residence: UK Profession: Roboticist (self–driving cars) Bike(s): BWCC Custom Cannondale Synapse Hi–Mod Disc, Cube C:62 Agree SLT Disc,Custom Renovo Badash 29er (MTB)

Number of Haute Route events completed: Haute Route Pyrenees Compact 2016, Haute Route Rockies 2017, Haute Route Norway 2018, Haute Route Alps 2018 20

© PhotoRunning

Years in cycling: Although I’ve been cycling recreationally all my life, I only started training and doing events 3 years ago

How did you first hear about the Haute Route? What did you first think? I first heard about it from my cousins: Richard and Peter Chapman. They founded our team, the Black Widows Cycling Club (BWCC) for the very first Haute Route back in 2011, and the team has done at least one Haute Route every year since – now with our own team van providing coffee and music on the climbs. When I first heard about the Haute Route, I thought it sounded great fun – the pictures Richard and Peter had were amazing, and the stories were even better. It sounded like something to aspire to, but frankly very intimidating – a single day could be twice what I had cycled before in distance and three times the elevation. I finally signed up for the Haute Route Pyrenees Compact (the first 3 days of the 7–day event) in 2016 – after much cajoling by Pete and Rich – as it sounded hard, but achievable. How did you prepare for your first Haute Route? Not as well as I should have is the short answer! For the Haute Route Pyrenees Compact 2016, I did roughly one reasonably long ride (120–140km) every weekend (with nothing during the week) from about March until the event in late August, including several one–day sportives. I live in Oxford, a place not famed for mountain views, so my first ever real climb was actually on the first day in the Pyrenees (Ahusquy).

© PhotoRunning

When did you take up cycling and why? I’ve been cycling recreationally since I was young, but I only started training and doing events three years ago in preparation for my first Haute Route. The motivation was partly to get fit, but mainly to have an additional focus and challenge in my life to balance against work.

What was your first Haute Route like? It was hard, definitely the hardest thing I had ever done. But it was an incredible sense of achievement when I completed it. It gave me the motivation to do a full 7–day event. In fact, the first thing I did after landing back in the UK was to enter the inaugural Haute Route Rockies 2017 event. All the organisation and support at an Haute Route is far better than any other event I’ve done – it really does make you feel like a pro living in a protected bubble during the event. The motorcycle team led by the Gendarmes and the army of volunteers at (every) junction in particular do an amazing job to keep you safe on the road, and the Mavic guys will literally leap from their bright yellow cars if you have a mechanical.


What advice would you offer someone entering an Haute Route for the first time? In terms of equipment, I strongly recommend a compact 50–34 chainset and 11–32 cassette. Haute Route events are long and none of the climbs are easy. You will definitely be grateful for the lower gears. I also recommend 28mm tyres, there is evidence they are actually faster than narrower tyres, but they are more comfortable which is crucial on long events like the Haute Route. Make sure you have a windproof jacket that compresses well so you can get it out of/into your jersey pocket quickly and easily – you won’t want to lose a group on the descents into any flatter sections faffing. Finally, pack some gear for colder weather and some good gloves. You can get cold, even in August, on the early morning starts, and on the tops of the cols. Talk to your fellow competitors, both on the road and afterwards. Everyone will be pushing themselves, but the field is full of interesting people who love cycling. Words of encouragement and some humour can make a real difference when someone is struggling, and at some point that person will be you. However nice your stem is, the views of the mountains are better. Take the time to look around you on the climbs, but keep your eyes firmly on the road ahead on the descents.

"Everyone will be pushing themselves, but the field is full of interesting people who love cycling. " What type of rider do you consider yourself to be? On average, I now spend nearly 10 hours per week cycling: 1 hour turbo trainer sessions on 3–4 nights during the week, and two outdoor 22

rides totaling 6–7 hours at the weekend. Although I mostly view The Haute Route as a personal contest (I’m really racing myself) I aim to finish inside the top 50% of the peloton each time. However, helping my team mates on the road – particularly if they’re not feeling great – is personally more important to me. How would you describe the atmosphere in the peloton? Very friendly, supportive and diverse. I’ve made a lot of new friends on the Haute Route, interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. All the riders encourage each other on the climbs and it’s easy to bond when you’re all pushing yourselves to the limit. Why do you come back? Because the challenge, atmosphere and sense of achievement you feel afterwards is very addictive and totally different to any single–day event. I also find it mentally relaxing, bizarre as that may sound. The only thing to think about is riding your bike in beautiful mountain scenery, and the immense physical effort in doing so is a great stress reliever. What are your future plans and ambitions on the Haute Route? I got one of the first Infinity Passes this year, so in 2019 I have signed up for the inaugural Haute Route Oman and the double (Pyrenees and Alps back to back). Oman should be exciting, as I’ve never been to that part of the world before, and the Jebel Akhdar climb sounds like a real challenge. The double is going to be very tough, particularly pacing the first week in the Pyrenees, but it feels like the ultimate challenge. Describe the Haute Route in one sentence: The ultimate endurance cycling event.


Ruari GRANT DOB: 1991 Nationality: British Country of residence: UK Profession: Government relations Bike(s): Canyon Ultimate Years in cycling: 7 Number of Haute Route events completed: Haute Route Dolomites 2017, Haute Route Pyrenees 2018, Haute Route Ventoux 2018 When did you take up cycling and why? I always rode around London when younger but didn’t consider it my sport as I played tennis competitively. When I went to University a fellow ‘Fresher’ was a keen racer and is responsible for my cycling addiction that followed!

How did you first hear about the Haute Route? And what did you first think? I’d heard rumblings about a week–long amateur event riding up and down mountains. I was racing a lot in the UK but had always preferred the terrain in France and Italy so immediately liked the sound of it. 23

do be prepared for the weather, in 2017 snow stopped play on stage 2! In terms of the cycling I didn’t know what to expect. In terms of the level of racing I was pleasantly surprised to find myself near the front on day one. By the end in Venice, however, I was a bit frustrated to still only be 45 seconds behind the winner, Cedrick, despite my best efforts to shake him all week! What type of rider do you consider yourself to be? A pure climber without a fast–twitch muscle in sight, who likes to ride up the mountains as fast as possible. I think my girlfriend would say cycling occupies too much of my time, I certainly don’t want to add it all up. It is all on Strava though.

How did you prepare for your first Haute Route? How did the preparation go? In 2016 I raced a lot in the UK, fitting it in around my job, and this helped me get a good level of fitness. About a month before the Haute Route though I hit the deck in a big crash during a race and broke my left femur. Initially I thought I would still ride the British road champs and then the Haute Route afterwards, but after a lot of persuasion I realised it wouldn’t happen and turned my attention instead to the 2017 Haute Route Dolomites. My preparation remained the same the following year, and I did a few Italian Gran Fondos in the lead up to the event as well. What was your first Haute Route like? Spectacular! I’d recommend the Dolomites to anyone who hasn’t been there! Although 24

How would you describe the atmosphere in the Haute Route peloton? Friendly, full of camaraderie. Unlike elsewhere I compete, people don’t take themselves too seriously, always encouraging each other, which seems just right given we are all doing it for fun really. Why do you come back? I come back because I love riding in the mountains, the competition, and above all you meet great people on the Haute Route. There aren’t many other races with as much chatting, where your closest competitor can attack full gas, then sit up and get you to pose for a selfie with him. Any Haute Route plans in 2019? I am a “victim“ of the Infinity Pass, so plan to do a few more events this year if my girlfriend lets me! Describe the Haute Route in one sentence Competition with a smile in the most enjoyable settings in the world, facilitated by slick organisation.

" There aren’t many other races with as much

chatting, where your closest competitor can attack full gas, then sit up and get you to pose for a selfie with him."




Col d’Izoard The Col d’Izoard has been pivotal in the victories and defeats of Tour de France legends, and in 2019 the Haute Route Alps features a 19–kilometre individual time trial up the hallowed mountain’s northern slope from Serre Chevalier–Briançon.



The early years The Izoard was first included in the Tour de France in 1922, the final climb of a monster 274–kilometer stage that started along the seaside in Nice and was won by Philippe Thys in Briancon. Thys didn’t go on to win that Tour, but the following year Henri Pélissier attacked race leader (and teammate) Ottavio Bottechia on the Izoard and went on to win overall. Italian legend Gino Bartali crossed the Izoard summit first 1938 on his way to overall victory. The 1950’s: Coppi and Bobet The Col d’Izoard gained a reputation as a mountain that could foretell the conclusion of the Tour de France. In 1949, Fausto Coppi dropped Gino Bartali on the Izoard, and although Coppi slowed and gifted Bartali the stage win that day, the Tour de France went to Coppi. Three–time Tour de France champion Lousian Bobet was also first over the summit three times, most spectacularly on Stage 18 in 1953, when he started the day more than three minutes behind the yellow jersey and finished in Briançon with a lead of more than eight minutes. Nearing the summit that day, he passed Coppi, who was taking pictures at the roadside after deciding not to defend his yellow jersey from 1952. Coppi and Bobet’s exploits on the Col d’Izoard are memorialized on two plaques located by the moonscape of the Casse Déserte, on the south side of the mountain about two kilometre from the summit. The 1970’s: Thévenet dethrones Merckx The day before climbing over the Izoard in the 1975 Tour de France, Bernard Thévenet had surged past the indomitable 5–time Tour champion Eddy Merckx to win at Pra Loup and take the yellow jersey by 58 28

seconds. Less than a minute over “King Eddy” was hardly a secure lead, and urged on by fellow Frenchman Bobet, Thévenet sought to deliver a crushing blow on the Col d’Izoard. Just three years earlier, Merckx had dropped Cyrille Guimard on the col en route to victory in Briançon and his fourth Tour de France win. Now it was Thévenet’s turn. He attacked Merckx on the Col d’Izoard and reached the finish in Serre Chevalier solo, extending his lead in the yellow jersey to 3:20 and ending the Belgian’s reign at the Tour de France. The 1980’s: Thirteen seconds for LeMond Greg LeMond famously won the 1989 Tour de France by 8 seconds with a stunning final–stage time trial into Paris. The race was a tight affair long before that, and LeMond and Laurent Fignon traded the yellow jersey more than once. While wearing yellow on

Stage 16, which crested the Col d’Izoard and bombed down the north side to Briançon, LeMond extended his lead over Fignon from 40 to 53 seconds. Fignon took the yellow jersey back the next day, but the 8–second victory in Paris may not have been possible without the 13 seconds gained in Briançon. Three years earlier, the Col d’Izoard had factored heavily in LeMond’s first Tour de France victory. It was on the north–side descent of the Izoard that LeMond, in second place overall, latched on to the wheel of Urs Zimmermann, the rider in third place overall behind Bernard Hinault. The gap opened on the descent and LeMond followed a charging Zimmerman up to the summit finish on the Col de Granon. In the process, the American turned a 34–second deficit to Hinault, his La Vie Claire teammate, into a yellow jersey and a lead of 2:47 over the 5–time Tour

Champion. The truce between LeMond and Hinault, and the famous arm–in–arm finish atop Alp d’Huez, followed the next day. Recent History: Changing the Script In 2011, the Col d’Izoard was a strategic climb for Fränk Schleck and his brother, Andy. Riding for Trek–Leopard, both had a shot at winning the Tour de France, but only if they could gain time on Cadel Evans before the final time trial. Stage 18 was the day they decided to go for it. The plan called for Andy to attack on the Izoard, 60 kilometre from the summit finish atop the Col du Galibier. Fränk would stay in the chasing group, and if Andy was caught, he would attack next. The plan worked, and Andy took the yellow jersey by finishing more than two minutes ahead of Fränk, who sprinted in a few seconds ahead of Evans. Unfortunately for the brothers, it wasn’t enough of a lead 29

to prevent the Australian from taking the yellow jersey for good in the final time trial. The 34th time the Tour de France climbed the Col d’Izoard was the first time it ever finished at the summit. In 2017, Warren Barguil, fittingly wearing the King of the Mountains jersey, raced up the south side of the Col to win Stage 18. Chris Froome arrived 20 seconds later in the yellow jersey, and kept it all the way to Paris. Races almost always climb the southern side of the Col d’Izoard, starting in Guillestre and descending into Briancon. The Tour de


France climbed the north side in 2014, en route to a summit finish in Risoul, won by Rafal Majka. Fränk Schleck finished 7th on the stage and recently recalled, “The south side is more steady than the north. The first part is okay, and it gets harder once you take the right turn in Cervières.” Asked whether he had any advice for Haute Route Alps riders before their north–side time trial, Fränk said, “Don’t start slowly. It’s a long climb, but reaching a summit completely empty is special. Too many riders I talk to regret it when they finish without giving everything.”

The Haute Route and the Col d’Izoard


Number of visits: (5x from Briançon, 3x from Arvieux)

Memorable moments: • First ascent from Briançon in 2011. • First ascent from Arvieux in 2015, through a thunderstorm for the back end of the peloton. • First Time Trial scheduled for 2019. Things to look out for: 0-2.9% 3-5.9% AVERAGE rock GRADIENT: • Protruding pinnacles in the Casse Déserte on the south side • Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet Memorial on the south side • Tall summit sign • Snow capped peaks





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Original Course 2 Classic Stages 100-140km 2500M+ - 3500M+ 1 Uphill Time Trial

Compact Course 2 Classic Stages 70-100km 1500M+ - 2500M+ 1 Uphill Time Trial

New Compact courses available on all 3-day events* Find out more *except Haute Route Oman and Haute Route Qingcheng



The blind leading the blind

Ade Hill, Haute Route Lanterne Rouge

fully–fledged peloton of about 30 riders following me through the old town of Nice, thinking I was taking them to the start line.

Going into my first Haute Route as a Lanterne Rouge in 2015 I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’d ridden a number of Sportives before as well as two Haute Route events and led AlpCycles clients through the mountains but never taken on a role like this on an event. I have to admit, my first big surprise even before the start of the first stage was how big my arse looked in the red shorts of the Lanterne Rouge.

Thankfully, I found the seafront eventually and spotted the start line in the distance. Pointing confidently towards the start line I bellowed “There’s the start line everyone” to the nervous group of riders behind me, ensuring in the process that the illusion that I’d known where I was going all along remained intact.

My week got off to a less–than–ideal start as I twisted my back lifting my Haute Route travel bag down the stairs in the hotel and awoke an old injury. I didn’t want to let anyone down though so I got on my bike and cracked on with it.

Once I’d made it to the start line the nerves subsided and the buzz was real as everyone was excited to get the event underway. A few riders asked me for a picture, and admitted with a laugh that they hoped never to see me again throughout the week. I can’t blame them, no one plans to be near the back.

Winding through the back streets of Nice on the way to the start line I quickly got disoriented and began to worry as I wasn’t entirely sure where the start line was and seemed to be riding in circles, stopping at the same stop lights several times, unable to find the seafront and start line on the Promenade des Anglais.

It has taken me a few years to fill Fergus’ boots as the Lanterne Rouge, but after four years and eight Haute Route events ridden I feel I am properly part of the family now. Every year I look forward to jumping back on the bike in the red kit with friends old and new from far and wide to enjoy the Haute Route together.

After a few minutes, a couple other riders looking for the start line jumped on my wheel and began following me, thinking that since I had the Lanterne Rouge kit on I must know where I was going. Little did they know I would be of no help! Fast forward another five minutes, and I’d got myself a

Ride safe everyone, and remember not to try following me to any start lines. I’m used to bringing up the rear, not leading the group.





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