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|
|typical race finish, long day for this guy|
|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|
|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.
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 hauteroute.org
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
"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.- photo Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Forecast 4C. I dressed for typical Cdn riding weather,
and it was! It got to -1C on the descent
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 - marathon-photos.com|
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 - marathon-photos.com|
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!
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|
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