Epic and awesome have become irrelevant hyperbole as every ride tagged on social media gains that epithet whether it be riding to the shops or a hundred mile sportive. Haute Route Rockies however really does deserve the description.
In June I was lucky enough to get a taster of the challenges riding a six day stage race covering 875km and 16,000m of climbing, most of which happens at altitude, and it ranks as one of the hardest rides I have ever done.
Altitude alone makes the riding feel tough but throw in stages of over one hundred miles, a liberal sprinkling of gravel and dirt road segments and climbs that take you close to 4,000m and you start to feel the significance of the challenge. Added to that it is a real race, against yourself, the clock and your fellow riders. It certainly elevated my definition of suffering to new heights.
The Haute Route format is now familiar in Europe, it provides keen amateurs with pro level support and an experience of being in the stage race ‘bubble’ where nothing matters beyond eating, sleeping, pedalling and checking your race position each night. Your ability to fuel correctly, recover and just keep placing your arse on that damn saddle each morning is the key to success.
North America is a new destination and riders who have taken part in the European events will not be disappointed.
Expect climbs that dwarf those in Europe; at the start of one climb I noticed that the altitude we were already at would put me level with the top of the Stelvio! The scenery is dramatic and stunning but can play tricks with your mind as the seemingly straight and level roads belie the pain in your legs and lungs as you struggle up a 7% grade.
The full route is still under-wraps but the host towns have now been announced. Starting in Boulder riders will ride to Colorado Springs via Winter Park, Avon, Snowmass and Crested Butte.
Entries are open for the event starting on June 24, 2017 and limited to 600 places. I’d recommend starting your training now as with no hint of a lie or exaggeration this may turn out to be the hardest cycling event you ever do.