Tag Archives: haute route

The Plans, They Are A Changin’


Today I made a big decision. The Haute Route is not going to happen, at least not this year. It was a difficult decision, but ultimately the right decision.

As most of you know, I’ve been recovering from a stress fracture for the last several weeks, and had trained on it for a few months prior. The sports medicine doctor had told me that the potential recovery timeframe could work with an event of this scale, but at that point, the injury did not seem as bad as it was. The thought was that I would be relatively pain-free, not need crutches, and get to cross-training (swimming) fairly quickly. None of those wishes came true.

Although there has been minor improvement, and the crutches are no longer necessary, the healing has been slow. The crucial moment was just a few days ago when I swam for the first time. Everything went well during the swim, but soreness lingered for a couple days afterward. The doctor advised me that I could continue swimming, but only with a careful amount of rest in between.

With each week, I have been losing valuable training time. Since I’ll have to resume slowly and carefully, it will still be awhile before I can really push the intensity. The reality is, a lot of training is required to succeed at an event like this. It is not the considered the highest and toughest cyclosportive in the world without reason.

I will heal, and if I pushed, I could complete the Haute Route event this year. The only problem is, I would not do nearly as well as I would like. The experience would be more suffering than it would be otherwise, would take more time on the bike, and simply not be as fun. Not to mention, my team has been training this entire off-season, and most likely would be well beyond me come August.

Most everyone I have talked to agreed that this was the right move. As Coach Bobby put it, this injury is most likely a one-time thing that needs to heal. At some point I will bounce back and be strong again.

As of present, I am looking into my options, but most likely I will defer my registration to the 2014 Haute Route. This gives me the comfort zone to focus now on my recovery without worrying too much about the training I’m missing, while not ruling out this amazing event for the future.

As for the rest of 2013, I have no doubt that plenty of adventures are waiting for me. There are lots of cycling playgrounds in the world. We’ll definitely have another big vacation, possibly another sojourn to Colorado, maybe a trip to France, maybe California, or maybe somewhere else entirely. And of course, I will spend a lot of time in the Blue Ridge, hopefully exploring some new areas.

For now, I’m being smart.

2013 Haute Route Alps – Route Details

haute route 2013


In case I needed some motivation to recover and rest, today they announced the route details for the 2013 Haute Route in the Alps. This year the route will be 85% brand new, which means there are a lot of climbs that are not familiar to me.

Gerry has posted a nice breakdown of the route that includes climb specifications. It seems most are in the average 5-6% grade vicinity. Individually that doesn’t sound too terrible, but all of them combined will certainly take a toll.

Some interesting notes:

  • The route begins in Geneva and ends in Nice, just like last year.
  • We’ll dip into Italy for a short loop during one of the stages.
  • Most stages will have end at the summit of a climb.
  • The marathon stage will be on day 3, with a total of 102 miles and nearly 11,000 feet of climbing.
  • The ‘rest day’ time trial is on day 5. This year it is Cime de La Bonette, which I hear is a beast of a climb.
  • Total mileage: 538 (866 km)
  • Total climbing: 70,000 feet (21,000 meters)
  • 7 excruciatingly beautiful days!

Wow! Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, CNN recently published an article listing the Haute Route as one of the toughest endurance challenges in the world.

The only drawback to this being a mostly new route is that some of the legendary, historic climbs are left off. I’ll have to make another trip to cross a few others off the bucket list, such as Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Courcheval, Ventoux, and more (many of these are too far away to be on Haute Route anyway).

One cool thing is that Bonette, the time trial, is the highest paved road in Europe. I’ve already climbed the highest road in North America, so this will be extra special.

At first glance, it looks like they’ve outdone themselves. This is no joke, serious pain in suffering. There’s a lot of time between now and then. Hopefully I’ll be able to look at some of the stages in a little more detail.

The Haute Route Team Takes Shape

There have been a few changes since I last talked about the team. Regular readers might remember that once I signed on the dotted line, the team filled up almost immediately.

Once the financial and physical reality set in, a few of the committed members backed out. At one point we had too many members for a full team, then almost overnight, we did not have enough.

We scrambled to find replacements. At first this was an international team, which I suppose it still is, but we now have a larger Carolina contingent. Five of the Nine members live in North or South Carolina. Wes, Chris, Ed, and Paul, welcome to the team.

We also have a name. After much discussion, and a lot of bad suggestions(including all of mine!), good ol’ Gerry came up with ‘Vicious Cycle.’ We had waffled on all the names before it, but this one was welcomed unanimously.

The name works on a lot of levels. First of all, we’ll be frothing at the mouth viciously as we attack the climbs of the alps — at least that is what we are convincing ourselves. We’ll be a pack of wolves, and our prey will be the legendary Cols of Alpine France. Whether we attack with vicious vigor, or if we whimper to the finish line, is yet to be seen.

The multiple meanings don’t stop there. The training schedule is also going to be a vicious cycle, although most of that biting will be done to ourselves. And, in case nobody noticed, we ride bicycles, viciously.

Gerry took to the idea so much that he re-named his blog. I recommend all of those who are interested in the Haute Route, and following this blog, to also follow him. Here is his profile post about the team members.

Once we had a name, we had to get registered. I have to credit Rob and Gerry for that. They did the appropriate research to get in via the Team Guaranteed program, coordinated payment, and made it all official.

Because of this registration system, we were official before registration opened to the public on November 1st. That’s a good thing, because I understand that it sold out in roughly 15 minutes. There’s a lot of demand for this ride, and we have to credit the organizers for not overwhelming the event with larger registration numbers.

Next comes the jersey design, which Rob is generously going to quarterback. We have already selected a company, and thrown around a few thematic ideas. More on that later.

Most importantly, we recognize the ambition of what we’re trying to accomplish. Training is underway on all fronts. We’ll be ready.

France in 2013

Image credit: Gerry Patterson

2013 has been on my mind for the last few months. 2012 has been phenomenal. How can I top it? For awhile, I was somewhat committed to doing Iron Man Florida next year. I even went ahead and made arrangements to volunteer this year, which allows you first dibs on registering for next year. I had even ramped up my running slightly (from 0 to maybe 3 miles per week, very slightly), and put some 5k races on my calendar.

Change of plans. I’m now going to France!

I have wanted to ride in the France alps, and even considered a trip for next year, but that went went on the back-burner once I geared towards Iron Man. Lately I’ve been waffling on going the triathlon route. I can run, but I’m not a runner. I don’t particularly enjoy it. As I started to think about next year’s rides, I felt disappointment that I would skip some amazing cycling, only to focus on running and swimming.

I received an email this week from fellow blogger Gerry. He is a Canadian living in southern France that shares the same passion for hills that I do. He just happens to live near some of the historic, legendary climbs that the pros ride through every year in July. He was putting together a small team for the Haute Route event. Would I be interested?

Yes. Emphatically, yes! I had to first clear it with my wife. I’m lucky to have a cool and understanding wife. She gave her blessing, and I hope she can come with (depends on her school schedule).

So I’m in.

The Haute Route is a 7-day cycling “tour.” I don’t mean that in the casual bike tour sense, where I take my time riding at 12 mph, stopping for every tourist attraction that I encounter. This is a tour in the spirit of the Tour de France. It is a timed event for amateurs that roughly simulates seven stages of the Tour de France. In other words, it will be a world of pain, but I will love it!

This year’s route is from Geneva to Nice, and passes through all of the historic climbs of the French Alps. From what I understand, you name them and they’ll be included. This year has a time trial up Alpe d’Huez. Ouch!

Now that I am going forward with this endeavor, I need to plan my training. Yes, it is a year away, but I’ll need all that time to get prepared. I will be renewing my relationship with Apex Nutrition all the way through the event next year. I may also explore some affordable coaching options. This will be one of the rare years where Assault on Mount Mitchell will actually be a training ride.

France. Galibier! Ventoux! Madeleine! All the rest. I almost cannot believe I’m doing this. In the immortal words of Bart Scott, I can’t wait!