Sunday 15 September 2013

The Haute Route Diaries Part 2: Today, we ride

After the shuffling of bikes and bags the previous day, it was a relief to have a simple schedule. Get up, get breakfast, get the day bag packed with post-ride gear, get most bike kit on, put bike shoes/gloves/helmet/glasses/GPS in the day bag, put on something for the bus ride, pack the main bag, take it down to reception, check-in with the bus monitors, get on the bus.


Oh no, not today. Although the race officially started in Barcelona, it actually started in Solsona. This was a good hour and a half bus ride away, and it meant that the normal routine of leave hotel, get on bike and ride was a little disrupted. We'd planned ahead for the bus journey, packing extra drink and snacks to eat on the way, but we'd failed to take account of Jon's excitement - he spent most of the trip bouncing up and down in his seat, desperate for a wee. We should have brought an empty bottle.

At Solsona we disembarked, collected our bikes (which had come by truck), suited up and then did what everyone does before a big race. Found a place for some cool pictures.

Rule 80:
Rested, excited and slightly nervous, the tension built. Greg LeMond was led to the front of the start lane - he was riding the first stage - the music got louder, the start hooter went off.... and we crept forward at about 2 kph. Start, stop, clip, unclip. We did a ceremonial lap of the town, exiting through a tiny medieval gate, and we were properly off.

It was a short stage to start things off - and by cunningly stealing pictures from the official Haute Route site I can show you. 

Click for biggerer

The first three climbs were really one moderate one, with three little peaks on the way. On a stage race it's important to pace yourself for the week so obviously we rode far harder than we should have, feeling great, legs all zingy. When you haven't really done much for a week it's almost impossible to not take advantage of that fresh feeling.

I can't remember much of the ride - there was some work in a group in the valley, Darren and I kept together for the whole time - but the descents were fun. Rough broken tarmac, steep sections, hairpins. It was like mountain biking on a road bike and we even managed to overtake a few people. I was definitely ahead of the curve on the downy bits, and probably behind the curve on the uppy bits.

At the finish I slipped back into routine - recovery drink, riders' meal, stretch, find the others, chat. We rode to our hotel, showered, relaxed. Dinner was at the hotel - we'd avoided the mistakes of last year and pre-booked - and we even managed to entice a few other people to join our little group. Dinner is always more fun with more people.

Oh, one other change from last year - we were on the recovery beer from day one. Marginal gains, it's all about the marginal gains.

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