Monday, September 15, 2014

Haute Route Pyrenees 2014 recap

The media for Haute Route did an awesome job producing a video each day. This one highlights the whole event. Check it out!

Epic climbs and scenery with wicked descents!!

My Haute Route blog posts
My Perspective...   make a wicked course... the rider's will come!
The days I chose to race, were much more difficult to recover from.
The days I chose to have fun at a calmer pace, I felt pretty good during the day and the next day.
All in choice...
Enjoyed Nuno's wise words in the video "It's not if you will have bad moments, it's a question of when you are going to have them... expect them and move on!". There's a learning and growth factor in these races, and it ends up really about how I can be my best in any given situation and work with others. Plus it's just a blast to rip on the descents!!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Day 7 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - to the Atlantic Ocean!

Day 7 - St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Anget Basque Coast
115 km / 1800 m+ / 1900 m-

The latest race start at 8:30 am was appreciated with the extra hour of sleep. Super quiet area for accom again. Rode the 1 km to the race start with Vanessa.

Warmest start with leaving the jacket and arm warmers behind. Humid and could feel the ocean air already.

I received a lot of cheers and recognition from riders with the previous days’ efforts. I think all the athletes doing this event are amazing!
Departing the medieval town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port
 - photo Manu Molle
We had a short neutral start then a fast paced low grade climb. I clung in between my strong group from the prior day and the next group behind. I was happy to have space in between as the descent with the huge peloton took concentration.

The course had 3 climbs relatively 400m climbing each at around 5% grade over 7 km. Quite mild compared to the last 6 days!

The riders spread out during the 1st climb. I worked with a couple riders as we dodged back and forth. We crested the top quickly.

photo Manu molle
In the distance, I could see the cloud level we were going to descend below. I kept two riders in sight until I lost them being more cautious hitting the fog level. Eventually, a solid group of 18 riders gathered.

After the 2nd climb, the group dwindled to 9 riders. We stayed together for a rolling section and a couple of short climbs. I was lucky to have Erikkos from Switzerland in my group again. He was solid to follow on the descent.

We rolled through the countryside of Spain and France picking up some intrigued local cyclists. They worked with us on the rolling hills.

My fav descender in no-sleeves jersey (yellow shoes) who gave me cheers while I was leading the climb - photo Haute Route
Starting the last ascent, I went a hard though comfortable pace. A few riders were on my wheel. I faded a little with 3 km to go. Then came a strong cheer from behind me “Marg, you’re doing fantastic”! That helped energize me to the top.

At the finish, the cheer had been from Erikkos who thanked me for pacing him up the climb! Very cool that we helped each other at different times in the race.

Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged at the top finish. I joined Amy with the 15 km neutral ride down to the beach resort village of St-Jean-du-Luc. There was time to check out the village and beach while waiting for all the riders to congregate.

Team For Adventure - Paul Hamblett (UK) Triple, Steven Richard (CH), Cyril Tiné (FR), Marg Fedyna (CA), Nuno Luz (PT) Triple, Sergio Costa (PT) Triple - photo Manu Molle
Comforting to put my bike and gear in the secure corral while I tour the village

After receiving my finisher medal and shirt, I walked down the main street crowded with tourists. Straight to the beach and into the Atlantic Ocean!
Heading into the Atlantic!
Managed to purchase a disposable camera at a local photo store, happy that cheap print film still exists.
My second dip in the Atlantic!
The toughest part of the day was the last 25 km convoy to Biarritz at a neutral 20 kph (including downhills) in the warm humid air. We had hung around St-Jean-De-Luz for a couple hours already.
An honour to lead the peloton into the finish - Marg Fedyna & Andrea Nicosia from Italy - photo Fabrice Calatayud
Arriving to Anglet Day 7 - photo Fabrice Calatayud

The Triple Crown Challenge Finishers!! - photo Manu Molle
Nine Triple Crown challenge riders finished all three events! As well as the Lanterne Rouge Fergus Grant. Pretty good stats and stories.

Amy in 2nd place after ascending 60,000m!!

A few comments and observations from the Triple Crown Challenge riders:

Amy – At first concerned about not finishing at the beginning of the first event; gained confidence realizing she was a strong rider in the women's field each event. 

Amy mentioned she had not one flat, mechanical, or major issue throughout the 3 events.

Paul Hamblett – Excitedly said he would definitely do it again saying “How can one go back (to just one event)!”

Nuno Luz – Gave the funny comment to “bring the ship to port” in the first day of the 3rd event. He's a tough endurance guy who may change his mind later. Maybe Chris Fisher as well.

Paul Donnelly – Gosh, I spoke with Paul quite abit on the final convoy into Anglet. Yet, we chatted mostly about current affairs and life. Strong athlete who could easily take on another Triple.

Nicolas Raybaud - Prior to the Pyrenees event, I asked him if he would do the Triple again. He, too, excitedly knew he would like to race next year's Triple. Nicolas unfortunately hurt his collarbone on a sketchy corner descending Tourmalet Day 4 and could not complete the full Triple.

Of note... Paul Hamblett, Nicolas Raybaud were consistently in the top 10 men's GC in the first two events, and Sergio Costa joined them in the top 10 men's field at the Pyrenees. Paul finished 2nd in GC in the Pyrenees event by 54 seconds!

Will Levy - Always cheery, will likely join in future Triple events getting to ride alongside his Tour clients from Two Wheel Tours out of Australia.

Christian has a sticker from each Haute Route race on his #plate
Christian Haettich - Has completed all Haute Route events since they started. Will no doubt continue in the future. The extra challenge of racing with one leg and one arm is perseverance at its finest!

Briefly met Jean-Paul Schaeffer from France when Vanessa introduced me to him, as they were riding close to each other each day.

Lanterne Rouge, Fergus Grant – Is awesome at his job to encourage riders at the back and will hopefully continue on.

Congratulations to all that took on the Triple Crown challenge. Stuff happens and getting through it best as possible makes for learning and a stronger next attempt.

Personally, it is enticing for me to want to take on all three events. The highlight is living in the bubble world of cycling for 3 weeks. If only there was more rest in between each event... I'd consider it. Mostly need more sleep, rest & recovery time.

Lasting Impressions

Concluding feelings was this Pyrenees race had a real nice atmosphere about it. There was opportunity to meet most every rider at some point or another, and volunteer or staff. The groups of riders I got to ride with were great!

Big thanks to OC Sport for fantastic organization to get everyone through point-to-point. The opportunity for massages and osteopath treatments was welcome for recovery. Mavic provided awesome service on the spot. Great support from the transport team to get our luggage to the hotels and our backpacks to the finish line each day. The volunteers manning the race feedzones were quick to get us on our way. Kudos to Manu Molle for his incredible photographs.

I know I'm on a different path for food and nutrition than most with the raw food lifestyle, though I really wish for green salads and more raw veggies in the lunch provided. I did manage to get to the market most days to purchase my own super yummy raw veggies.

The same rotini noodle each day was not too appealing for pasta choice! I will put in the post-race survey a request for gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice. There was a selection of fruit this year, though unfortunate they were rock hard and needed a few days to ripen!

I thought it was funny hearing Amy talk about the six-pack she had developed after a couple events. I admit, riding even one Haute Route event with 20,000m elevation gain is the best get-fit and toned-quick program!

All in all, the best part of the event is hanging out with a super group of people in a cycling bubble world! Check it out at

All Haute Route POSTS 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Day 6 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - Cows and Horses

Day 6 - Argelès-Gazost to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port
150 km / 3350 m+ / 3600 m-

Finally had a good night sleep only waking a few times coughing. Lugged my baggage down the twisty narrow 3 flights of stairs in the hotel. I was cutting the time close to get to the startline for the 7:30 start.
Happy up a climb! - photo courtesy of
Neutral section was a few km to get us out of town. Starting the first long climb up Col du Soulor (967m altitude gain over 18.5km), the pace slowly picked up. The lead pack got away. I was content in the 2nd peloton. The pace was quick and it felt good.

My peloton had around 18 riders. We rode thru a few cute villages. The grade was mostly 7% average. The peloton stayed together on the short descent.
On the ridge going thru the mountain! - photo Manu Molle
Next ascent up the Col d’Aubisque (240m altitude gain over 10km) was short though scenic, especially closer to the top on the ridge. Last year, we rode in fog with barely 10m visibility. Our peloton dwindled to a solid group of 9.  Good pace again.

I laughed seeing the sign warning of the upcoming “Passage Canadien”… i.e. cattle gate crossing.

Long descent. I started without waiting for all the guys who stopped at the feedzone knowing they would catch up. Many sharp corners with a few cow-patties to watch out for. As I could now see the tight turns, I was amazed at the speed we descended last year in the fog.

Around one corner there was a herd of cows on the road. It took a little maneuvering to figure out which way to go around the stubborn creatures. I made it safely, then continued down quickly. I flew solo!

Made it most of the way down before Tom from Switzerland caught up to me. I was amazed how fast he went and tucked into his draft. Apparently he had 53x12 gearing.

going up Col de Marie-Blanque - photo Manu Molle
 Slowly the peloton reformed. Together we climbed Col de Marie-Blanque (577m altitude gain over 11.5km). A few riders stopped at the top to refuel. I continued on the descent.

With a peloton of 9 forming again, we worked together under Jon Bula’s helpful instruction on the next 40 km section of rolling terrain.

Into the start of the 4th climb Col d’Ahusquy (833m altitude gain over 14.5km) I hovered at the back of our group. The grade started with a range of 11% to 15% quite consistently, ouch!

Sweat-Laden! - photo Haute Route
I was sweating profusely and my jersey was soaked. The temp had been low 20C and now only 25C. The effort was great! Before halfway, I dropped off and hung back with Triple Crown rider Paul, then dropped off his pace.

2013 photo of same climb - photo Will Levy (while he was racing!)
We did this climb last year in the fog and on wet rainy roads. This year, the climb looked more menacing with the clear daylight.

At the feedzone midway, I was happy to stop and grab a couple orange slices. The next section was flat before the final steep grade to the top. It boggles the mind to know the climb is considered 5% average grade with so many super steep sections!

The road was rough and narrow, Canadian bike path-size, with a yellow line painted down the middle for guidance not so much that a car width actually fit on one side. The landscape was lush green with hills very close together. Felt like the Pyrenean back-country! A road that seemed barely used. Cows were free to roam all over.

I continued at a reasonable pace. With a few kms left, the grade went down to 4% though the wind picked up. The ridge-top road rolled over green hills to the stop timing mat.

I refilled my water bottle then made the neutral descent on a super cow crappy bumpy road. Descent was an 11% grade that required braking due to the narrow road and unexpected bumps. Braking took its toll on my neck muscles.

I saw similar horses though huge herds of them on the road. It would hurt to hit one of them! Photo is of Alain Guimond from Quebec giving a lasso motion - photo Manu Molle
On-route, I passed another stubborn herd of cows. Dodged them safely. Around another corner, was a herd of wild horses. I yelled out to them “hey hey hey”. They all looked up, gathered to one side looking towards me for direction. Awesome creatures!

Finally made the descent to find Bill Hewlett from UK and Tom Kaminski from CH kindly waiting for me to join them for the last 11 km timed section. The others from our small peloton already left.

We waited for more riders to gather. It was hot waiting in the sun. Finally a huge group of 20 riders arrived. We all flew into town together.

Gael, the amazing osteopath that kept me going!
I had another amazing treatment from Gael the osteopath, and tried out the massage guy Fabrice for my sore neck muscles. Osteopath treatment is not so common at home in Canada. It is a mix of manipulative therapies like chiro, physio, and intuition to put the body back into alignment. It was a treat to have access to the osteopath treatments at this event.

Lunch had amazing grilled chicken skewers which were appealing after the day’s effort. Bummer the grilled veggies were so over-cooked and tough to differentiate. I put the lunch in a bowl to take away to eat later. I preferred my own recovery foods first.

The village we were in, St Jean Pied du Port, had an old medieval town with a stone wall and cobblestone streets. It was a very cool place to check out. 

My accommodation was 1 km away though seemed longer with the steep hills. I was happy to see we were staying at a vacation facility of condo-like buildings. We had a kitchen again which was great to cook up some real food. No internet available again. Kept so busy each day, it was tough to find a moment to jot down a race update.

Excitement with Andrea Nicosia and Paul Hamblett working together. Andrea now has the Leader's jersey and Paul (Triple challenge rider) is in 2nd overall GC - photo courtesy
Back at awards, there was an exciting turn of events in the men’s race with a new race leader and a tight race for top 3. Check out Paul's story for that stage.

I lost my camera somewhere in the race village, doh. Bummer, I lost my photos of the old medieval town.

The Lanterne Rouge had a run-in with a pony in that neutral descent section. The pony darted out at the last minute. Fergus flew over the pony with the bike landing without harm. Pony whinny-ed and was ok. Fergus hurt his side and collarbone, though finished. He was a trooper and even completed Day 7.

All Haute Route POSTS

Friday, September 05, 2014

Day 5 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - Tourmalet Col Gathering

Day 5 - Col du Tourmalet TIME TRIAL
18.5 km / 1500 m+ / 0 m-
Pretty consistent grade until the couple km

The Col du Tourmalet is one of the highest roads in central Pyrenees (with only public side roads abit higher). The Tour de France has visited Tourmalet over 82 times since 2012.

Looked forward to my later race start with the time trial, though had another rough night with coughing once laying down to sleep. I liked hearing the church bells start the day at 7 a.m. and ending at 9 pm. At 30 minutes past the hour, there was just one ding.

I took an easy pace warm-up 18 km to Luz-Saint-Sauveur for the time trial start. It helped to have Iron Rider Ralph from Switzerland come by as following him upped my pace. He noted I had a cough as did he. His started a few days into his first event, the Dolomites race. He said his cough came back during the Pyrenees event.

time trial start ramp - photo Haute Route twitter
The time trial ramp was setup in the town center causing a traffic jam to divert the cars. The atmosphere was bubbling with riders waiting for their starts and townspeople out to watch.

Fighting to counter the imbalanced hold!  photorunningfr
The guy holding my bike at the start tilted it to the right. I commented that I felt like I was going to tip over, and he kept it tilted saying “it’s okay”. Nooo, it wasn’t! I was wide-eyed waiting for the countdown to go.
Phew, made it without tipping!
When he let go, I had to correct my balance and thankfully made it down the ramp without tipping over. Phew, those few moments of zapped energy!

A pic of Amy's battle of the lopsided hold! too funny in a way
Other women commented the same. Amy said she was using her core strongly to offset that guy’s tilted hold.

Off I dashed for a nice sprint interval until I saw the timing mat sign. I forgot that the actual starting mat was another km down the road. Good warm-up! 

Long straight road after Barèges average 7% grade - photo Manu Molle
The beginning grade was deceivingly a solid 7% as the road was one long stretch. I attempted a reasonable pace. 

It was not long before Jon Bula from Vancouver passed me. Once he was 30m ahead, I picked up my pace as I realized I had ridden his pace the prior day. I kept that 30m distance for a few kilometres. A lot of hobby riders were out for a leisure ride. I passed only a few early starting racers later on-route.

After a 12% grade section to get out of one village, I finally approached the first few turns to the road. The grade still 7-8% though seemed tougher as the top was seen high up in the distance.

Into the beautiful open landscape up Col du Tourmalet
 - photo Manu Molle
The scenery was very green and open the next while. With 3 km to go, the lead guys who started behind me began to pass me. One guy, might have been Paul Hamblett, hollered only 6 more min to the top. The last few corners seemed to take forever. He was right, it took 6 long min.

Post Time Trial at the top of Col du Tourmalet, I'm in red jersey headed for a photo with Octave - photo Twitter Haute Route
Total frenzy at the top with riders and crowds all over the road, free-ranging much like the sheep and cows! No car travelling that road could easily get by. Could barely even tell there was a road as it looked like a party!

Many photos were taken with the statue of Octave Lapize. The statue was put up in honour of Octave who was the first racer to the top of Col du Tourmalet held in the Tour de France in 1910.

Had a nice fast descent with a couple riders from “Team Tyred and Tested!”. On the gentler grade back to Argelès-Gazost, I followed one rider at a nice easy pace into town.

Relaxing via Compex... with Canadian riders Jim Salusbury (left) and Jon Bula (right). My roomie Vanessa from France sitting in the white chair kept me company
Osteopath Gael was amazing helping release all the tension in the arms to my hands. I was getting numbness into the first three fingers on both hands on the climbs. 

A POC aero helmet for the top riders in the TT
 - nice astronaut look though aero!
Caroline did not start the time trial. Amy came in 3rd with Pauline Sabine from France in 2nd. During the three Haute Route events, Amy best utilized the time trial days as rest and recovery days. Makes sense as only a couple minutes effort could be gained and the recovery time would be much more welcome.

All Haute Route POSTS

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Day 4 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - Long Climbs & Lonely Descents

Day 4 - Bagnères-de-Luchon to Angelès-Gazost
119 km / 3600 m+ / 3800 m-

After a 4 km neutral start, the pace went out hard up the first climb Col de Peyresourde (900m over 15 km). My body reacted like I was on the Sunday training ride in the Okanagan (!) and I jumped onto the back of the leading group.

Strange to put in a strong effort after having a rough night’s sleep with coughing. It felt like I could have used 2 more hours of sleep. Not to mention the fact of getting my period the night before.

The pace was hard and my breathing was on the edge. My legs felt super heavy. I wondered if this was a smart idea or I goofed using up too much energy.

Soon, I dropped off the pace as I realized this was not just a weekly group training ride - this was the 4th stage with 3 huge climbs ahead. It was exciting to try!

Photo from 2013 with peloton in sight and cows on the steep hillside
Alone, I rode up the top switchback turns hovering at a decent pace. The scenery was as I remembered it last year, with cows perched on the steep banks.

The descent to Arreau was twisty and fun. I was alone for quite awhile. On the long flat section through the Aure Valley, a peloton finally caught me with Caroline in tow. Doh, I could have just ridden the climb more relaxed at Caroline's pace.

Short steep 20% section through a village - photo Manu Molle
Steep start to the 2nd climb Col de Hourquette d’Ancizan (700m over 11 km). Average through the woods was 8%. I jumped to follow the pace of the guys and sensed that Caroline might not join us. Her breathing was heavy when I passed by her.
photo Manu Molle
With heavy legs I climbed with a few guys. Dropped off a little with only another UK rider. A few cool views of the village way down below else it was mostly forest. Crested and quickly descended alone. 

I saw a few riders ahead and knew I needed them for the descent. Fortunately, there was another short hillclimb ahead allowing me enough time to work hard to catch up to them.
Followed them down the next descent and through the valley. Our group grew to around 7 riders before going into the start of the big climb up Col du Tourmalet (1270m over 17 km).
Lead group leaving the villages - photo Manu Molle
The road started out with a deceivingly easy grade. Up high in the distance, I could see the avalanche tunnel we would be riding up to.

Slowly riders dropped off the pace. I ended up riding with Iron rider David Faltus from Czech Republic and Jon Bula from Canada. I had to focus strongly to stay with their pace, staring down at their back wheels.

The cumulative fatigue from the climbs was felt. The grade was average 8.5% to start and not so bad, just tired at this point in the day. It would be a bonus for me to hold onto the guys pace until the 5 km to go sign.

I caught that view! - photo Manu Molle
Before we continued under the avalanche tunnel, I did turn my head to capture the amazing view of the tiny village below.

A sign just like that one frazzled me with the statistics left to go to the top - photo Haute Route Twitter
With 6 km to go, seeing the 10% grade on the distance marker sign frazzled me. Normally, I appreciate reading the information of elevation, % grade, and distance left to the summit. I mentally dropped off the pace. Took out a gel, then started my pace again. The boys were in sight only 100m ahead the rest of the way to the top.

steep - photo Manu Molle
Fortunately there was no headwind. Crazy sheep were crossing the road at any moment unexpectedly. Cows were all over though keeping to the side of the road happily eating grass.

Passing by the feedzone 5km before the summit, I hollered “orange” in my best French accent. A volunteer kindly grabbed a couple, handed me one while pushing me as he jogged beside me, then gave the other one – so Tour de France!!

Pic du Midi as a backdrop in the ascent of Tourmalet - photo Manu Molle
A slow march up the last 4 km. The grade was not so bad. The views of the switchbacks and the summit so high above was menacing. Meanwhile, the scenery was outstanding.

pic of Benoit finishing Day 7 - photo Fabrice Calatayud
Benoit passed by. He was riding well with the lead group until his tire had a puncture.

the cheering sheep - photo Manu Molle
Riding by a few buildings, I could have sworn I heard a person cheer “All-ehhhh All-ehhhh”. I looked around a few times to wave hello. Realized it was just sheep baa-ing! Tired!

Slogging the last few km climb... typical chalk markings on the ground for entertainment -
The last 500m was so slow. I glanced down at the pavement for the next marking on the ground after "500m". Finally saw “200m” written. Even the last 20m was steep and slow to get over the timing mat.

I called out for water. The exceptional volunteer at the feedzone remembered me from prior days and quickly filled my water bottle.

Love those descents! - photo Haute Route
I zoomed down fast alone. It was a long 38 km to get to town. The first few corners were tricky where a couple riders crashed and hurt themselves, fortunately not too badly.

I was careful for any sheep or cow crap on the road which was slippery for the skinny tires. Many twists and turns then mostly a long fast straight-away easily going 65 kph.

The long "fast" descent - photo Haute Route Twitter
I had to pass a few vehicles. Re-passed the same vehicle a few times within the next 10 km. Tucked, and held on!!

The road was exception with fresh pavement. Last year, the road was in rough shape due to the major floods in the spring and had been under construction most of the way. Swooping down was amazingly smooth and confidently fast.

As I tucked downhill, I periodically checked over my shoulder for another rider. No-one in sight. My concern was the peloton bringing another woman closer to me again.

Ripping through a village with faith the volunteers were controlling traffic! -
Heading through the village was dodgy with many intersections and corners. Made it through cleanly and continued down the long 7% graded stretch.

Finally, a rider was in sight behind me with only 13 km to go. I welcomed Triple Rider Paul Donnelly when he caught up to me. I told him I would help when I could though I was deadweight to lead at his pace.

Paul pulled so smoothly at 41 kph. When I took a turn at the front, our speed dropped immediately 4 kph. Barely enough time for Paul to get a break, he took the lead again. When the road had any rise I would accelerate hard to go ahead and give him a teeny break.

Riders crossing Argeles-Gazost finish - photo Haute Route Twitter
Big thanks to Paul for being a huge help to get me into the village.

Quite pleased with my effort for the day! The darn head cold is diminishing. Yesterday's choice for recovery ride was the best thing I could have done to gain energy.

Checking the start time list for tomorrow's time trial, I was listed starting 1 min behind Caroline. The order for the time trial was to be slowest to fastest GC times of the riders. Hmm, could I possibly have surpassed her huge GC lead of 16 min? The unofficial results for today had Caroline listed in 2nd place only 6 min back of me. Puzzled... 

Cyril Tiné took over race Leader for Day 2, 3, and 4.
I scored a beer for Paul and local miel for myself!
At awards, Amy was called up for 2nd place. I went up for 1st place. No Caroline. I was then surprised to be called up as the new Leader. I was not clear on what happened to Caroline.

When I saw the official results later... Caroline had a super rough day finishing just under 20 min from me. Amy finished in an awesome time just over 6 min back of me. I was only 4:25 min ahead of Caroline in the GC.

Anything is possible and Caroline could still work for the Leader's jersey. She is super strong. It will be another interesting women's competition this year.

Feedback later from Amy... at the start of Day 4 when I jumped to follow the lead group, she said Caroline attempted as well, as did Amy. Caroline dropped off, and Amy said that pace just hurt her legs. Knowing it was a hard move for me, it was hard for the gals as well.

View from my hotel room
Happy to find the bio market in the village with fresh figs and homemade biscotti. Based at the same hotel for two nights in a row with the Time Trial stage the next day.

Hotel entrance was at the back of a restaurant with a teeny staircase to climb up many many stairs.

Very closed in buildings, view from my room

Angelès-Gazost was yet another spa town at the foot of the Aubisque and the Tourmalet. Both of these are the most legendary Tour de France climbs.