Thirty miles out of the old mining town of Leadville the road twisted 180-degrees and rose dizzyingly above and behind us. I had been comfortably out of breath for the past hour, but as a gentle climb through pine forests gave way to a 6% treeless grind I could feel panic build. Independence Pass reaches 3,685 metres as it crosses the continental divide, the spine of the Rockies separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. That’s nearly 900 metres above the highest point ever reached on the Tour de France (the Col de la Bonette at 2,802m) – and way beyond anything I had ever attempted on a bike. A 6% slope shouldn’t be so hard but somehow stage five of the 520-mile Haute Route Rockies found me simultaneously gasping while breathing in slow motion: desperate for the next lungful before I could finish expelling the last. I was out of sync, in deficit, disconnected. The Haute Route is a series of tough week-long events held every year across the mountains of the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites. They are the closest an amateur can get to riding a multi-day pro race: moving hotels, managing nutrition, daily massages, police motorcycle outriders, support… Read full this story
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