There you have it. Yesterday I pinned my number on my jersey and this morning the Haute Route bike race across the Alps got under way in Geneva and it will end in Nice next Saturday.

Here’s the race’s website: http://www.hauteroutealps.org/

I got to France on Thursday and drove to Morzine where I joined five of my nine teammates for a little bit of riding ahead of the race. We then hooked up with the rest of the team for race registration and race briefing yesterday afternoon. Each of us has spent the last six to eight months getting ready for this event. My preparation has been pretty good although I couldn`t do everything I wanted to do. I know I will get through it but what I will look like (and feel like) in Nice is a completely different story. It is actually me who convinced my teammates to sign up so in a week from now we should find out if I have lost a few friends or reinforced already strong relationships.

There are five Canadians on our team including me: my nephew Guillaume (22 years old), my old friend Nicolas Breton from Bromont, René Branchaud from Montréal and Dave Burke (who is a resident of Tucson, Arizona). The team also includes four Americans: Dr Scott Forman, Greg Brown, Scott Sherman and David Kaslow. We also successfully recruited strong rider Marco Carnot from Zurich.

This is how the organizers described stage 1:

“The first stage of the Haute Route Alps – organised from Geneva to Megeve for the third year in a row – seems to be a classic. But it’s deceptive! Riders hoping to ease their legs in gently should prepare for a tough start in Haute-Savoie – even harder in 2013 than previous editions. Ride wisely. Don’t over do it on the pretty Col de l’Encrenaz, which climbs steadily from Taninges, 50km after leaving the shores of Lake Geneva. After 1443m of serious cycling, past Les Gets, it’s then straight into an attack on the Col de Joux Plane. Riders will ascend via Morzine, less extreme than by Samoens, but with an average gradient of 8.6% it’s by no means the ‘easy’ way up. Beware of the steep descent – don’t get carried away!

The final kilometres into Megeve start from the valley town of Sallanches, with 15km of climbing via Combloux – the tougher choice of route to end the day. With 149km covered and 3300 vertical metres already in the legs, this first morning in the saddle is ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’! Top tip: prepare well and ride carefully – this first day could make or break the week.”

Here’s a summary of what we did today:

Haute Route Stage 1 Summary.

Haute Route Stage 1 Summary.

For those who (like me) like maps, this was our route today:

Haute Route Stage 1 Map.

Haute Route Stage 1 Map.

Stage one included four climbs and a few bumps.

Haute Route Stage 1 Profile.

Haute Route Stage 1 Profile.

All of our teammates had a good day except for Marco who crashed. He did manage to finish the stage and we are hoping that the pain in his shoulder doesn’t prevent him from riding tomorrow’s stage. Dave Burke came in 59th overall and was the first member of our team to cross the finish line. I would have been disappointed by any other result as Dave is to most team members’ a true inspiration: “Retired and rides his bike a lot!” Well done my friend. I should also mention that my nephew had a very good day finishing only three minutes behind his 49 year old uncle. Guillaume bought his first bike in May 2012. Not bad.

I am personally happy with most of the day. I can’t believe though that I didn’t take one minute to stop at the second to last feed zone and shortly thereafter ran out of water and food. I ended up losing 13 minutes to my my friend Dave on the last climb. Save a minute and lose thirteen. Great trade!

Now off for stage 2 briefing. Stay tuned for more news tomorrow.

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