Adam Tranter, who is taking on the 780km on the back of a motorbike, which we’re fairly sure is cheating, blogs about day 2 at Haute Route.
The second day of the Haute Route is usually about the time where riders forget about the novelty of being at a multi-stage professional event, and go into “bloody hell I’ve got to do this all over again” mode. On paper, today was one of the easier stages. You know, it was only 105km, and there were only two Cols, and it was only 32 degrees Celsius.
I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Looking at people finish today, I’m not convinced there is such a thing as an easy stage here; it’s seven relentless days. Even the official rest day forces you to time trial up L’Alpe d’Huez.
Yesterday, I spent the majority of my time following the last half of the riders on the event; trying to capture the achievement people feel when they finish a stage. They’re a different bunch to the racing snakes at the front; finishing is the goal, the time they did it in is a rewarding afterthought. But today, I put myself at the front of the race in the only way possible for me – on the back of the motorbike.
Riders at this end of the scale are usually better and more experienced at coping with the heat. There’s also a lot of tactics, as you’d expect, with teams fighting it out to help each other for the solo and team classifications.
The real stand out rider for me here is Emma Pooley. I find this event interesting because it gives the rare answer to “how much better are the pros than me?” In some events, pros ride with amateurs, and they have a chat and a laugh. But rarely in these types of events are the pros going full pelt, as well as the amateurs going as hard as they can, as is the case here.
Pooley is great. The Olympian and World Time Trial Champion takes her day’s riding very seriously and gives it everything. After all, it is good training and the World Championships are not too far away. My stand out moment of today is seeing her, probably one of the lightest riders in the whole event, drop a whole group of people on a descent; she is a true pro in every sense.
“This event has the same effect as training because you push yourself really hard but there’s so many different people here,” explained Pooley. “And for some just finishing is an achievement and somehow mentally I find that really enjoyable.”
Pooley finished fourth overall and is the first in the Women’s General Classification. Also having another fantastic ride is Peter Pouly, who dropped his rivals on the last climb and rode in for a solo win, just under three minutes ahead of Michel Chocol from Team BMC. John Muya from the Kenyan Riders team finished third, the Kenyan Riders team have been showing some very promising signs.
As soon as riders finished in Courchevel, most of them joined the queue to bathe in a cold-water fountain – a novel way of cooling down and recovering. Most are still in good spirits, but were surprised how hard today was given that it’s one of the ‘easier’ stages.
“It’s not the normal way for people to spend their 50th birthday, but not a bad ride at all. It is so hot today, I was so grateful for the people handing out and spraying us with water. It’s not the weather I’m used to in the Pennines in the UK, I assure you,” said Neil Warner, who is celebrating (kind of) his birthday today. “I’m pleased, it’s a good way to spend my birthday really”.
But it’s tomorrow they really need to be worried about. It’s described as the marathon stage, today’s stage was rated 3/5 difficulty by the organisers. Tomorrow, it is 5/5.
It’s long at 138km, it’s tough with three Cols and it’s high with 4700m of total ascent. The climbs are the Col de la Madeleine, the Col du Glandon and to cap it all off, L’Alpe d’Huez.
Good luck riders, it’s going to be a tough one.
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