Monday, September 01, 2014

Day 1 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - Canada Grade!

Day 1 - Ripoll to Font-Romeu
93 km / 2500 m+ / 1400 m-

The race start was to be in the medieval town of Ripoll near the Spanish-French border. It is known as the birth place of Catalonia, which has a famous Benedictine monastery built in the Romanesque style.
At 7:15 a.m., a bus shuttle drove the riders from the race hotels in Barcelona, 100 km north to the village of Ripoll for the race start. - twitter photo Steven Richard, one of my teammates on Team "For Adventure"
Upon arriving, I picked up my bike waiting overnight in a gymnasium. The previous day, my bike had been loaded onto a truck at registration and transported overnight.

Had time to relax in the village centre before the 10:30 a.m. race start. There was a very casual atmosphere amongst the riders and nervous smiles.

Start of Day 1 - photo Manu Molle
After a loop around the village, the neutralized convoy of riders went over the timing mat at 5.4 km. As the pace picked up quickly, I hovered within the top 30 riders with a couple other women.

The road was irregular in its ascent though not steep. Eventually the pace on the ascents had some riders struggle the last distance to the top of Col de Merolla (259m in 11.8 km).

It was bumper to bumper riders on the narrow twisty descent which made it tough to progress as some riders slowed in the corners. Needed to be cautious for any rider braking unexpectedly.

Pyrenean landscapes - photo Manu Molle

The start of the 2nd climb Col de la Creueta (880m in 17.4 km) began steeply. Scenery was beautiful with huge green hills and mountains. Roads were still narrow.
I was around a few riders though there was jostling for position. Got into a groove and started gaining on the riders that I had been bottlenecked behind on the descent. Most riders coasted when the grade lessened. I took opportunity to accelerate my pace and catch the next group.

Fresh on Day 1! - photo Haute Route

At the back of a group of 5 riders, I took the lead to increase the pace. Only rider Paul Donnelly from UK joined me. He took a strong pull then I continued on to catch the next group.

It was getting windy in the open sections. When I was alone into the headwind, I took the pace easier. When the wind was behind me, I hauled and worked to catch the next guy.
Windy ridge - photo Haute Route Twitter
At the top after crossing the timing mat, it was a stop time point. Our time would restart after we reached the bottom of the next Col. We were told this was for safety reasons or road construction. Grabbed an orange slice and quickly moved onto the descent.

As I descended, a group formed. The road seemed perfectly safe as it was wide and smooth with no traffic. A long untimed section 32 km made no sense whatsoever. Oh well, we all rode it casually together. Saw many herds of cows in the pasture, and huge stocky mountain horses. The baby horses were so stocky with thick fur.

Twins! My friend Philippe Itschak Zivan S├╝ssholz from Israel
Had time to chat with a few riders on-route. Met Paul again who I rode with earlier. He is one of the Triple Crown riders – I was thrilled to be riding with him and told him so. He’s in the 50+ category and looked strong.

Last climb into the finish. Paul Donnelly just behind. -
Stopped at the feed zone before crossing the next timing mat. Filled up with water and grabbed a couple apricots. Waited for a group of guys to leave at the same time. We started out on a gradual ascent then it rose quickly. I was more fatigued though was happy to work with a few of the guys. We dodged back and forth amongst ourselves with a couple of us bridging up to a few earlier departers. The last few km, I worked with Paul and another rider to the end.

Finish high up at Font-Romeu

After putting my bike in the secured bike park, it was a long walk uphill to book in for massage. Another walk to the showers. Walk back to the amazing massage. Had time to stretch. Downhill walk to grab lunch at the race village.

Remaining 10 Triple Crown riders at the Pyrenees - photo Manu Molle
Caught up with Triple Crown rider Nuno Luz. Amazing how much a Triple Crown rider eats! Nuno shared his recent Haute Route experience with riders sitting around us. We were all impressed with the feat of riding the three events. The best comment for Nuno’s strategy to the end was “Bring the ship to port”! Nuno lives in Lisbon so an appropriate comment.

That's my green drink amongst Nuno's small lunch
Also chatted with Lizzy who happily escaped the Lanterne Rouge. In October, Lizzy is going in the Mini-Transat off shore sailing event. Boat is 6 ½ metres, race is around 24 days. Nuno and I both thought that is more epic! Check

Leaders Day 1! Marg Fedyna from CA with Paul Hamblett from UK
I had a great day coming in first getting the Leaders jersey! German woman Caroline Kopietz from Germany was only 4 min back. Amy Brice who is a Triple Crown rider came in 3rd

Jersey is great as it is my size XS. Last year, all the XS sizes were wanted by every rider, top male and females. By the time I was Leader, the jersey I had to wear was way too big.

Town was very compressed on a hillside with pathways to link roadways. Font-Romeu is one of the oldest ski resorts in France and the oldest in the Pyrenees. 

According to the picture on the map, my hotel was to be down a goat path for 300m. Once down there, could then see the hotel high above the goat path, super small scale map. A kind local helped me find my way back and carried my bags. It was a long tiring day and lots to prep for tomorrow.

Many countries represented. Very cool to see the bib numbers on riders which showed their name and country. Made for easy conversation.

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Ruud van Dijk said...

I remember Lizzy from last year! Give her my best. And keep having fun!

Ruud van Dijk said...

end of day four: back in the lead!

Marg Fedyna said...

Thanks Ruud!
I was surprised when I was called up for the Leader's jersey. The unofficial results were incorrect having me in 2nd GC.

Marg Fedyna said...

Oh, and I certainly miss your company on the descents. Quite a lot of braking going on into the corners - super scary to follow!

Ruud van Dijk said...

and now your main competitor is out; can that frame escape you now?

Marg Fedyna said...

Likely no frame this year. Lots of cutbacks.