The Haute Route des Alpes

What? 787kms, 20650m d+ according to the roadbook – 743.86kms and 18.737m d+ according to my Garmin! WTF? Have I missed something? Or have I really done the entire Haute Route des Alpes 2018?!!! F*ck yes, I’m sure I did…. OK so I may have taken the inside on a few downhill bends here and there. Forgetting for a minute that I’m not really a pro…. Or maybe the Garmin doesn’t add the distance when you do too many wheelies ???

DISCLAIMER: This year, I’ve teamed up with OC Sport. The guys who organise the Haute Route, to take part in a few events as an influencer – damn, I hate that word! Politicians influence people, not me; I simply share my love of endurance sports. I try to make people laugh or smile. In short, it doesn’t matter.

I'm not paid to tell you how great it was.

The Road

One of these events was the Haute Route des Alpes, so I got the wild card to take part in the race! That said, I’m not bullshitting and all the words here are my own. I’m not paid to tell you how great it was. So everything that follows is influenced by me, myself & my inner self, not by partners or contracts.

from Megève to Nice

Spoiler alert: I managed to get from Megève to Nice. I never really doubted that I would make it. Come on, I’ve been cycling and racing for 20 years. Even if it’s usually on flat roads and even if I eat a lot of salad, I’ll never be just a rouleur. A few kilometres on one of the most brutal climbs in France wasn’t really going to scare me. I was never going to fly in the mountains (thanks to Carlo Fino for reminding me of the harsh reality of gravity…). But I was going to get there at my own speed, and take a few photos along the way!

On paper, the Haute Route is a serious affair: 6 stages and 1 time trial over seven days of racing. It was originally conceived a few years ago as the hardest amateur race there is. Since then, it’s calmed down a bit, and for those of you who are considering it but are too scared to take the plunge, I can say from experience that it’s more than manageable – even for a rouleur wearing coloured socks*.

The Haute Route is as difficult and long as you want it to be! The route can scare anyone, except Alberto Contador. In fact, once you’re there, you realise that it’s all about cycling through some of the most beautiful scenery the Alps have to offer.

Hill climbs, sweat and camaraderie

How many opportunities will you have to ride successively La Colombière, La Madeleine, Le Télégraphe, Le Galibier, l’Alpe d’Huez, l’Izoard, La Bonette & Co, with a bunch of really cool friends who enjoy cycling all day long?

Hell, I’ve never been a fan of those cyclo-sportives where Alain Philippe turns up on his red and green Cannondale with hairy legs, a sagging jersey and a crooked helmet… What the hell, if I look like a snob on a bike, you already know I am. But it wasn’t really like that and even if it had been, I would have been part of the landscape anyway. From the very first day, I cycled alongside Christian from Canada, Carlo from Italy, Jim from the United States, Gilles from the village next to mine, Patrick from Florida, Alan from Perth… and I had a good laugh with them all.

Some parts of the event were run in race mode. Lacaze likes to crank up the watts on a bike and the hills weren’t really going to change that. There’s a start, a finish, a ranking and prizes, so it’s still a race. But at the end of the day, you’re there to race against yourself! The biggest battle of the week is you against YOU.

Photos and wheelie competition

But beyond the moments when your heart rate is skyrocketing, your lungs are burning and your legs are screaming, the relationships that have developed over the miles have made things so much more fun!

There were countless photo stops, a few wheelie contests, lots of selfies, daily live videos and a few moments spent neck-deep in a fountain trying to cool off with the magnificent Alpine scenery laughing at us from all sides…

We drank coffee (thanks Cafepod for the great support), shared a joke or ten with the organising staff, gorged ourselves on post-race meals (and sorbets), howled in pain at the daily massages (Jean-Marc you are my hero)…

The #sockporn contest

… Uhhh, and the sock competition! Because even though I was more than happy to let the skinny little climbers leave me stranded on the steepest ramps of the Alpine passes. There was one race I wasn’t prepared to lose: yes, you’ve guessed it, it was the prize for the coolest socks!

I didn’t win any of the prizes for the best sock of the stage that were handed out each evening and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed… but I continued to choose carefully each morning and in the end I won the overall best sock classification. So do they deserve this prize?!? Do you like these apples???


The moment that best summed up the week was the one shared with Christian Müller, my flatmate / cycling buddy / team-mate / partner in crime for the week. We were halfway through one of the stages, admiring the view from the top of a hill and happily taking Instagram photos. Then he turned round and said: “We’ve got enough photos for today, haven’t we? We put our phones in our pockets and hit the gas, the real gas. Seeing how far we could race with the big engines on the final climb. See if we could drop them on the flat, dripping with sweat and quadriceps burning like they were about to explode… Friendship, cycling, pleasure and pain.

All this explains why and how I fell in love with the Haute Route des Alpes. I didn’t think I would do it, but yes, I even had the post-Haute Route blues… Severe enough for me to unpack my bike kit and pack it up again 24 hours later to tackle some of the most brutal climbs in the Pyrenees… Port de Bales, Portillon, Peyresourde… but that’s another story!

Content partnership: Haute Route
Photo credits: Olivier BORGOGNON / Photo Running