So, just a few hours to go before we embark on stage 1 of Haute Route Pyrenees. We been briefed this evening and fed well. At 7.30 tomorrow morning we start in Pau with a 148km stage ahead of us. Two big climbs, Col de Labays and Col de Marie Blanque will give us 2700m of upward challenge. Around 350 riders are heading to bed now and it looks like we’ll wake to a beautiful day.
Day 1 of events like this is all about staying calm and not pushing too hard too early. With so much anticipation and preparation the excitement of starting something like this can easily encourage riders to go too hard too soon with inevitable consequences later in the day as those early efforts take their toll. We’ve all got to temper our efforts and keep in mind that we have a big week ahead of us. I know only too well how easy it is to go too hard on the first day and to pay the price dearly with huge time losses on the final climb of the day due to bad pacing. I just hope I manage heed my own advice! The beginning of this event is very exciting and it takes discipline to keep the efforts controlled. Some riders, myself included, will use power meters to help ‘cap’ and regulate efforts, other will ned to do it more by feel.
Tomorrow will also be a day of discovery as all the various fitness levels of the riders manifest themselves on the road and we all become aware of where we rank in the peloton. After a flat ‘neutralised’ first few kilometres we will be released to race and as soon as there is a significant rise in the road the peloton will start to fragment into it’s various levels. At this point we’ll start to discover who our rivals are likely to be for the week as we look around at who we are riding with after the ‘selection’ has taken place.
Time to sleep now, everything is ready, come on legs, show the Pyrenees what you can do!
You can track riders in the event live at https://www.hauteroute.org/live
This Saturday sees the start of the Haute Route Pyrenees cycling event. It will be our third consecutive year participating in this incredible race and this year with our biggest team ever. For the last couple of years I’ve written blogs on a few of the days to describe my experiences of the event and this year I’ll try to do this even more thoroughly in an effort to cover all the up and downs of what I consider to be the ultimate road cycling event for amateur cyclists.
The next 7 days will see myself and the other 9 riders in our Alpine Cadence team ride 7 big stages through the Pyrenees, 20000m of climbing and around 800km of challenging terrain await us.
I usually come into events like this with quite specific goals, perhaps to finish in the top 20 or to improve on a previous performance in the event. This year is different though as last year in the same event I punched above my weight by finishing 5th overall. A result that was earned from a combination of consistency from myself and various misfortunes befalling my rivals. Believe me, I was certainly not the fifth strongest rider in the event but I was just lucky not to get any bad luck. 7 day events like this are all about avoiding your losses, avoiding a bad day. If you can get through 7 days with no mechanical issues and no pacing or tactical mistakes then you are very lucky, I was lucky last year.
With that in mind I’m really looking forward to this year’s event and in some ways not pressurising myself by having a particular goal. I had a fantastic result last year, it’s unlikely that it will happen again, this year I’m determined to enjoy every aspect of the whole experience and share it through my words.
As I write this we are travelling to Pau, the start/finish town for the race. The days leading up to something like this need to be as relaxed as possible, eat well, drink lots of water and ride a bike very little! Tomorrow we’ll all complete our registration for the event in Pau, attend a pre race briefing and maybe a short ride to ensure that all’s well with the bike. In the next 24 hours around 300 riders will arrive from all corners of the globe to compete. All sorts of different aspirations and goals, many riders just hoping they can finish the event, which is an achievement in itself. Other’s hoping for a particular placing or perhaps trying to do well in their age category in the event. The one thing all riders share in common is to make the most of 7 days of total immersion in incredible cycling in a beautiful place. The nearest opportunity to experiencing what pro cyclists go through. Riding a bike with like minded others and not having to worry about anything else. Huge amounts of hours on the bike have gone into preparing for this for each rider, most have entered the event 6-9 months prior, all the training, planning and preparation is about to be rewarded, and tested.
I get quite anxious and worked up in the lead up to events like this, double and triple checking everything from my equipment to the course details. For me it’s such a relief when the race itself starts.
Over the next few days I’ll try to convey in words what it’s like to participate in this thing. I know there will be surprises and I know there will be emotion. It’s going to be very tough but that’s what we’re all here for. Let’s the games begin!