Random musings from Haute Route

I love 'racing'. The feeling of riding in a living thing thats bigger than you is mesmerising. Smashing through the Gorges de la Nesque in a group of 50 of us will a lead car in front is something that will live long in the memory.

If Ventoux was 15km long it would be tough but cool. However at 21km its a pig. And the sections at 12% suck.

Doing Ventoux at the start of the day is a lot easier than doing it with 120km in your legs

Cycling in Provence is much more than just Ventoux. Because the big beast totally dominates the skyline I did not think there was much else there. I could not have been more wrong. From glorious roads through vineyards, to epic gorges to punchy 8-10km climbs the region has it all. You could send an amazing week riding here and never once go near Ventoux.

What a pleasure it was to see so many nice bikes, and riders admiring the various bikes. It had the feel of a glamorous car rally

Feed stops became a risk/reward. For reasons I wont bore you with, my Parlee only had one water bottle cage. Normally in a UK sportive thats not an issue. You stop when you want and its cool enough that dehydration is not an issue. However on Day 2 we had 140km and 3300m of climbing. We passed feed stations at 40km and 78km and I rode through both. I eventually stopped after 120km. Thats quite far to go on only one bottle and 3 gels when you have done 250 watts for three and a half hours. But the group I was in was so good that I knew if I stopped then I would never get back on, and you would lose many minutes fighting the wind on your own. So I risked dehydration and bonking for the free speed of the peloton. It was the right decision to make, but these tactical decisions were not ones I had ever faced before.

I need to be able to descend better. Losing touch with the group on fast descents just means you have to sprint full gas on the flat sections to catch up. And you do that enough times and it will eventually pay. You only have so much gas in the tank; you want to save as much as you can for the final climb…….

A 36 chainring and a 28 cassette is not big enough for me for these Alpine monsters. When the gradient is 8% or less I am okay. But when its 11-12% my cadence drops markedly, and so does power. Grinding at that cadence is no longer cycling, instead its a succession of leg presses…..Unlike in Mallorca which I feel is a cardio workout, Ventoux was never hard enough to really get the lungs going. Instead my legs gave out first.

There are many ways to skin a cat. My group had a 50yr old Frenchman in it - on a sustained climb he would get dropped, but he could descend like a demon and then catch us up and be ahead of us on the valley floor. On one road he caught a car, and motor paced it at 70 kmh on a windy road. He put minutes into us, and it took us ages to finally catch him. We may have been 'fitter' but he had alternative skills. At the end of the day you do what you need to to get to the finish as quick as you can.

Glamorous cycle events are booming. Haute Route has shown people will pay a decent price for a well run epic challenge. Wiggle et al cannot discount experiences or bucket list challenges

The 3 day Haute Routes may be shorter but they are not easy. People were training for these all summer. Dave and I showed it very little respect and rocket up on base training. I have spent all summer doing Ironman stuff - I have no top end at all. I managed to sneak into the top 50 overall - but the separation between my times and the really fast boys in the top 20 were marked. If (and its a big if) I want to get to that level I will need to really step it up. I will need to be able to climb a bit better, descend much better and practice a lot more race-craft. Not much then !!!

Competitors were a friendly bunch. I had heard some stories that it was a bit serious and argy bargy on some of the 7 day events. I cannot say, but in my experience the 3 days was full of great camaraderie. The standard of riding was very good, and people looked after one another on the road. If there was a pothole or some road furniture it was called out. People were quick on descents but without stupid risk taking.

I am a convert to Haute Route. Next year I want to do more. 3 day or 7 day (or both). Bring it on for next year…..