Saturday, August 31, 2013

IRON Haute Route 2013 - Off to the Pyrenees!

I love taking on the challenge of IRON events. 35 riders are registered that have completed the Haute Route Alps 2013 a week ago.

Mug shot again
Three of us are IRON women racers: me, Pascale Legrand a road racer from Quebec, and Stacie Hall from Australia.

Excitement with the French ski mountaineer world champion Laetitia Roux entered in the Pyrenees event. She uses riding as cross-training and rode the Trial Pyrenees event last year. She will be racing with a women's team of ski mountaineer racers.

The Tour-Transalp woman winner Marina Ilmer from Italy will be racing. 33 women entered in the Pyrenees event while only 17 were entered in the Alps event... maybe the intrigue was with the Pyrenees.

It was great to get to chat with women racing in the recent Haute Route Alps. Interesting to get feedback that they would either definitely do the race again as the experience was great... or not ever again as the preference was to ride, stop, eat, take photos and enjoy! Understandable, either way.

Awesome, Greg Lemond just showed up to the pre-race briefing! I was a fan back in the day of no helmets. Greg will ride at a chill pace with us tomorrow, and will cheer us on for the Time Trial.

Race briefing each night

Met up with the Brits-living-in-Geneva crowd from 2011
Jan, Rafael, Pete,..., Ian somewhere out there
Bikes loaded in trucks to be transported to Solsona

Surprise! - Awesome Paella dinner compliments of the Race.
Three guitarists serenaded us all day at the race registration

Rode my bike around town and to Boqueria Market
Received interesting comments from a few cyclist types

Wide-eyed at the fruit choice at the Boqueria Market

At the market, this man admired my bike
He is Horst Stuewe from Canada
1969 Canadian Cycling Champion!
Horst proudly showed me this folded paper he had in his wallet - pretty cool!

Major Barcelona beach action!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Haute Route - Recovery Days in Geneva

Took the Saturday night luxury bus the race provided back to Geneva. Mary whisked me away Sunday morning to the Market.

Greens! at the Geneva Market.
Surprised heartier greens like Kale not found.
My bounty of Miel - amazing flavours from different blossoms.
Acacia, Citrus, Eucalyptus, Chatagnier (chestnut), Forest, Sunflower (yum)...
I scooped even more in Spain... Bosque, Tomillo, Castano, Azahar

Later, a short drive to Dominques' farmhouse in France for an afternoon party. One of the older guests was the uncle to the wife of David Millar! The stories! I ate and ate and ate :)

Mary, Nigel with the cool shirt, Marg
I did partake in gelato outings :)

Lured to ride up Le Saleve with the views of Geneva and the fountain in the Lake.
1000m elevation gain to ride a short 44 km loop from town.
Winged navigating the crooked roads and managed to find my way

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recap Haute Route Alps 2013

Odds and Ends Thoughts from Haute Route Alps

On this whirlwind trip, I had barely a moment to just sit. The organization has upped the quality of their race ten-fold since 2011.

There were many little things that were perks in a race like this... sticker race profiles, names/country-flag on race number which lead to fellow racers cheers, massage time for every racer, Mavic service, aperitif parties after the briefings, assistance with directions (thanks Veronique & Chloe) or needing a shuttle at a whim (thanks Gerrick!)...

Day 4, soaking in cool fountain water at Pra Loup
A basic day started with my own race prep from the prior evening, dragging my huge wheeled duffel bag the race provided to the hotel entrance for transfer by the race organization, heading to the start line to pump up my tires at the Mavic tent, drop off my race backpack for transfer to the finish (a definite perk to have my own recovery foods and clothing at the finish), search out the restroom (a few times), jump in line with my bike in the starting corral.

typical race finish, long day for this guy
After the race, just needed to follow the signage... I would drop off my bike in secured bike parking, pick up my backpack, book a massage, head to the showers, stretch, get a massage, head for the provided lunch, eat and store food for later, finally head to info to find out where my accom was located.

Food, ha! Yes, that is a sausage. I mostly had salads and a few noodles, skip the dessert.
The salty greasy sausage was luring on this super hot day with the steepest finish

The bags usually arrived later day to the hotel. No problem as I had what I needed in my backpack and would head straight to awards at 5:30 pm, then a half-hour briefing of next day's course at 6 pm. An aperitif party with various treats of the day were offered after the briefing. All this provided alot of time to mix and mingle with the riders. Loved the time yet I found I had minimal time to prep and chill for the next day.

view from hotel balcony in a small ski village 14 km away from Pra Loup
I found the old format of waiting later in the day for the pasta dinner and briefing gave much more time to seek indoor shelter for quiet time and recovery. The current format wins out with hanging with the masses as it was much more fun social time.

Day 4, after super steep finish to Pra Loup, my ground perspective,
sitting in the shade in the bike corral, with my recovery drinks from my backpack

Gotta admit, I was pretty wiped out the first few days with no recovery time. Hated to see my bloodshot eyes early morning Day 2. The most rest I finally received was on the Time Trial day with extra time to sleep in and to hang out after the TT. It was not fun at all to race on injured inner quads the first couple days.

Race Numbers
Most racers had their names or nicknames, and country flags on their race number. This gave the opportunity to get to know your fellow racer. Once I penned in my name, I received alot of encouragement when riders passed by. It was great! This added to the friendliness found at this race.
race numbers pinned back of jersey, with rider name and country flag
 - photo

As there were only 17 women in this event vs the 500+ guys, the women's showers were usually overtaken by men by the time I got there. After a long hot day in the saddle, no-one really seemed to mind either way with the mixed crowd. The guys were pretty good and usually left us to our own showers until we were done. After seeing Ruud a second time in the shower, his comment was "we are almost like family"! And the comment was more about the bonding with riding.

Comments heard while riding:

"Do you know you are in your big chainring?"

"You are riding in such a big gear", when I was finally in the small chainring

"You are a wolf in sheep's clothing" as my climbing was finally coming around in the latter days

"Go Big Ring"

and all the amazing cheers and encouragement.

Naturally, groups would form whenever we came to more rolling sections. Impressive how the guys would start a pace-line just like that. No words needed. Most worked, the tired stayed at the back. I worked when logical for a small person, and would get a few cheers for it. Whenever it was a descent or headwind, I would pull thru and jump to the back with no ill comments.

Day 1 Geneva to Megève, 153 km, 3300m+, 2500m-
Hot weather, fast pace, high anxiety in the group --> lead to pushing too hard with the climbing intensity, aductors cramping violently to an injured state. Need not push to hard Day 1! There is enough time to grade into these events and still work the way in the standings.

Buddies Day 1 - After the 2nd huge ascent, my aductors began twitching with hard cornering on the descent. I eased up to attempt to pedal through instead. At the base of the descent, I had a solid group of guys for the next rolling section.

With the change of muscle groups, doh, the left aductor seized. As I slowed down, the right aductor seized. I barely managed to clip out before falling and was hanging off my crotch on the bike (yeah, not pretty) and howling in pain.

Team Pente 14's support guy Steve driving a convertible BMW just happened to be driving by. He jumped out to help. With pressure to my quads, the cramps slowly eased. I asked Steve to plop me back on the bike straight legged and push me off. Tenderly, I was able to ride again. Thanks Steve!

Scary, as this was at 100 km into the race. I still had 50 km to go!

Despite the beautiful scenery, I was on edge with cramps

Inevitable, I had more cramping having to stop a few more times, and with only 5 km to go. Walking was painful as well. I had to chill and wait for the cramps to ease. Yes, I was hydrated best as possible with salt, though this was too much steep intensity too soon, and on a hot day.

Thanks to all the guys that stopped their race to see if I needed help.

Day 2 Megève to Val d'Isère - 111 km, 3500m+, 2800m-
Aductors hurting from Day 1. Climbing an effort with sore muscles... Despite that, Cormet du Roselend (1967m) views as awesome as 2011.

Day 3 Val d'Isère to Serre Chevalier - 164 km, 3400m+, 3800m-
Most beautiful single day stage I've ridden! Very scenic, minimal urban housing, villages, outstanding climbs... though tough finish in the headwinds on a slight incline busy road. Excellent traffic control when we passed through Italy with the Police giving us right of way.

I'm pretty tired and messed up from the first 2 days.
Forecast 4C. I dressed for typical Cdn riding weather,

and it was! It got to -1C on the descent
- photo Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Buddies Day 3 Ascent -
First climb of the day following a strong rider that was injured in a prior days crash. He was riding to the top with a chill pace, though perfect for me at the time. Mentally, I needed a buddy to ride with as my legs were just healing up from Day 1. It helped me focus on my pace to stay with him.

Buddies Day 3 Descent -
Descent on a Canada cold Col. After I passed several riders descending cautiously and slowly, a rider passed me quickly. I worked to jump on his pace following his lead passing other riders and cars.

have my cross-country ski gloves on... brrrr -

It was fun, and I had confidence in his descending speed. This was Ruud van Dijk from Netherlands. What was awesome was bumping into Ruud at some point every day after.

Following Ruud in front as we were passing riders -

Day 4 Serre Chevalier to Pra Loup, 199 km, 3000m+, 2800m- 
Good day for the legs and body, finally. Chilled on the first climb, had an awesome group to descend with. Same as 2011, the top of the 2nd climb was super windy. Fortunately, I had good timing on Konstatin coming by at the perfect pace to follow. I was super speedy on the last descent. Finally a faster racer caught up and soon we had a small peloton. The last climb was tough though I made sure to rest in the peloton. I had a good last climb though that last km is STEEP!

Individual Time Trial Day 5, Jausiers to Cime de la Bonette, 23 km 1562m+, 4m- 
Felt almost 100% again after the debilitating cramping from Day 1. Uphill time trials are just fun! Each rider was started 20 seconds apart which helped with chasing the next rider down.

After perusing the course profile, I decided to go hard for the first 10 km, chill the pace from 10-15 km as the grade was steep, then go hard again with doing whatever was possible in the last steep km.

Signs posted 50 km, 5 km and 1 km to go
I expected the worse after the tormenting headwinds from 2011 when we raced this section as part of the course. Bonus was the winds were in our favour with a mild tailwind urging us along. I definitely took in the scenery as I saw wild raspberries growing on one of the twisty corners.

riding down with Team For Pete's Sake composed
of many strong Canadian riders
- photo Alain Lambert
Ultra pleased my climbing legs were back!
Pic at top of Cime de la Bonette 2802m
- photo Alain Lambert

Super happy for Pascale from Quebec to squeak in 3rd

Buddies Day 6, Pra Loup to Auron, 143 km, 3800+, 3800-
Different kind of race day with having time stopped at the top of two of the Cols (Col de la Cayolle and Col de Couillole) restarted once we reached the bottom. This day would showcase the racers with climbing skills only, and was detrimental to the fast descenders.

I was surprised to see a new woman racer amongst us as she flew by me midway up the first climb. It was Vicki from UK who had a good hillclinb TT with 4th place. I chose not to rest too much after the time was stopped and got to the bottom of each twisty descent quickly.

Starting the last ascent to Auron, I zipped off without thinking to wait for a couple guys. No problem, I was caught by a young Swiss rider. I hung off his pace though did not have enough energy to help which he was ok with. More riders caught us on the flats, though once the last real climb began, it was the young Swiss rider and myself.

I found I was hypnotized to stick to his pace and his wheel. It was nice to have that right pace of rider. By the time we were close to the top, I smelled the barn and zipped away a little stronger. The Swiss guy cheered me on to "go hard to the finish". With all the crazy stop/start times, I ended up just quicker than Amelie though did not even see her all day.
Aperitif treats after the briefings

Day 7 - Auron to Vence to Nice, revised course
Dressed super warm as the start was 6:45 am, the first 61 km was neutral and all descending. Plenty of time to socialize. I had a few guys chat with me with enquiries on my green drinks and recovery food including Vega.

My race time would start once I hit the timing mat so I'd have time to strip down. After a long pee (2 hour neutral start is long!), peeling off my layers and wrapping my jacket around my waist, I was just starting same time as Amelie on the first 2 km flat stretch. Soon, I was climbing at a high end pace on an awesome gentle pitch that went forever.

The pace was high, and it was interesting to grab onto different riders wheels as everyone had started at different times. Three times, a super fast men's peloton came by. I took opportunity to zip up my pace and stay with them for a couple hundred metres each time. Anything helps, and it was good to get out of a monotonous pace. This day felt like a "real" road race.

I bumped into Ruud though he managed to stay with one of the breaks. Finally on my own, a couple Brit riders came by and I managed to stick with them. Eventually, we caught back up to Ruud and worked together to the finish. After cresting the summit, there was another 9 km slight descent to the finish. Unknowingly, the last 1 km had many speed bump climbs in it. Ruud took off here and finished ahead, though in the end I had a few seconds quicker on him with the varying start times. All good fun!

Race Women Leader Tatjana Ruf is an experienced randoneer racer riding on average 20,000 km per year!

Finish into Nice, off to the Mediterranean for a dip

Marg with Ramon Rivas from Adventure race days.
Ramon was racing with a few guys on a team from Mexico.

Beautiful sunset views from top of Ascenseur du Chateau
where the final race party was held

Marg with François Le Maut from France, the oldest racer at 70,
who was a stronger hill climber this year!
He only started riding at 58 to cruise about his hometown Nice.
It was cool to see when he would pass me in the day.
My roomie for the Alps, Anna Cipullo from Britain, and I posing with an exuberant volunteer

All my Haute Route POSTS

Posts by Iron Rider Stacie Hall

My Interview Velo101

Velo101 Interview with Pascale Legrand

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Haute Route Alps 2013 - Course Profile

Good to keep track of these courses as they change each year.

Top three Cols this time round:

Stage 3 - combo of all three Cols were amazing:
Col de l'Iseran (2770m) with views of Mont Blanc (always happy to see snow covered peaks), Col du Mont Cenis (2083m), and Col de l'Echelle up a narrow twisty road with switchbacks and overhangs (1762m)
The wickedly cold descent hitting -1C, Canada Cold! - photo
Just beautiful scenery, cold but super awesome! - photo
Riding through the fog fast was scary - photo
Scenery, fun fast descents - photo

Stage 5 - Jausiers to Cime de la Bonette, the 23.5 km individual time trial course

Nice grading for 10 km, steep for the next 5 km though twisty switchback road which makes it entertaining, amazing views the whole way, nice grading the next 7 km until the stupendously steep 1 km to the finish which just crawls along. The winds were with us and not gale-force like I remember in 2011.

working hard on the last 1 km
Stage 7 - Col du Vence (862m), 39 km timed race section
Thumbs up as it was similar to real road race pace, hard effort, chasing, pelotons, pace-lines!

My viewpoint may be abit skewed as I was physically messed up Days 1 to 3! and climbing was un-normally painful, so the latter days stand out more in my memory.

All Haute Route POSTS