Haute Route Rockies Journal: So not pro

Haute Route events are a great way to understand what it is like to race a big, hard stage race, but there are some key differences that make the pros' work so much harder.

Ever since I watched a grainy ESPN recap of a Tour de France stage in the late 1990s, I wondered what it would be like to ride in a pro race, to be in the peloton. I bet you have too — that might be why you read VeloNews (and hopefully we scratch that itch). The Mavic Haute Route Rockies, other Haute Route events, and the myriad sportives and gran fondos help amateurs like you and I get a taste of racing, especially when it comes to multi-day rides, with consecutive 100-mile days over serious mountains. We can come close to the feeling of a pro race, but really, it’s not the same.

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When we wake up at five in the morning, there’s no team director expecting someone to ride into the day’s breakaway. And I should also add that, for better or for worse, there aren’t fans lining the roadway to see us roll past. That’s why the pro races start later, after all, because it’s hard enough to get up that early to ride a bike, let alone spectate.

Along the way, there’s a chance you’ll get dropped on a climb, just like the pros. Though they’ll often form a grupetto for the sprinters, plenty of solid riders get dropped for good and time cut in major races. Not here — there’s almost always a group behind to cruise with. You can still have a good time on a bad day.

And what happens when you cross the line after getting dropped like that? Will a nosy reporter from some cycling website (ahem) shove a mic in front of your face and demand an explanation: “Are you still the team’s leader?” “Can you attack tomorrow?” “Will this affect your contract?” Nope. Usually, we come home to one of the helpful event staff, who shoves a Coke or a sandwich into your hands, requiring no explanation at all.

These seven days of riding are giving me a much deeper appreciation for what pro cyclists do, because this week has been really hard as-is. I can’t imagine how much more demanding it would be as a true race, where your livelihood depends on the outcome.

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