A multi day sportive was a rare phenomenon, more commonly found in North America than Europe, where there were just a handful of local events. Since it’s launch in 2011, the Haute Route has completely redefined the genre with sensational 7 day routes across the Pyrenees, Alps & Rockies and more recently 3 day compact races all around the world.
We have been proud partners of the Haute Route for many years. Here we break down why we love these races and why we think you will too. Most of our staff have been on one of these events so if you are thinking about riding one of these give us a call.
The race directors at the Haute Route are among the best in the business and each route can take more than 12 months of planning. The week long events consist of 6 mountain stages & an individual mountain time trial and the 3 day compact events involve 2 stages & an ITT.
The typical stage is around 125km with approx 3,000m of elevation but the queen stages have more than 4,000m of climbing – similar to the Etape / Maratona. The stages start early, a normal start time is 7-7.30am and there is a great mix of classic climbs and lesser know climbs that are often the real highlights of the week. There are a mix of summit finishes and routes finishing in the stage towns and however hard the day’s riding, everyone can agree to the beauty of the route each day.
Our typical group size on the Haute Route is 10-16. We all stay at the same hotels throughout the week and have breakfast & dinners together. Sharing such a big challenge together in a friendly, supportive environment leads to strong bonds and by the end of the week it feels like we are lifelong friends.
As soon as you cross the line in the finish town, you check in at the service desk and book a massage time. You have time to freshen up, have a shower and bowl of pasta before getting the massage and starting the process of recovering and starting to think about tomorrow’s stage.
Our mechanics are in the race village to take your bike and work on anything needed before tomorrow. We do a full bike clean every other day to ensure it is in perfect condition. Our hotels are all close to the race village so we can then be back for some relaxation before our group dinner and brief on the next day’s stage.
At the front of the Haute Route the race is very competitive with strong riders coming from all over the world. Most stage towns are given some entries and these towns put forward their best local riders who are often near the front of the peloton. Typically the first day sets the tone for the week and the top 10 stay close the whole time.
In the middle of the peloton are strong club riders competing partly against themselves to complete this great event and partly trying to improve as the week goes on. Most riders have good and bad days and often are riding with the same people throughout the week.
At the back of the race the atmosphere is friendly and supportive. There are Maillot Rouge support riders to help people at the back and a broom wagon to pick up anyone having a really bad day. Riders of all abilities take on the Haute Route, clearly it is a long, hard week but don’t think it is too easy or hard for you, 99% of road cyclists will fall in between the yellow and red jersey riders. 5. The Atmosphere in the Race Village
Sharing a tough challenge with 300-500 other riders is a unique experience and early on in the week the race village is a special place as people catch up with guys they rode with today or other days of the race. Though this is a race, everyone is really supportive of each other and the race villages are special places to be in the couple of hours after you have finished. It is open from early afternoon to early evening and closes with a beer for every rider.
One of the original premises of the Haute Route was to give riders the closest experience possible to living the life of a pro cyclist. From the moment you register to the time you cross the finish line at the end of the week your life becomes only about the race and the support and physical challenge is a great replica of the pro cycling world.
Mornings start early shovelling down porridge before the race cars lead off the peloton out of town. There are Mavic support cars, first aid teams and a caravan of race and support vehicles just ahead or behind the riders. From the start the race opens up and an army of volunteers marshall the course so you just focus on the racing. We have private feed stops so you can drop off your nutrition & extra kit and then as you cross the line your bike is taken by our mechanics to be cleaned and prepared for tomorrow. After your shower / massage / beer it’s back to the hotel for pasta and carbs before our experienced director sportif runs through the next stage with tips and strategies to help you ride to your max potential.
The supportive atmosphere of the race starts from the friendly Haute Route staff that you will see at registration, at the race villages and feed stations along the route. The organisation is first class with a team of staff a day ahead of the race setting up road signs and the race village and a team with the race each day supporting the riders. Always on hand to help and offer a smile, they can be a big pick up after a tough day on the bike.
The routes for each year are announced the previous autumn and most stages are centred around classic climbs: the Haute Route Pyrenees always includes the Tourmalet & Aubisque, the Haute Route Alps will have the Glandon or Galibier, Alpe d’Huez most years, the Izoard & Bonette. However, it is the lesser known climbs that make the routes so special.
In the Pyrenees the route in recent years has taken in the beautiful Hourquette d’Ancizan with its wild meadows, the Hospice de France with it’s steep, steep gradients and the Cap de Long – a 23km beast with some incredible views at the top.
The Haute Route Alps always has some beautiful climbs in the south including the Col d’Allos and some recent finishes on the climb that Merckx struggled on in Pra Loup. There has been a stage finish in St Veran and Risoul as well as taking in the Col de Sarenne near Alpe d’Huez and the Lacets.
The feeling of completing the Etape or Marmotte is pretty special, particularly if you have made big improvements or trained hard for a long time. Completing the Haute Route is a different animal. No matter how hard you have trained you will have times where you are struggling, when you have to dig deep, where you doubt yourself. Through the support of your other riders and our team, you get through these tough times and they make the finish of the final stage all the more special. The fact that all the other 400 or so riders have also been through a similar roller coaster of a week just makes the bond between riders all the stronger.
Signing up for the Haute Route is an investment, of your money and more importantly your time. You cant fake it, the Haute Route will find out who hasn’t put in the miles or trained smart. The glory of finishing means more because you have put the work in and because you have made a lifetime of memories in a week.
Once you have signed up for an Haute Route you have a massive reason to get out of bed a bit earlier on a Saturday morning and to resist an extra roast potato on a Sunday. There are Haute Route events all across the year now so you can sign up for an event in March and make sure you train from through the winter. Sign up for the Haute Route Ventoux in October and make sure you train through the season. Signing up for an Haute Route gives you no choice but to stay fit and what better side effect of a great week’s riding than being fit for 6 months leading up to it.
Ride the Haute Route in 2020:
Haute Route Alps: Aug 22nd to 28th: MORE INFO
Haute Route Pyrenees: Aug 30th to 5th Sept: MORE INFO
Haute Route Ventoux: Oct 2nd to 4th: MORE INFO