Haute Route 2021 – Stage 2 – GC 142 Megève to Tignes
Similar length and ascent to yesterday but in just three long climbs.
109km – 3,500m – Saisies, Cormet de Rosalind, Tignes
Stage position: 140
GC position: 142
Slow and steady
wins does a bit better in the race. I had a word with myself last night about pushing too hard. The 20 Watts extra on my climbing power was more than I should have pushed and I worried about how I’d sustain that through the week. Maybe later I can work up to that if the legs are still good.
So I went back to the pattern that worked so well in 2017. I dropped off the power a bit to save energy, but had some spare to increase that for the last few kilometers. I find I really enjoy the longest climbs, where this approach works the best for me. Today we had three long ones, of 50 mins, 1h20 and 1h40. Plenty of time to get stuck into them!
We followed the same convoy route out of Megève and started with the Col des Saisies (the name can be read in both directions when painted on the road!). I’d been here in 2017 but in the opposite direction, and actually recognised none of it until ski station at the very top. I was with a group that stayed together for much of the climb, and went at the pace I wanted – it always feels easier just to follow the group on autopilot. Some knee pain I’d had from the end of yesterday’s stage started to disappear as it warmed up, and the legs seems happy spinning away.
The second climb up to the Cormet de Rosalind passed a big, stunning artificial lake half way up. Incredibly blue water (as well as a welcome flatter section to get a degree of rest!). This was a 20km climb and again a group stayed together pretty well. At 16km I got a bit excited and decided I had some spare energy, so attacked to get some time on those in group. No-one wanted to follow, and as I went through 17 and 18km, passing plenty, yes I worried again I’d pushed too soon. I didn’t hold that power all the way to the top but by the timing mat I mjst have taken a good five minutes from some of the group.
Another fast descent, this one much more open at the top with incredible views of the mountains and valleys around, really lovely to see. (I neglected to stop to take any photos, for which I’m now sad!) I finally wore the new rain jacket, which worked as excellent wind protection, no flappy sleeves or anything! So I stayed nice and warm all the way down.
I stopped later to take off the jacket, gilet and arm warmers (🥵), pulled over for a minute or so, still in the untimed section. An event motorbike, then a car and another bike, and two riders all stopped to check I was ok. The car didn’t even believe my “non, ça va!”, and got out of the car to check! A real feature of this event is how supportive everyone is. Obviously the event people are supposed to be, but all the riders look out for each other and shout “allez allez!” when passing.
The climb to Tignes was somehow similar to the Cormet. Long, steady power, some lakes to see along the way, some nice chats (sometimes a bit one-sided depending on the levels of exhaustion!) and the gradual ascent up the high alpine views. I waited a little longer than 4km to go this time to press on, but had a good last couple of kilometers and a proper visit to the pain cave. I’m really happy with how today went, and it was a good reminder that I can benefit from holding back more at the start.
Tomorrow is the big day, this year’s queen stage. An early start at 0645, a short descent from Tignes and then up. Tomorrow is long, 190km (though much of that is an enormous descent of some 70km!), but also with a huge amount of elevation gain of 5,000m. If I can survive tomorrow without haemorraging time I should be alright for the rest of the week, which will feel like a gentle spin after that.
Just as I was arriving into Tignes, I saw what looked like a kind of white fox, ahead at the side of the road. It had no interest in me, but then when I passed it I saw why – it was eating a sheep! Just rummaging away in there. Yummy.