Words by Tom Owen | Photos by Haute Route / PhotoRunning
The Haute Route is the toughest, most epic amateur bike race anywhere in the world. Or rather, it’s a series of three week-long events, where participants spend seven days riding road bikes through one of Europe’s most spectacular mountain ranges; first up each year is the Pyrenees week, followed by the French Alps, with the Swiss Alps & Dolomites week rounding things out. Just one of these will probably be the toughest thing most amateur cyclists have done or will ever do, but there are some absolute nutbars who tackle the three weeks back-to-back.
This summer I tackled just two days of the Swiss Alps & Dolomites week – and it was the most testing two days I have ever spent on a bicycle. Starting out in Geneva, Switzerland, the full route would take riders all the way to Venice. I made it as far as the Italian border – more than enough for a first visit to the crazy world of Haute Route.
“The stats for one week…like cycling to the top of Everest twice, then climbing Box Hill 17 times…some absolute nutbars tackle three weeks back-to-back!”
Each day the riders tackle between 100-150kms, with a handful of mountain passes thrown in – so the total climbing is something around 3,000m. Per day. The stats for an entire week are, frankly, staggering. 1,000km of total riding, and more than 20,000m of vertical ascent. That’s like cycling to the top of Mount Everest. Twice. And then climbing Box Hill 17 times to round off the week.