Registration for the race opened last Sunday next to lake Geneva on a beautiful day with clear blue skies and 30 degrees. We were all issued with our official kit and goody bags and told how tough the week was going to be. Over 450 riders entered the race. Most of the people I seemed to bump into were either ex-pros or national champion of something. I was starting to get a little nervous as my official photo in the Haute Route kit was taken.
The race started early at 07:00 on Monday morning next to the lake. Almost 1000kms ahead of us and around 20,000m of climbing – averaging 3 passes per day.
Day 1 (176km, 4100m) was from Geneva to Crans Montana through the Swiss Alps. With the excitement and over-zealousness of the first day, everybody went far too fast, me included. I averaged over 160bpm up the first three cols and having already done 2600m of climbing and 150km was feeling pretty tired by the time we hit the last pass, with 1500m of climbing and 25km still to go. Needless to say, it was torture. When I finally arrived at the finish line I just made it to the drink stand before collapsing with heat stroke for 40 minutes. Not an experience I would like to repeat – particularly since by the time I recovered the massages were fully booked. I’ve always secretly thought that people who collapse on finish lines are being a bit over dramatic. I don’t think that any longer!
Day 2 (144km, 3200m) took us to Andermatt over the Furka pass and the Oberall pass. The Furka pass is a climb of almost 2000m from the bottom of the valley to the summit and is famous for the James Bond chase scene in Goldfinger. We were passed by the Ferrari Club, the Porsche club, the Maserati club (to name but a few) all pretending to be Bond.
Day 3 (46km, 550m – only 15km timed) was a time trial up the Bernina Pass. I thought I had really smashed it and must surely be in the top 100 only to discover that I was 193rd. Incredible to believe that 193 other riders had gone even faster than me! The weather was awful – most of the ride being in the pouring rain, resulting in several riders needing to be rescued from hypothermia on the descent.
Day 4. Aaagh – highlight of the week, the Stelvio Pass – the highest in the alps – closed due to heavy snow and high winds. The ride should have been 96km and 3300m but was reduced to 75km and 1300m by taking out Stelvio. By the time we got to Bormio at the foot of the pass it had stopped snowing and several riders did the pass anyway. I would have joined them if not for an increasingly swollen tendon on my left heel.
Day 5 (148km, 3600m) tomorrow from Bormio to Meran over the Gabia Pass and several others. I’m hoping my tendon will make it.
Overall Position so far:
Day 1: 186
Day 2: 177
Day 3: 164
Day 4: 161
There are a lot of very fast riders! More to follow unless I collapse again!!