Virtual Haute Route Stage 3
THE PRETZEL ROUTE
44.9 miles, 4,375 ft of climbing
The start of stage three had a certain celebratory vibe. We’d made it this far, and there was just one stage to go. But it was the longest and most difficult with 45 miles of rolling terrain and two massive climbs tossed in for good measure. It was unlikely to be a champagne ride.
Shortly after rolling out, small groups began to form with riders offering a truce for the early miles and the familiar faces of Dan and Nate from the local Descent Race Team joined us. But as quickly as they joined, one fell off when Nate called out ‘flat’ and waved us off. The team car wasn’t far behind; he knew he’d catch back on given with the friendly pace. The flat tire turned out to be a disconnected power meter / cadence sensor signal. Though he quickly reconnected, he now was minutes back and our group was now riding a friendly tempo.
We rolled through the German village decorated with flags to see the riders off. Due, however, to Watopia’s social distancing measures, there was no one out to spectate.
And then we climbed. Green grass turned to white snow, the sun began to push through the clouds, and our legs began to fall into a familiar rhythm.
We all pushed limits on the descent but never forgot one vital piece: in about 20 minutes, we’d be climbing back up what we were coming down. We used this time to try to relax, take some calories on board, and prepare for another attack.
Clouds blew in and fog formed on the ski lift road. Our group came together just in time for the final, anticipated attacks. Though the hard climbing was over, and it was all down hill and flat from here, the pace was fierce, and riders were launching off the front every mile.
With 2.5 miles to go, our group strung out and we rolled through the finishing arch with 15-20 seconds separating all.
Legs throbbed, but we’d done it. We’d finished Haute Route – and yes, lived to tell our story.