The Haute Route 2011 cycling race is currently underway in the French Alps. Artemis Racing’s coach Andrew (Dog) Palfrey updates us on the sixth day of the event.
Haute Route 2011 Stage 7
The one word to describe today was - Bloody Amazing.
It was a short day by comparison at 80 km. We rode together as a secured peleton for 20 km and then we went straight into the climb of the Cime de la Bonnette. It was 24km of climbing for 1600mtrs, which culminated in reaching the highest asphalted road in Europe at 2802mtrs!
It was a tough climb, but I was really happy with how it went. Mark and I got into a decent group after things settled down and we all stayed together until about 4km to the summit. The pace was tough going. We had periods of quite severe drainage-wind falling out of the summits and right in our face, so it was important to be in a group to share the load on the front.
There is a young pommy lad named Charlie that we have ridden with a lot this week. He is very athletic, 6'4', weighs 88kg and is 24yrs old. You would describe him as 'strapping'. He did a ton of work on the front, which I respected very much.
There were also a few lurkers. This resulted in my first verbal altercation of the week (it is amazing it's taken this long...;-)). Two little French blokes were doing zero work, as they have done every time I have climbed with them this week. Mark suggested to them in French that they ought to grunt up.
Nothing heard... A couple of km later, we were down to only four riders, as Charlie and I had put a spurt on in some tail winds. So, we were down to Charlie, Mark, myself and one of the little French blokes. I suggested to him with as much tact as I could manage (which was not much) after climbing for 90 mins, that he start earning a little respect by doing some time on the front.
Nothing heard again. I then let rip in my finest Australian dialect. I may have questioned his parentage.... He let me have both barrels back in French... quite comical really. Mark just shaking his head... Anyway, I felt at home, as it was just like racing Olympic class boats - you are there just battling away, doing your best and getting yelled at by Europeans in strange languages ;-).
Anyway, it was a wonderful feeling having crossed the summit, having had a strong climb and knowing the worst is now well behind us in the this race. This is my first ever bike race. I sure picked a tough place to start. But the rewards are impossible to put into words.
After a quick pit stop at Helena's van on the summit for food and fluids, it was off on the descent. Really enjoyable. 30km of downhill riding. Helena's parting command was 'Take it easy - remember the big picture!!'. Very good advice at the perfect time.
My little French mate passed my doing twice my speed, as I crammed a sandwich in my mouth. It was really cold at the top, at only eleven degrees, combined with 20kts of wind-chill. The wind was quite cold, even on the last part of the climb when I was working hard. A lot of people put on warm tops for the descent. I just took a Chopper Read pill and set off downhill. It was the right call, as it got warm ten minutes later.
Immediately following the long descent (where I passed the 70 year-old!!), we had an 8km climb which covered 400mtrs elevation. It was a matter again of just digging deep for everything and anything you had left. It hurt, but it was satisfying to only lose a few riders (after having gained 20 or so on the descent (that 98kg is pretty good going downhill - but the brakes must be getting warm!).
The Garmin data for the day is here.
Paul was very lucky today. He is a demon descender. He was passed downhill for the very first time this week. So he wanted to stay with the guy, but came off his bike at the very next hairpin turn. Just some scrapes and no damage to the bike, so he was straight back on and into the race - very lucky. See the pics... he obviously did not take heed of Helena's advice at the top.
Team-wise, it was another great day. Paul finished strongly after the fall to lead our team home. I was next some seven minutes back. Mark was another three or so minutes back, having lost time on the descent. Fraser was another four or five minutes back.
Simon and Jim again rode together and had a great day. There is a full team photo in the pics today - together with Saint Helena, our Directuer Sportive. We are in second place in the Team classification and barring any problems tomorrow, we ought to hold that.
Todays results are available here and the overall results are available here.
So - we have one more day to ride! I have attached the stage profile. It is basically one more solid climb of 1100mtrs, but no longer at high altitude (St Martin at 1600mtrs). Then a long slow descent into Vence where the timing stops. We reconvene, eat some food and ride the last 20km or so into Nice to the official finish line. It will be great to reach Nice. Kate and the kids will be there at the finish line. That dip into the Mediterranean Sea very soon after the finish will be very, very rewarding. But, we are not there yet! More pasta tonight and take it easy on the descent tomorrow.
Thanks again for all the e-mails. Great stuff and very much appreciated.
Haute Route website