For 2019 I decided to try something new, the double – with Pyrenees and Alps back to back. 14 stages with one day off in the middle for travel from Pau to Megeve.
The morning of the 3rd stage I woke exhausted and was pretty sure today would be a long one. My goal was to defend my third place on the climber classification and try to gain time on the third place in the general classification.
Today the first timed climb was a small col de la madone climb in Italy of 6k at 10%. We attacked it completely cold with virtually no warm up. The rider directly behind me in the classification went hard so I did too. I ended up gaining another 20 seconds on him, but I definitely went too far into the red for it.
After a short descent and some valley we came to the green jersey sprint section. During the first couple of stages we all became friends with Nicolai from Denmark. As he was now wearing the green jersey we decided to help him keep it.
The sprint section is basically a flat or rolling hill section of around 1.5k. I decided to do initial lead out as I was certainly the weakest sprint. I reached max speed just before the start and held it for a whopping 300 m or so. Then it was up to Benoit to ride with him until the final uphill finish. Result was good he won by several second over the 2nd place. That was great, but I could also tell the legs were getting worse.
In just another 10k we reached the start of col de la Lombard which would take us to 2300m and into France. Within the first kilometer I knew it would be a terrible climb for me. I could only watch as my closest competitors rode away from and out of sight. I lost 10 minutes to the rider behind me in gc and dropped from 4th to 5th on the gc. In the end I was just glad it was over. And one can only hope that this slightly shorter stage of 100k would allow me to recover better for tomorrow’s time trial up to the highest paved road in Europe le col de la bonette
After a very quite night’s sleep we awoke to some rather ominous cloud cover in La Colmiane.
On today’s agenda was Turini form the west side (general classification chrono) followed by Brouis, a long slog up the vallée de Royal culminating with the very difficult col tende (climber classification).
The climb up Turini from La Bollène-Vésubie is quite tough with ave gradients above 7% for more than 15k. I stayed with Laurent and Benoit for the first few kms but dropped back to ride my own pace the rest of the way, eventually finishing 4th on the climb with better legs than the day before. Benoit and Laurent took 1st and 2nd once again.
After a dangerous descent we arrived in Sospel for a water refil and the easier cold de brouis climb. We took it fairly easy as it wasn’t timed. A fast descent after took us to the vallée de Roya. Then there was a long uphill slog to a tunnel that connects France and Italy.
As bikes are not allowed in the tunnel we had obligation (or opportunity?) to ride the real mountain pass, another 10kms at around 7-8%. That sounds bad enough before you consider that 6 if the 10k are on gravel better suited for a mountain bike.
I think Col de Tende pit seriously into the red as I was starting hard and then forced push hard during the whole gravel section fearing that by putting my foot down, it would be hard to restart. I finished well and took third on the climb with Laurent just in front in second. But, it really took a lot out of me and we still had another 52 kms to get to our hotel in Valdieri making it 167kms for the day.
Today’s stage will leave its mark on the next.
After a hectic evening getting settled into the hotel we awoke to beautiful sunshine. Unfortunately that was at 5am and then I couldn’t go back to sleep. But even with limited sleep I was motivated to get to the start line.
The stage started with the climb of the day for the climber classification, Col d’Eze, well known for its many Paris Nice appearances. I felt good but not excellent. Laurent and Benoit took first and second and Stephanie was the first feminine I managed a decent 5th place.
After the chrono we had a nice ride along the see to the start of the next timed section.
The second climb was Braus combined with Turini and counted for the yellow jersey general classification. This time it was Benoit taking the honors and the maillot jaune along with it. Laurent stayed close with 2nd and I managed 4th
That evening we stayed in La Colmiane ski station and had a nice meal of Paella.
Tomorrow’s stage will be the toughuof the week so we try to sleep as early as possible
The day before a 7 stage cyclo is always a bit stressful. Getting to the start line involves logistics like travel, bags, race numbers, hotel check in, parking your car somewhere for a week, quickly finding dinner, and most importantly having your bike in good condition.
In my case we had a team effort with Team Spoc, my local club. I did bag transport with my car and bike and the others rode to Nice. We all met to get our dossards.
After a small delay sorting our hotel for the evening we were all set for the briefing.
The organizers went through all the details – everything from stage timing details to how the bags will be transported between each stage.
TMNCA is not a typical cyclo in that only specific sections of the stage are timed each day. There is one climb that will count for the climbers jersey competition, a segment from 1 to 5km that will count for the green sprinter jersey, and finally, a second climb that will count for the overall yellow jersey. At the end of the 7 days there will be an accumulated time of each of the jersey specific segments for final classification.
After the briefing it was quick to eat, go to hotel and exchange all our affairs into official travel bags, then drive to week long parking, and ride bike back to hotel (a few kms). I was finally settled in my hotel room at 10 pm.
Now the fun begins.
In two days I’ll be at the start line of Tour Metropole Nice Côté d’Azur. After a two year hiatus this will be the second edition and my first.
The format of TMNCA is similar to the Haute Route in that there are seven stages, ~ 750kms with more than 19000 meters of climbing. The main difference is that only 2 climbs per day are timed, making the rest of the day more relaxed and more randonnée than cyclosportf. I’ll be doing the race with three riders from my local Club Team Spoc which based in Nice.
Another difference from HR is that the stages will all be north of Nice with a return to Nice the final stage.
From previous HR editions I find it important to start packing early and organise well. Otherwise after two days you can no longer find anything in your huge sac full of all cycling apparel weather options. My solution is to simply use clear plastic sacs for each general clothing category.
I also do a complete cleaning / revision of my bike. This meant new bottom bracket, tubulars (continental competition), and a thorough cleaning of chain, etc.
Tomorrow is dossard pickup, briefing, dinner, and hopefully a good night sleep…
So, it’s been over a month since Haute Route Alpes 2014 has ended. This is time for all the back to life realities to occur; all the pain of re-entry to your previous life of weekly work, whether that be hi-tech, selling clothes at the Gap, or working the grill at McD… There is likely a mix of all the above in HR, and we probably all feel these similar sentiments:
– what – it’s over? what do I do tomorrow?
– I’m tired – glad I don’t have to kill myself on the bike tomorrow
– Man, my bed feels good – especially my pillow
– Yahoo, no more ice baths (by far the most beneficial and most painful part of HR 2014 for me…)
In any case, as I alluded to in my previous post, I think this was my most enjoyable HR of the three I’ve completed. Like in 2011, I was fortunate enough to be paired with my good friend and fellow Antibois Jean. It was unfortunate that an injury prevented him from finishing, but we shared most of the week togehter in the same room with the same meals, the same goals, and the same outlook on life – a true friend you cannot find better… Jean is a true leader on the road and in life. He instills french wisdom on the road to our kids that I could never imagine imitating, but of which I am always envious and impressed. Both his vision of an unfolding race, and of the progression of a young person’s life in sports, are completely in line with what I envision for myself and my kids: Riding with Jean was the highlight of my HR 2014 – no question.
On a personal achievement level, I was quite worried coming into HR 2014. At 47 yrs old I’m starting to feel old and slow – and the temptation to order takeout pizza throughout 2014 with my family along with of course the healthy dose of beer or wine to accompany this made me not so skinny…
BUT, something about team spirit always motivates me beyond my own means. Once I knew Jean, as welll as local cyclists Bruno, Laurent, Alain, and Manu would participate, I was more motivated. OK, so my efforts aren’t on the level of Contador or Froome, but at least I tried to cut out all alcohol and most fat for two weeks before the start. I believe this really made a difference in my performance – I lost at least 2kg and felt great, not to mention sleeping much better without any beer involved… hmm, maybe I should just live like this normally???
With my above efforts, although minimal and recent, I felt I could at least ride in the lead group.
Well, not really – the first day was a shocker and I felt terrible from the moment the race went hard and uphill. This was not a good sign for the rest of the week.
I suffered on the first climb and managed to continue that sufferance to the end. But that isn’t exactly what I had hoped for the first day… In any case, the finish line was a welcome site and it was exactly that that got me motivated for the next day and the rest of the week.