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Thursday, 01 September 2011 00:00

Haute Route 2011

This year saw the inaugural running of the Haute Route, billed as Europe's highest cyclosportive. Certainly not one for the faint hearted, the route would see riders cover 730km with 17000m of climbing (15 cols) over 7 days. Add in the competitive element of fighting for the leaders jersey or a high placing in your respective age group and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic event. Never one to shirk a challenge, Tony signed himself up. Here is a collection of his daily text message updates, a brilliant insight into the ups and downs of multi-stage events. For a more comprehensive race report (best race report ever?), a link to Tony's novella is provided at the bottom.

Haute Route Stage One: 107km, two climbs, 2500m ascent

Well I felt ballistic today. I struggled a little on the first flat 50km as it got rather fast in a big bunch, but once the Col de la Colombière appeared I seemed to just go past everyone. I had to hold back thinking of the next 6 days but just felt like superman (climbs were 275W and 270W pegged back from 290W). Anyhow it seems I was 7th overall - I finished with a 22 year old Dutch boy who beat me in the last 1 km. I have a feeling that was a few places higher than Alain Prost. I've not seen any official results so I might be quite wrong. I'm now very afraid that tomorrow I'll feel that I badly overcooked it today. Time for a nap - see www.hauteroute.org for official results. Team Tony

PS. Ah ha not quite as nice - 27th not 7th (sanity rules) but 3rd in age group and as it happens 8 minutes in front of Prost!

Stage 2: Megève to Les Arcs 102km, 2800m ascent. 3 Cols, middle one a bit mega

Well I woke up thinking that getting to reception would be a challenge as it was upstairs from my room. On start line I thought this is hopeless I'm so tired. Got going and missed a break of what seemed like 50 riders, so thought I'd have an easy day - well that went through my mind. Needless to say some sort of red mist came over me and come the 3 climbs I went as fast as I could (275W, 260W, 255W). Ended up 31st overall and 3rd again in my group. Amazing, although I put in some big efforts today and was in a right state at the finish. My descending is poor and I'm losing a fair bit of time here but it's not hopeless. Tomorrow is a huge day, 100 miles and mega climbs. Gulp. Team Tony

Stage 3: 169km, 4000m ascent. Huge climbs.

Man I'm totally exhausted. 29th overall today, but last hour was rather plodding. There was a howling head wind the whole way, really bad in sections. It's one thing going up these mountains, it's another with 20mph of wind in your face. Anyhow still 3rd in my group and about 20th in general classification. Time trial tomorrow if I can get out of bed. Team Tony. Col de la Madeleine 275W, Col du Télégraphe 245W, Col du Galibier 215W (!).

PS. I really think the wind did for me on the 15km before the Télégraphe. I should have waited for a group. I'm really stuffed but I think everyone is. Done the cold bath, drinks, massage, some of the stretches, foam roller to go, am wearing compression tights and hope to sleep, have BCAAs. Anything more I can do?

Stage 4: time trial, 12km and 1100m ascent

Went well but decided half way up to hold back. Burying myself may have got me 2 minutes better time but blowing up tomorrow could lose an hour. So 38th today but remain 29th overall and 3rd in my group. Tony. 1st 6km 285W, 2nd 6km 262W, 275W for the climb, 55:54 total time.

Stage 5: 112km 2600m ascent, 4h20

Bad day today. I couldn't keep up a high pace and mis-read things. A big group went away on the first 5km but as the climb progressed I passed so many I thought I was beginning to do okay. No one passed me on the descents and come the second climb I dropped a group of 15 riders. Utterly shattered at the finish and disappointed to find I'd finished 37th. I'm now 30th overall and 3rd in age group, but I must perform tomorrow! This event is well, er, challenging. Team Tony. 258W, 240W, 252W for 3 climbs.

PS. It's a shame because I'm still kicking out a good deal more power then in the Etape, but maybe it's just calibration. I've reached the stage of the walking dead. My heart rate is now suppressed and in every way I'm tired. Still just one day to go and a short much easier stage. Tony

PPS. Hmm just seen the results. I can see I lost pretty much 4 minutes on the descent (I whizzed past the female yellow jersey and her team with about 10km of the climb but they whizzed past me about 10km down the descent - she finished 3 mins ahead). Anyhow still clinging on to 30th but gained time to consolidate 3rd in age group. Pretty good really. There is no doubt I'm climbing rather well. Shame I'm not 20 years younger! Tony

Stage 6: 2300m ascent but just 79km today. 2h20

A new sensation of uber-fatigue has descended upon me. Still it's amazing just how much abuse one's body can take. I played an amateur game today not realising where the neutralised section ended and the race began. This meant I was outside the lead group going up the enormous 25km, 1600m ascent of the Cime de la Bonette - the highest pass in Europe so they told us. There was a strong headwind but no worry as I just overtook folks the whole way up. There was a nasty crash in front of me on a very windy descent, which made me particularly cautious and I lost about 6 of the places I had gained. No worry as I finished 40th and am hanging on to 30th overall. Third in my group looks, dare I say it, fairly safe as I gained time on the folks behind me. One day to go! Team Tony. Climbing average 258W

Stage 7: 140km 1000m ascent

Today was different, a one hour climb followed by an incredible 60km more or less downhill. I don't think I've ever been at such a sustained high speed. Frightening and a buzz. Finished 58th today behind a big bunch of riders but didn't lose much time. Strangely, lost time on the climb - not steep enough and a massive tailwind (273W). Overall came 31st*, 3rd in my age group which was the main objective, and 2nd best Brit. This was the best sports thing I've ever done by miles. Entering Nice with a police convoy and everyone hooting and cheering was quite a buzz. Life at the limit - fab. Team Tony

*Tony's overall placing included a number of teams above him so he was in fact the 18th solo rider!

For a full write up on his preparation and a more detailed run down on the event check out Tony's race report - La Haute Route story. It really is worth sitting down with a coffee to read, if only to discover how 'Team Tony' came to be born...

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