Virtual Haute Route Stage 1

The Haute Route. One of the most challenging events in cycling, set in a backdrop of epic of locations that invites cyclists to ride like a pro and push their limits has gone digital. And since many of us have spent Spring building fitness and a competitive itch that needs to be scratched, this couldn’t come at a better time. Enter Zwift and their Haute Route three-day virtual stage race.


30 miles, 2,963 ft of climbing


The first stage got off to a rocky start with the Zwift servers overloaded with nearly 4,000 cyclists at the start for the 11 am ride. Our iPads having crashed, emergency MacBooks were deployed, and we were on course. As rider traffic stretched out, the data load problems sorted themselves out and we set to tackle the day’s first climb, the Hilly KOM.

The pace was pleasant as we rolled through the German Village and onward to Col du Zwift. It seemed to be nightfall with a full moon in Watopia, which made the climb up above the snow line extra brisk. Race Radio (i.e. the Zwift companion app) lit up with news that a friend was further back in the field of riders and trying to reel us in, and the chase began.

Up we climbed. This KOM put a bit of sting in the legs with a steady 7% grade, and our minds drifted to hot air balloons rising in the distance. Were they suffering likes us? Were they cold? No matter. We pressed on, mindful to note: push too hard; blow up.

The Tower Climb and its 16% grade tried in vain to break us, but we knew that we’d have a chance to shake out the legs on the way down. As we crested, we grabbed an email to stuff in our jerseys to keep the chill off, and super-tucked down the road – hitting speeds of over 50 mph. Our chaser was never seen. 

Toes and fingers thawed as we made our way through the Italian Villa and onto the final ascent, the Volcano Climb. It’s a climb that always teases the rider. Just when you think it’s over, it’s not, and we’re out of the saddle again, pushing up the 7% grade that never seems to relent. Attacks came left and right as riders burned their last matches for this final monumental climb. We made it through and pressed on to the finish.


Back at the team bus, we refueled. Team Chef prepared cauliflower nachos (think regular nachos, minus chips and add thin slices of roasted cauliflower) and recovery margaritas to honor the saying, “Tequila first, for tomorrow we ride.”