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Haute Route Dolomites 2017


By brian_perry - Posted on 21 October 2017

Haute Route Dolomites 2017

Haute Route Dolomites report for RCC by Chris Goslar
 
RCC member’s Chris Goslar and Jed Ellerby recently took part in the Haute Route Dolomites.  The 7-stage/day event was due to cover 852km with 21,000m of climbing and set off from Innsbruck with Venice being the final destination.
 
Registration
Our plan was to arrive in Innsbruck early allowing plenty of time for faff, bike setup, test and registration.  But we were greeted with awful weather, rain and unseasonably low temperatures for the last couple of days in August.  Registration out the way and we had the chance to fine-tune our kit, faff some more, get out for a test spin, meet folks we would be travelling with (Sports Tours) and attend the rider briefing.
 
Day 1 – Innsbruck to Innsbruck.  154km | 2790M+
 
Stay with me, there is a lot to tell on stage one.
 
The original route was lengthened but the elevation gain reduced. Snow was forecast on higher ground so they shortened the second climb to stay under the snow-line but increased the distance by around 30km.  Unfortunately, the uber-cautious race director decided that the descents were all too dangerous too and so neutralised pretty much all of them on day 1.  (A theme will develop here.) 
 
Our strategy for the Haute Route was to ride together, working with each other to support our overall goals of top 100.  We set off in damp conditions.  In fact it was wet, very wet and freezing cold.  As soon as we passed over the timing mat, we pushed on a bit and did our best to find some guys to ride with but we were scuppered having stopped for a wee prior which left us further back when hitting the timing.  But we managed to keep good consistent wattage up climb one and summited in good time. Albeit we were already pretty cold.
 
The descent was freezing and very slippery but I was gaining in confidence.  Too much, as it turned out, as I took a tumble around a right-hand hairpin bend.  I should have known better, I never descend faster than “mad-lunatic-descender” Jed!  Not a bad fall but enough to remove the skin off my hip and bend my derailleur hanger.  We continued down to the bottom and were completely soaked through.  Shivering like mad we opted for a coffee and Dyson hand-dryer warmup and dry out in a supermarket café while we were still in the neutralised zone.  
 
When we set off it was clear that my gear change was hampered so we decided to stop and take a good look.  when trying to straighten the hanger, I snapped it off!  Believe it or not, I carry a spare but we needed help from the Mavic support crew to install it.  This all happened while still in the neutralised zone so no race time lost but we waited so long for Mavic that the Lantern Rouge passed us by and the broom wagon waited behind us to allow Mavic to finish off their assistance. By the time we were ready to set off, we were 15 minutes behind schedule and were told to get a move on.  
 
Things got better mechanically, I could change my gears again and we hit the timing mat for the second and final climb of the day which went well, we felt strong and kept a good, consistent pace. Having got through the final timing mat, we took an easy to steady ride back to the race village finishing the day in 89th and 90th place with an official time 2:31:50 (only the two climbs were timed).  Garmin moving time: 6:18:44. Over 3:45 of neutralised riding!  :-(
 
Day 2 – Innsbruck to Vipiteno.  175km | 4200M+ - CANCELLED
 
Day 2 was cancelled due to snow on the higher passes.  There was no way around so the organisers had to bus everyone over to Vipiteno.  Sport Tours took us over in the morning which gave us enough time to get out for coffee and a leg-spinner.
 
Big Bummer – we missed Timmelsjoch and Passo Monte Giova.
 
Day 3 – Vipiteno to Brixen.  117km | 3350M+ 
 
Life normalised on day 3 and we set off early for a fairly short stage with three big climbs.  No time to warm up as we hit the first climb up to Passo Pennes pretty much straight away. 14.5km with an average grade of 8.7% summiting at 2215m.  The altitude factor kicked in on this one; it was a pretty high pass.  Then we had a lovely long 35km descent before the climb up to Renon Plateau followed by a “rolling” descent to the final short, sharp climb up to Lazfons.  A great day of riding taking in some breath-taking views.  We finished 102nd and 103rd with an official time of 4:29:16. Garmin moving time: 5:19:52.  Around 1 hour neutralised.  Damn.
 
Day 4 – TT – Brixen to Plancios.  17km | 1100M+ 
 
Day 4 being TT day meant that we would not be able to work together.  Jed stopped to relieve himself prior to the timing mat so off I want on my own in pursuit of those in front of me while desperately trying to protect myself from those behind me.  By now one starts to get an idea of who you we be racing against for position over the next few days and my closest rival shot passed me within first 2km.  I had a plan and I stuck to it.  Power output was going to start at around at 75% of FTP increasing to Sweetspot/Threshold then see what I had in the last km.  It went well, and I soon passed my nearest rival and started taking time out of those in front of me.  I finished 86th with a time of 1:04:54. Jed finished 117th with a slightly different race strategy (three big days to come).  The reward; a beautiful descent back into the village!
 
Day 5 – Brixen to Cazanei.  83km | 3,250M+ 
 
Day 5 was another short day but with three tough climbs.  Passo delle Erbe 11.5km at 8% but with a short sharp “mini” climb a bit beforehand.  Passo Gardena was 27km of the uphill stuff followed by Passo Sella.  Another stunning day with beautiful scenery, mountains all around.  I would say that it was an uneventful day but Jed did pick up downhill KOM on a Strava segment called “Stay of your brakes” which is right up his street.  And a 2nd overall on another Strava segment to top things.  I landed an 8th overall but sadly I must report that I have moved way down since then.  Another good day’s riding finishing 88th and 92nd with a ride time of 3:53:11. Garmin moving time: 4:36:23.   More damn neutralised time!
 
Day 6 – Canazei to Canazei.  128km | 3,550M+ 
 
Day 6 contained four brutal climbs; Passo San Pellegrino, Passo Valles, Passo Lavaze and Passo Costalunga.  This is the in the stunning Sella Ronda area.  We climbed strong and hard to plan but our times were foiled slightly with some road-works and temporary traffic lights. Jed’s highlights were two downhill top 10 Strava segments!  Mine; we managed a lovely coffee stop in a neutralised zone.  We finished 110th and 111th with an official time of 3:22:52. Garmin moving time: 5:58. So more neutralised sections – does make for good coffee stop though!
 
Day 7 – Cazanei to Venice.  182km | 2,550M+ 
 
The final day presented us with a downhill ride with just three climbs; Passo Fedaia, Forcella Franche and Passo San Boldo.  But we were gunning for our positions, so we knew we had to leave everything out there on first two climbs which were timed.  And we did with high power and excellent times.  We really pushed hard. 
 
Timing for the stage was only to the top of Forcella Franche where medals were handed out.  We were done!  The rest of the stage was an untimed run down to Venice.  A long day in the saddle but less climbing made for a pleasant and beautiful ride.  We were treated to the most beautiful descent through tunnels built in the side of a mountain on the way down from Passo San Boldo.  This is the most stunning descent I can recall, ever.  Breath-taking! We then stopped in Treviso with a run past the original Pinerallo bike shop then on for a delicious burger.  While the neutralised zones were seriously pissing us off, they did have their advantages!  We placed 70th and 79th with an official time of 2:07:24. Garmin moving time: 6:28:33.  Jed’s highlight of the day, a new top speed of 106.6km/h !!
 
In summary
We do have one criticism of the event and that specifically relates to the neutralised zones; there were far, far too many of them.  Two were necessary, maybe a third could have been strategically placed for safety reasons.  The rest were unnecessary and the roads no more dangerous than other regular alpine descents. This was a big spoiler for both of us who enjoy, and are good at, descending (especially Jed) and we would have made significant time on other competitors.
 
That said, overall we had a great week in a very well organised event.  Both Jed and I reached our goal of top 100 (89th and 93rd) with both of us taking back a number of places on the final day.  Now we need to find something to do with our newfound fitness!