Estimated reading time: 11 minutes, 5 seconds
In this Haute Route Guide, you’ll find out all about Haute Route, and whether it’s for you.
Start reading, or click below for a particular section.
- Who should do this
- Logistics – getting there
- Accommodation options
- Going with a tour group
- Nutrition and fuelling
- Recovery eating
- Recovery – massage, stretching and self treatment
- What to take
- What gears for Haute Route
- Language, Internet and more
The Haute Route Sportif is one of the most insane sportifs going. 1 week in the Alps, racing.
What started in 2011 as a pretty interesting week long adventure has snowballed into a major item on the VeloNomad bucket list.
If you asked me to construct my ultimate cycling adventure, this would be pretty close
(I’d probably make it in the Pyrenees though). Note! The organisers have announced a Pyrenees version in 2013; more information as it becomes available.
Here are the key stats for Haute Route Alps.
- 1 week, start in Geneva, finish in Nice
- 780 km of racing (yes, racing)
- 21000m (that’s 21km) of climbing
- 19 Alpine Cols, including Madeleine, Glandon, Izoard, Bonette and the Alpe d’Huez (ITT!)
Who Should Do This
This is not for the faint of heart or body. I do not recommend turning up to “have a stab” at this.
Don’t ask yourself if you should do Haute Route, ask yourself if you can do it. This is not a lark through the mountains; it’s a serious adventure requiring serious training and preparation.
If you have a reasonable level of fitness and are race fit, you could probably turn up and do this.
If you have a low level of fitness, are carrying extra weight, or haven’t raced much (or at all), consider beginning your training a year out. (Read on for more training information and tips.)
Don’t forget there is also a
The Haute Route is not for those on a tight budget.
You’re looking at €1200 for participation and between €650 and €2000 for accommodation.
The way I look at it though, if you want to do something truly remarkable, and have the cash to spare, this is it.
The cost includes all of the below. Some of these inclusions are really great; like daily massage, meals, bike storage (secured), travel bag (120L wheeled bag).
- 1 complete set of Haute Route cycling kit
- (1 jersey, 1 bib-shorts*, 1 arm-warmers*, 2 bottles*)
- 1 Haute Route travel bag with wheels* (120 litres)
- 1 Haute Route ‘race day’ back pack*
- 1 small rubbish bag*
- Presence of hundreds of marshals along the route
- Presence of motorcycle escorts (1 for every 15 riders)
- Presence of safety vehicles (including a bus at the back)
- A professional medical team present at all times
- Mechanical support from Mavic both at each race village and inside the race
- A timing system for the start* and finish of each stage
- A live tracking system for all 7 stages*
- Personalised* frame plate and 2 sets of official numbers for shirts
- Daily rankings (Solo, Team, Best Climber*)
- Daily Awards Ceremony
- Pit stops and Refreshment breaks (solid and liquid) during each stage*
- Energy products available during each stage
- A hot meal at the finish of each stage*
- An aperitif* and mandatory safety briefing early evening (from 18/08 to 24/08)
- Closing party held in Nice* (25/08)
- Transportation of official travel bag from the start to finish of each stage
- Transportation of bike bag/cover from Geneva to Nice
- Official ‘race day’ backpack available at the end of each stage*
- Laundry service for jersey and bib-shorts mid-week
- Massage service and recovery area at the finish of each stage*
- Access to a secure bike park at the finish of each stage
- Hot showers at the finish of each stage
- Access to a bike wash area at the finish of each stage
- An online detailed Road-Book of the race and each of the 7 stages
- 2 copies of the Official Haute Route Magazine (English/French)
- Download of the official iPhone / iPad App*
- Videos produced daily (shown during the safety briefing each evening)
- A medal for each finisher
- A souvenir prize for each finisher*
- Personalised certificate of the race available to download
Geneva and Nice are both served by international airports, so you shouldn’t have any problems flying to France for this event.
What might be tricky is flying in and out of different airports, unless you go via a major hub like Heathrow or Frankfurt. For instance, Emirates flies into Nice but not Geneva, so you’ll need to arrive in Nice and get to Geneva.
You could do this by train or a one way car hire, or have a travel partner drive along the Haute Route route with the car as team support.
There are myriad options which I’ll cover in a special Haute Route guide.
You have three choices with accommodation – organise your own, book a package through Haute Route, or go with a tour group.
If you organise your own, bear in mind that the organisers will be trying to book beds for around 750 people. A lot of the time this will be in small ski towns or resorts, so you’ll want to be book as soon as its organised, and be prepared to pay a premium.
The packages come in a basic or premium flavours. Note, there is also a very exclusive “excellence” package staying in chalets and so on. I’d be inclined to go for a premium package as you’ll meet lots of like-minded people, which is great for making contacts in case you come back to France!
In 2012, the breakdown was:
- Single room premium – €1000 pp
- Double room premium – €650 pp
- Twin room premium – €650 pp
- Basic – €350 pp
I’d personally avoid the basic package as it’s in shared accommodation – gyms, apartments and, what’s this? – a Swiss nuclear shelter (I’m not making this up).
So you’re pretty much stuck with a premium package, or finding your own accommodation unless of course sharing with people appeals to you.
If you decide to go your own way, check out the VeloNomad Cycling Accommodation page.
Absolutely crucial to enjoying yourself on an event like this is training specific to climbing and endurance.
Don’t forget there is a cut off for each stage of Haute Route and if you don’t beat the cut off time, you don’t get an overall finishers time. In 2012, 18% of all entrants missed the cut.
We all know how cool it is to see your name on the finishers list (even if most of us do end up hours and hours behind the leaders) so it’d be pretty rotten to have the broom wagon unceremoniously sweep us up.
Training for Haute Route will help ensure that not only do you survive the event but do well in it.
There are a lot of training resources available for free on the net, if you want something targeted to an endeavour like this, and written by someone who knows what they’re talking about, I’ve got two options that should suit your budget.
- Training for Etape (and other mountain sportifs) – a single 3 month plan specific to the Etape, Marmotte and Haute Route.
- Pay as you go training subscription – a new monthly and 3-monthly training subscription optimised for endurance and the mountains, you’ll get a new plan every week.
There are also lots of free articles on VeloNomad such as:
- Learn how to become a better climber in 2 simple steps
- How to improve your climbing for the Etape, France and the mountains
Going with a tour group
Going with a tour group is a viable option for Haute Route.
Most tour packages will include some or all meals, accommodation, some transfers, mechanics and so on.
My personal opinion is that the Haute Route is so well organised and the inclusions so good, that you can just book the standard packages from the organisers.
You’ll need to arrange some transfers and airfares, but this is a minor issue (and there are lots of articles on VeloNomad discussing these topics).
Unlike, say, a Tour de France tour package, I don’t really see the value in a tour group for Haute Route.
Nutrition and Fuelling
Critical to your performance in an event like this – in addition to training – is proper fuelling, or nutrition.
Your everyday eating will not suffice for a week-long endurance event.
If you’d like a nutrition plan for Haute Route (and re-usable for other similar epic events like Etape), I do have a guide perfect for this event – Fuelling For Etape and other gruelling events. The guide contains a nutrition plan constructed in conjunction with am accredited sports dietician and nutritionist. It gives you all the information you need properly eat leading up to a big event.
There are some great articles on VeloNomad on nutrition and fuelling for endurance:
- Nutrition myths – interview with a nutritionist and sports dietician
- How to fuel for Etape
- How to Fuel for Etape and avoid these 4 common mistakes
What to eat
You’ll basically want to eat protein and carbohydrates after the ride, then continue to eat both (and probably some “good” fats) for dinner.
You burn loads of calories during and in the hours the ride, so post-ride eating is the best chance to replace your calories.
In terms of specific foods and quantities, you might want to check out the Fuelling For Etape and other gruelling events guide. It covers what to eat for recovering from events like this and has been written by a sports dietician and nutritionist.
Otherwise the article How to Recover from Etape du Tour has some good recovery information too.
Drinking lots of water will help flush toxins from your body, and something like turmeric is an awesome anti-inflammatory.
The organisers are including a post-ride meal on each day.
(You can take some turmeric with you overseas and add it to porridge, scrambled eggs, pasta and more. Drop me an email if you want some as I grow it at home.)
After each stage some self-treatment (massage, essentially) will really aid recovery.
The organisers are including daily massage – which is great – but I’m sure there’ll be a big line for it so you’ll want a plan to be able to relieve the knots.
Lots of people advocate a light run, or ride, but for most people this will be beyond them especially after the first few stages. A light walk will help too.
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What to take
There are a lot of articles on VeloNomad covering what to take on an overseas trip, as well as how to protect your bike (you should definitely take your own bike for this event).
Some great starting points are:
Gearing for Haute Route
For most people, gearing for Haute Route will be a simple consideration – use compacts!
Many people, when faced with a ride like this (or Etape) will leave full sized chain rings on the front and put a 27, 28, 32 or mountain bike 36 on the rear. Sometimes, these still won’t suffice.
Last year in Etape du Tour I’d been training hard and was in fine shape. I turned up with 52/36 front rings and 11-28 on the back and it still wasn’t enough for the final climb up Alpe d’Huez (and the subsequent 90km ride back over the Glandon and Croix de Fer).
Bottom line, don’t be silly, don’t be proud, ride compacts – read this post on gearing for the mountains for more information.
More on Gearing for Haute Route…
Language, Internet and More
There are loads of tips to provide for riding during the event, and there are many existing articles on
Learning some French is pretty important. Learn how to translate into French on your iPhone (this would be applicable to Android too – there’ll be a Google app for it), or download my handy French verbs/grammar spreadsheet.
Having internet on your smartphone is super handy. Learn how to get prepaid Internet in France with the VeloNomad prepaid mobile internet page (the most visited page on the website).
As for other topics, browse around the site – the must read articles page is a good place to start.
Remember, the Cycling In France guide has a lot of these hot tips in a handy printable guide.
(The official Haute Route page has a lot more information so check it out!)
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