above: Barry (on the left) showing us his "just climbed Alpe d'Huez" face

2 seconds... 2 seconds from glory...

I have done the Alpe D'Huez climb twice before; both times in the afternoon and the baking heat. And both times I hated it.

So the 3 day Haute Route ADH promised the chance for redemption, with a time trial up Alpe d'Huez on Day 3; and with a 9.30am start it would be cool.

A target for a decent club rider is 1 hour; I hoped that being fresh I could make it under the hour, but after two big days riding I wasn't so sure... Anyway, without killing the suspense, I ended up doing 1.00.01. I must be part of a select group of riders with the unwanted distinction of just missing out!

All joking aside the event was amazing. Unlike the Stelvio last year we were blessed with 3 great days weather. Sunny but not too hot; if it had been 2 weeks before with the European heatwave we would have been in real trouble.

The only downside of this particular event is its either up or down; there are few flat or rolling sections where you can get a good group together and really race.

Descending much improved, climbing worse...

In the pursuit of research I did the event on my Cervélo S5D; an out and out aero race bike.
It was not terrible; but a classic race bike like a Tarmac, F12, R5 or SuperSix would have been a much better choice.

The S5D came with with a 52/36 and 11-30 cassette; truth is I was overgeared and would have been much better on a proper compact. The amount of times I was in my bailout gear at the very start of the climb and grinding away...

The good news is that descending was amazing; for the first time in a big Euro event I was actually overtaking people on descents and not getting dropped.

Day 1: A beast; a total beast

The official route summary says it all...

The 2019 Haute Route Alpe d'Huez begins with a 123-kilometer stage with 3700 meters of climbing, featuring ascents of the Col de la Croix de Fer in two directions before climbing to the finish in Alpe d'Huez via Villard-Reculas.

Starting from the town of Alpe d'Huez, riders will be escorted in a secured convoy downhill via Villard Reculas. The timed stage will start on the Verney Dam, as the road quickly turns uphill towards the Col de la Croix de Fer.

The climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer is over 20km long and can be managed in three parts with two small descents during the climb that will allow for some recovery. Reaching 2,067m at the summit, this is the highest col riders will summit during the event, and one of the most famous Tour de France climbs in the Alps.

The 15-kilometer descent will be a welcome opportunity to recover, refuel, and enjoy the tremendous views. The ascent back up the Col de la Croix de Fer starts with a small loop before rejoining the road riders came down.

Once you reach the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer for a second time, riders get to enjoy the amazing descent. Remember, however, that those two short descents you enjoyed on the way up will now be short climbs on your way down.

With just one climb left, riders will recognize the road back to Alpe d'Huez from descending it earlier in the day. Climbing back to the resort via Villard-Reculas, this is a longer but shallower ascent than the climb compared to either the Sarenne riders climb on Stage 2 or the famous 21-switchbacks of the Alpe d'Huez itself.

With a slight descent two-thirds of the way up the climb and beautiful panoramic views from the Route de la Confession, riders should take this as an opportunity to recover and refuel one final time before the last push to the summit and finish line in Alpe d'Huez.

This was a monster of a day, a real challenge, and we were just grtting started. Energy needed to be conserved, and I was glad of the ease of descending on the super nimble and aero S5D (and grateful for the disc brakes on those hairpin bends).

Day 2: Shorter but just as sharp

Before the event started I thought a 70km stage was way too short and that I would want to go for another ride later... The reality was this mere 70km had 2900m of climbing packed into it.

We did this amazing climb up, and the views were stunning. We then descended and did the climb to Les Deux Alps which was fairly non eventful. The highlight of the day was the climb to La Sarenne, which had some rough road surfaces but absolutely incredible views.

Over again to the official stage description:

The second stage of the 2019 Haute Route Alpe d'Huez is a short but demanding 70km route with two categorized climbs and a total of 3,000m of climbing. Starting in the town of Bourg-D'oisans at the foot of Alpe d'Huez, the route climbs up the first few of the famous 21 bends before branching off in La Garde.

A short respite ensues before the road turns back uphill and contours the mountain with beautiful views across the valley below. Crossing over the Romanche River, the road soon turns back uphill on the opposite side of the valley towards Les 2 Alpes.

The toughest part of the climb to Les 2 Alpes comes in the first 3km with sections above 10%, before it settles into a more palatable 7-8% through the switchbacks. Once you reach the village you will turn and descend back down the same road for the first part of the descent. Halfway down you will branch right towards the foot of the brutal but beautiful Col de Sarenne.

Rising to 1999m, the climb to Col de Sarenne from the Chambon Dam is 12.8km long at an average gradient of 7.5%. Within these 12.8km are 3km of flat or descent, meaning the rest of the climb is significantly steeper than the average 7.5%. With an average gradient in excess of 11% for the first kilometer to Mizoen, and several ramps above 13%, you'll be wise to pace yourself and take it easy in the first section of the climb. The final 7km snake along the face of the mountain on a narrow mountain-road with breathtaking views, which hopefully will make up for the tiredness that begins to be felt in your legs.

Once you crest the Col de Sarenne a small descent ensues during which you can catch a tantalizing glimpse of the finish line before winding downhill and joining the 21 bend climb to Alpe d'Huez just 4 bends from the summit for the final climb of the day and summit finish in the town of Alpe d'Huez.

Day 3: The Time Trial

As described in the introduction, I was just two tantalising seconds from glory! After the exertion of the two previous stages there just wasn't enough left in the tank, and I just missed out on cracking the 1 hour mark.

But over the three days I had a brilliant time, and I'll be back for sure. Partly to drink in the incredible atmosphere (and scenery) of a Haute Route event - always brilliantly well organised and supported, and partly to crack that hour!

For information on upcoming Haute Route events, visit hauteroute.org

all photos courtesy Haute Route - hauteroute.org