Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Haute Route Alps COMPACT - warm up!

After I raced the Compact version - the first 2 stages and prologue for the Haute Route Alps - a few previous Haute Route rider friends emailed and wondered why I dropped out of the latter stages of the Alps! … as the continuing results from Day 3 and on showed the Compact riders as DNF.

A new event was formed for 2014 which was only to be the first 2 stages of the Alps, and the prologue. Next year, there will likely be a Compact version for each of the race locations.

Finish of the Dolomites, met up with Colin, Hans (Colin's Dad) and Iain who I know from previous Haute Route races.
Saw so many other riders I knew...

The hardest part about stopping the event after 2 stages was not getting more time to spend with the cool new people I had met.

The easiest part about stopping was getting time to catch up on sleep from time zone change and to heal an injury that creeped up on me (weird tendinitis on top of the wrist).

Day 0 - Registration Morning & Prologue

Arrived to the registration area in Jardin Anglais in time for queues. Stored my bike in the secured bike corral while I queued for my race package. Waiting in line gave plenty of time to meet new riders and learn more about their intrigue to the event. Met Scottish rider Greg Banks and funny enough got to ride with him on-route Day 2.

Sample of backpack provided which can be dropped off at the race start and picked up at the next finish line. Great to put in everything needed for the day before heading to the hotel… recovery food, shower stuff, dry clothes, camera,...

Another quicker queue to receive Haute Route bag and backpack. 

Roomie Caroline from UK Black Widows from 2013 Pyrenees race who just finished the 2014 Dolomites event

A 9-km out and back Prologue was held that afternoon with riders departing every 20 seconds from the official starting ramp. Winds were tailwind out with a strong headwind return.

Streets totally closed from traffic, with pylons marking the route. 4.3 km next to Lac Léman, down Quai Gustav-Ador making a 180 turn on the Rampe de Cologny and back. Now into the wind. A few guys passed me which helped get me out of my tempo pace.

It was nice to get the legs spinning and to ensure the bike was working fine.

Race meeting that night with insight into the week.

Day 1! - Geneva to Megève  130 km / 3100 m+ / 2350 m-

Rue des Voisins - my place to stay in Geneva
I was still fighting time zone change as I rolled out of bed for the 7:15 a.m. start Sunday morning. Easy ride down from my friend Mary's apartment to the race start. Surprisingly a relaxed atmosphere.

Leaving Geneva Day 1 - photo Manu Molle
Once the peloton was rolling, all was good. I was near the front of the 2nd wave of riders which was separated a couple hundred metres by a few motorcycles. Good comradry in this wave with no angst to get to the front.

Before the 24 km neutral zone ended, our wave merged with the 1st wave. Many round-abouts which bottle-necked the peloton each time. 

Course details - my version above; race provided sticker below
On the 1st climb Col de la Colombière (1116m over 15.2 km), I went a casual hard pace. Not far into the climb, I heard “there she is”. It was Harry and Ben from UK Team Thames Prof Corp. At last year's Alps race, they always came upon me and passed me on the steep climbs. This time, I stuck onto Harry’s pace.

Midway on the climb, I heard a woman casually chatting in the distance behind me. Soon, previous-Ironman star Chrissy Wellington rode by. She chatted with every rider she knew and offered encouragement to others. I stuck to her wheel for awhile. Heard her say she was in this for fun and taking it easy!

Eventually I fell off Chrissy's pace as did everyone she came upon. The 11% final grading was bearable with the top in sight. I put on my jacket quickly and descended fast passing a few vehicles on the corners. Long descent.

Into the next climb up Col de la Croix Fry (851m over 12.3 km), Chrissy caught up (she stated her dislike for descending).  Climb was steep. Short descent then an awesome 7% avg grade climb up Col des Aravis (266m over 6.2 km).

Must be a happy grade to be smiling! - free photo via Facebook

I re-passed the guys that passed me. My grade! We came upon a trail running race that crossed the road in front of us. Scary as both cyclists and runners had tunnel-vision . The race was bumper to bumper runners as we rode alongside them for a short ways – amazing.

At the top, it was a stop-timed section. I was full of energy and whizzed by, and fast on the descent. Most people stop at the feedzone and chill out.

At the bottom, I started the next timed section with faster male riders. This would normally be a good thing. Though, no-one wanted to lead the peloton! When one guy lead, he pulled too long and got tired. Finally another guy lead. This was the first time I have not seen a paceline form. I even took my turns at the front.

We doddled in on a critical 10 km timed section. Could have easily taken a couple more minutes off my time with a working group of guys.

Most scrumptious fresh figs EVER - from Geneva market

Race food - had a few amazing FRESH figs stored in a ziploc bag in my pocket, and a few bits of dates and raw bars. Keep a Vega gel for emergency.

Pre-race, loaded up with Climb On mineral sunscreen, and the best "natural ingredient" creme you'd ever want to use for chamois creme. Cool bar for lips and nose as well.

The race village had good signage to follow…. bike parking signs, backpack pickup signs, shower and massage signup signs. With minimal women in the race, showers were designated "co-ed". Get in/get out quick!

Had time to relax, eat my own recovery food of fruit, Vega drinks, my own protein concoction, and veggies while chatting with a few riders sitting outside.

Massage was superb getting to meet Beatrice who is a ski mountaineer racer living in Grenoble. After that I had a long session with osteopath Nico from Lyon.

Mont Blanc - looks like a cloud! View outside my hotel Day 1
Grabbed whatever was left at the lunch in a bowl to eat later. Biked 5 km out of town to La Fueg hotel. Philippe, a rider from Israel I met on-route to our hotel asked if I saw Mont Blanc. I said "no" at the time. 

Spectacular views all around
Joined the group of riders staying at the hotel to take the shuttle to Megeve for race briefing. We sat together for dinner at the hotel later. Had fun chatting with Philippe who had spent time in Canada and US. The other riders were from Norway, which included Triple Crown rider Ottar.

Highlight – organization, climbs, scenery, race traffic control, massage/treatment, and mostly people to spend time with.

Day 2 - Megève to Courchevel  130 km / 3900 m+ / 3250 m-

Early morning 5 km ride to the race start was cool with jacket, headband, nordic gloves and small bootie covers. Wondered which gear to keep on for the race as it seemed like cooler Canada spring ride  temps.

Took the booties off last minute, kept the gloves and my Sugoi thin rain jacket. No knee warmers. Put cycling gloves in my pocket. The first 9 km was a slight descent in a neutral peloton - brrrrr!

Warmed up on the 1st climb Col des Saisies (730m in 15.5 km). An awesome 7% avg climb that was irregular terrain. Went out strongly though knew this was my last day.

Abit pensive on the descent with bumpier roads. A group of 10 riders was too many. Seemed to be more car traffic around. Always wary.

Next climb steep 8% up Cormet de Roselend (1167m over 20 km). I hung off Cato from Norway and another guy. I hope they know how much it helps to have a person to ride with.

The wild flowers I saw high up on the climbs.
Riding by Cormet de Roselend Reservoir
- photo Manu Molle

As we rounded up by the reservoir, there was a breather in grade and a slight descent. The next climb was surprisingly easy to the top. Likely due to me being in a cramping mess last year.

closer to the top of Cormet de Roselend - photo Manu Molle
The scenery was outstanding climbing right next to the rock slabs seen from afar. Only way to get to these heights in Canada is by foot, no roads.

Wicked crazy descent down Roselend!!! Epic with the tighter than 180 corners. I was alone to start. Then jumped onto Gaute's wheel (rider from Norway). It was challenging to keep up to him around the tight corners though helpful.

We stayed away from most everyone. 2 more riders caught up to us on the flats toward the time-point stop. Ate a lot at the feed zone. More riders were showing up. Removed jacket and switched gloves. Sprinkles of rain, nothing big, temp warmed nicely.

Headed off to the next time-point start. Started with a handful of riders, not working the best together again. Finally, the group broke up and I was with the odd guy to ride with, only for awhile.

Mostly rode alone. This last climb up to Courchevel (1369m over 25 km) was epic, though a survival climb as everyone was pretty much tired at that last feed zone 100 km in. Kept a good pace going. Riders cracked on this last climb.

Marg and Cato from Norway at finish up Courchevel!
 - Free pic sent via Facebook

The climb would be great if not last! On the finishing stretch I heard a rider behind me… it was Cato from Norway! Funny to finish at the same time after riding with him earlier.

Showers were awesome as the women got the super deluxe ones in a private gym room. Met up with Veronique Fortin my first time. Cool to hear how excited she is to try out these races after being a National team member.

Time with Beatrice the massage therapist and Nico the osteopath. Weird inflammation in my left wrist, topside, super swollen.

Emma Pooley - World Champ TT, Marg, and young Japanese rider

Took a bus shuttle back to Geneva with around 25 Compact riders. Non-epic end to a couple great days of riding. Missed out an informal presentation for the Compact riders, and socks for 2nd place to Emma. Did receive a finishers medal.

Back for more at Haute Route Pyrenees Sep 1!

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