The route for the Haute Route Alps 2015 has at last been released! Covering 770 km and 21,500 metres of climbing, it consolidates the organisers’ claim to organise the highest and toughest sportives in the world. Once again the Haute Route presents a very serious challenge, with a magnificent course over many of the most iconic climbs in the Alps. Read on for our insider comments…
The major innovation for 2015 is that the direction has been reversed. For the first time the race will start in Nice and head north to finish in Geneva, and the vertical height climbed will be greater than the vertical height descended!
Another change from last year is the absence of two of the most iconic climbs in the Alps: l’Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. The latter made for complicated logistics in 2014, due to its geographical position off to the west. Since the arrival and departure points are the same each day, riders in the 2015 edition should not have to undergo any long transfers, so long as the hotels are close by.
Stage 1 Nice – Auron
125KM | 3750M+ | 2200M-
The first stage includes a series of medium altitude climbs, the cols de Nice, de St Roch, des Portes, de St Martin and then the climb to Auron. None of them present a significant challenge (compared to what is to come) but the total amount climbed soon adds up to an impressive total. As always on the Haute Route, riders must resist the temptation to take the first day too fast.
Stage 2 Auron – Briançon
152KM | 4250M+ | 4420M-
Stage 2 will certainly be the hardest, with three major climbs including 20 km of steep climbing to reach the col de la Bonette, the third highest col in France at 2715m. If the course includes the loop around the summit the riders will reach 2802m and have the satisfaction of riding the highest through road in Europe! This is immediately followed by two climbs that both include long sections at 10%, the col de Vars and the col d’Izoard. Both cols have been used 33 times by the Tour de France. The col d’Izoard is famous for the extraordinary lunar scenery of the Casse Déserte, where you can see the memorial to Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet.
Stage 3 Serre Chevalier – Col du Granon
12KM | 1074M+ | 20M-
The next day will see the time trial depart from the ski station of Serre Chevalier to the little known col du Granon, used once by the Tour de France for a summit finish in 1986. This was the day when Greg LeMond finally got the better of Bernard Hinault (their famous hand-in-hand finish at Alpe d’Huez was the following day). The climb is a dead-end, with very long stretches at 10-11%, making it one of the hardest climbs in the Alps. The road surface is poor and it is often very hot, being fully exposed to the sun with no shade.
Stage 4 Serre Chevalier – Les Deux Alpes
103KM | 3200M+ | 2900M-
Stage 4, from Serre Chevalier to Les Deux Alpes will also be extremely tough. Starting in Serre Chevalier the peloton will first climb the col du Lautaret, which in this direction often has a headwind (although the early morning start may mean this is relatively light). Next up is the col de Sarenne, taken in the opposite direction from the Tour in 2013. It is a real brute, with stretches at 15% on the lower slopes and a very poor surface. The summit is soon visible high above but never seems to get any closer! The riders will then descend the famous 21 bends from Alpe d’Huez before looping back up the valley and climbing another 950m to les Deux Alpes. The gradient is very irregular with several opportunities to recover as well as the famous “Rampe des Commères” to keep you on your toes…
Stage 5 Les Deux Alpes – La Toussuire
110KM | 3250M+ | 3200M-
The next day sees another “Giant of the Alps”: the Galibier, albeit from the “easier” side. After descending from les Deux Alpes the riders will climb the col du Lautaret and continue directly to the Galibier. The climb is thus very long but not particularly challenging until the final kilometre, which is both steep and above 2500m in altitude. After this, the col du Télégraphe from this side is a mere formality before the final climb up to La Toussuire, the scene of summit finishes on the Tour in 2006 and 2012 and again in 2015.
Stage 6 La Toussuire – Megève
145KM | 3450M+ | 4050M-
Stage 6 will see the riders cross the col de la Madeleine. Anybody that rode the Haute Route Alps in 2014 will find it hard to recognise, since they came from the other direction and in appalling weather. We remember this as the wettest day we ever spent on a bike! In 2015 we will be climbing the tougher side of the Madeleine and legs will be extremely tired by the time we reach the col des Saisies, the final climb before Megève.
Stage 7 Megève – Genève
123KM | 2500M+ | 3200M-
The final stage from Megève to Geneva will be anything but a formality. It begins with the col des Aravis (used 39 times by the Tour and well known to all who have been to an Alpine Cols training camp) before the much less well-known col des Glières. Climbed from Entremont, this is a narrow, steep road with a poor surface. It has even been called a “mini-Zoncolan”, not entirely without justification! The final 2 km over the col are on gravel, before a beautiful, fast descent on a newly surfaced road.
The Haute Route is still not done however, because the riders must make a final effort through rolling countryside to reach and then climb the Mont Salève. There are several possible routes to take and depending on the option chosen by the organisers, this could present a real challenge for tired legs. Once on the summit, there is a magnificent view over the lake and the distant Jura to enjoy before the final descent to the finish in Geneva.
This is a tough course, including several lesser-known climbs with the potential to create substantial time differences. A serious preparation is absolutely essential if you are to enjoy the experience: you have been warned!