One last push, a single time section of 100km to get through. I caught and passed plenty, and kept my top 100 GC placing – I finished the Haute Route Alps!

140km – 2,600m – Col de l'Encrenaz, Col de la Ramaz, Col du Feu, Col de Cou, Col de Saxel
Stage position: 105
GC position: 95

Today was more like a classic one-day race. There was nothing following it, so no next stage for which to save energy. And there was only a single timed section, after only a 3km neutralised start, 100km long. None of these hour-long picnic stops I’d taken advantage of through the week, this was a single push to the finish. It also had a different sort of climbs to those we were used to – five shorter climbs, climbing at most 500m in a go, rather than over 1000.

My roommate Ales gave me a briefing the night before that was reminiscent of the three letters of advice I was given before my first ever race at the Crystal Palace Crits. On the last day of the Haute Route, everyone in the top half is either trying to make up places where they’re not as high in the general classification as they’d like, or they’re trying to maintain their position. I was in the latter category – I didn’t want to slip from 96th out of the top 100.

So I was ready for a fast day, and needing to push. I was aware of a couple of people near me in the GC and that I’d want to keep an eye out for them, making sure I finished ahead. I also had in mind the advice that Emma Pooley at the briefing, that you lose a lot more time in a crash than you do by taking a descent a bit slower and more safely.

The timing started at the foot of the short climb of Encrenaz: moderately steep, moderately long, moderate elevation. This set the tone for a simple day – we were either climbing or descending, and there wasn’t too much flat to worry about. Pacing-wise I was aiming to go slightly harder on these climbs than if it were earlier in the week, increasing the efforts towards the finish.

This stage flew by. Other than two moments at the top of the second and fourth climbs I wasn’t actually paying so much attention to the scenery, just concentrating on pushing on. At the top of the Col de la Ramaz, though, look back and the view was of a whole field of peaks stretching into the distance, overlapping on the horizon and crowned by snowy Mont Blanc, towering above them all. And as we climbed the Col de Cou, suddenly Lake Geneva came into view, and the road to the finish was in sight!

The descents turned out to be safe enough, though someone apparently overcooked a corner on the last drop into the last village, which is a real shame. The flats weren’t too long, but I did regret stopping for a moment before the timing mat at the start, which meant being a minute behind the groups that I would eventually want to ride with. That probably cost me a few minutes through having to ride the flat sections alone.

I passed a couple of those I was keeping an eye on, so was reasonably confident that I wasn’t losing too much time on the GC. One last climb on which to dig deep, and one last rolling section to push out those last watts. I watched those I passed fade into the distance behind me, which is always nice!

But then suddenly it was all over – the appeared for the village of Massongy, coincidentally the home town of the race leader, where we would cross that last timing mat. After grouping up with a few others who finished around the same time, we rolled gently to Yvoire on the shore of Lake Geneva, to pick up medals, pizza and an ice cream!

The family WhatsApp group worked out my final placing was inside the top 100, and eventually that was confirmed when the final results were released. 95th overall, after seven days of racing! What a delightful result after starting with a target of just finishing.