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RIDING THE HAUTE ROUTE
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DOLOMITES 2018

"What’s the appeal in putting yourself through 40 kilometer climbs against the clock, in slaving up punishing gradients, and staring at roads that wind endlessly upwards? For me it's the thrill racing in the mountains."

SIMON JACKSON - 17TH GC HAUTE ROUTE DOLOMITES 2018

WHY RACE THE HAUTE ROUTE?

 

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Precious few of us get the chance to truly test our mettle in the mountains. Between arduous flights and awkward bike laden transfers, getting there alone can be enough of a challenge. By the time you find yourself on the climb, your focus has been somewhat thrown - you’re riding, not racing.
 

The Haute Route for me though was about getting more out of my time in the Dolomites. This was a chance for me not only to test myself, but to prove myself in the closed conditions that are reserved only for those at the very top of the sport.

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When a gesture can be all it takes to summon a bottle from a neutral service motorbike emblazoned in yellow, riding becomes a much more focused and singular process. Closed roads offer you dazzling descents car free - your only focus is cresting your corners and keeping contact with the bunch. That’s not the end of it though. Timed stages, start ramps and fast riders, everything about this riding experience is designed to replicate the elite riding experience. That level of curation and care is simply not something that you can otherwise replicate. Simply put, this event convinces you that it does matter.

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TASTING THE NEW

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This sort of shift takes adjustment though - when the expectation is that you do your best, you push yourself. Our first descent set us onto a ribbon that had been sprinkled with rain in the hours before. Still wet, the succession of rapid and varied corners saw me tip 92 kph on two wheels - something that was new territory for me.

The added element of this event focusing your attention on your day on day performance was also a new experience. Being in a position to fully own your ride was refreshing.

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The challenge though is the relentlessness. As an event, there is no respite, self-pitying or shirking. Right off the back of Day 1’s exertions, Day 2 hits you hard. Repeating the feat of another 4 mountain ascents with 3,300 meters of climbing without being accustomed to replicating that effort day on day made for sore bones. The final 20km ascent of the 2000 meter Passé Rolle nearly finished me off. Exhausted, I saw myself slip from 15th to 19th in the General Classification - that’s the difference having the legs on the day makes.

The 7.5km 10% average gradient time trial on the famous Giro ‘Provinciale’ climb was perhaps the highlight of the trip. Taking place on the very last day, this TT saw us roll off the ramp, one by one. In my slick Le Col Skinsuit, held in the gate, it was only as the final countdown came in that I realised that this was the full glamour of professional racing.

The last event during my time in the Dolomites, I was intrigued and happy to find that my legs, despite their 9 hour ordeal, were still in good order. Gaining back two places over those 7.5 kilometers, I was happy to rank in the top ten of my age group.

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WOULD I RIDE IT AGAIN?

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And as quickly as it had started, it was finished. The question though is whether it’s worth it. Some might baulk at the idea of pursuing such a challenge with such an unflinching racing mindset, but for those of us that breathe the magic of cycling, this is an unparalleled experience.

The three-day format works well, lasting long enough for you to dip and crest alongside or in contrast with your competitors. Leading to a more realistic race setting, you can experience stage race dynamics at the thick end of things without sacrificing and consecrating every waking hour in the pursuit of speed. This is a race for riders with other roles to fulfil - parents, employees, everyday people.

With regards to the setting, you can’t do much better than the Dolomites. Blending drama with spectacle, for climbs that test your capacity on the bike whilst providing a rewarding vista, the Italian Dolomites will always be a special place for visitors on two wheels.

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