A challenging new cyclosportive event dubbed the Haute Route is set to give amateur cyclists a true taste of European stage racing when its inaugural edition takes place in France next August.
The Haute Route will cover a seven-stage, 720 kilometre course from Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France from 21-27 August, 2011. It features 14 Alpine Cols with four mountain-top stage finishes, as well as a unique 12km mountain time trial on the Col du Granon.
"Interest in cyclosportive events has going up and up in recent years. The calendar of sportives is richer and richer, but we think there is still room for innovation," said Rémi Duchemin, CEO of the event's organiser, OC ThirdPole at today's launch in London. "We wanted to create the highest and most challenging cycling event in Europe for amateur cyclists."
The Haute Route is the brainchild of former L'Etape du Tour director Jean-François Alcan. Alcan, who oversaw L'Etape from 1992 to 2008, will also act as director of the Haute Route, which is expected to give up to 1,000 riders the chance to deliver the stage racing experience normally reserved for professional riders.
As the name of the event suggests, the route will be a stern test for cyclists with over 17,000m of total ascent over its seven stages. It will feature a number of the climbs made legendary by the Tour de France, including among others the Col de la Colombière, Col des Saisies, Cormet de Roselend and the Col d'Izoard.
The event's third stage from Bourg-St-Maurice to Serre Chevalier offers a mouth-watering, if brutal, 163 kilometre route that will take in the ascents of the Cols du Madeleine, Télégraphe and Galibier. That stage will be followed by a 12 kilometre time trial up the Col du Granon, at an average of gradient of 10 per cent.
The penultimate stage from Pra Loup to Auron will take riders across the highest mountain pass in Europe, the Col de la Bonnette. The finish in Auron will also serve as the final mountain-top finish, with Pra Loup, Les Arcs and Granon to give riders the experience of a stage finish at a French Alpine peak.
Duchemin said the event has been designed to target "lovers of cyclosportives", with between 500 to 600 riders expected to sign-up for the inaugural edition.
The semi-competitive nature of the event will appeal to serious amateur cyclists from regions as far away as the United States and Australia. Leaders of the event's various categories - solo (men and women), pairs (men, women and mixed) and teams (4-9 riders) - will be presented with leaders' jerseys at the end of each stage.
Stages will start at 8am with mass starts for all but the stage four time trial. Duchemin said that although time limits will be imposed for logistical reasons, "the aim is not to exclude riders."
Full mechanical support will be provided Mavic, with the distinctive yellow cars and motorbikes seen in the Tour de France to accompany riders on the course. The event will also feature an extensive 'village' at the stage starts, with food provided during and immediately after each stage.
Duchemin said negotiations underway with local authorities and the French Gendarmerie are expected to yield a rolling road closure throughout the event.
The Haute Route will also be competitively priced for participants. Entry to the event prior to December 31, 2010 is €595, with the price increasing to €630 in the New Year. The event is open to riders 18 years or older, with the price of entry to include daily luggage transfers and an optional overnight bike storage service.
OC ThirdPole will also offer accommodation packages, with a comfort package priced at €260 and a premium package priced at €630. An optional bus transfer from Nice back to Geneva will be available for €60.
Entries for the event are already open on the event's website, www.hauteroute.org.
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Stage details for the inaugural Haute Route
- Sunday, August 21, 2011: Geneva - Megève (97 km)
- Monday August 22, 2011: Megève - Les Arcs (103 km)
- Tuesday, August 23, 2011: Bourg-St-Maurice - Serre Chevalier (162 km)
- Wednesday, August 24, 2011: Serre Chevalier - Col du Granon (12 km, time trial)
- Thursday, August 25, 2011: Serre Chevalier - Pra Loup (119 km)
- Friday, August 26, 2011: Pra Loup - Auron (78 km)
- Saturday, August 27, 2011: Auron - Nice (145 km)