Alpe d’huez

Iain Robertson took part in the Alpe d’huez Triathlon, which has been won by some of the biggest names in the sport, including the unbeaten World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington. With a solid international field in attendance and a good prize purse, 4th place was a fantastic result for Iain…

The Alpe d’huez Tri is on most people’s to do list, the longer course was tempting, but I felt that the shorter  Standard distance would suit me better. This consisted of a 1200m swim, 30km bike (where 14k of which was up Alpe d’huez), and a 7k run at the top, at an altitude of over 2000m. We had been to watch the long course race the day before, it was impressive to think that they had to do two summits before attempting the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’huez – and all this in hot conditions. It was at this point I knew I had made the right decision. The short course started at 2pm the following day, the weather was a contrast to the previous day, with low cloud and rain.

Registration was at the top of Alpe d’huez, we drove through the cloud and got to see what was in store for us. It was clearer above the cloud until the rain set in, it was cold at this altitude, a bit like being at home! There was a split transition, we had to leave our running shoes in T2 at the top and cycle to the start at Lake Verney below. Therefore we had to ride down Alpe d’huez to the start, it was about 20k to ride to T1 and we were soaked and shivering by the time we got there. I was certainly not expecting it to be this cold here! It is not often you put your wetsuit on to warm up before a race. The conditions were much better at this level and the lake looked stunning.

There were 1,200 competitiors and we were all started off in one big wave – certainly something I had not experienced before. The water was cold, but not as bad as the reports I had heard and no worse than an early season race in the UK. The start of the swim was manic as you would expect from that number of people. I had a relatively free swim except for at the buoys. There were a lot of really quick swimmers and it felt like I had at least 100 people ahead of me. There were a huge amount of people around me as I entered T1.

The first 15 k of the ride was reasonably flat. It was difficult not to draft and after about 5k I realised, unfortunately the rules in France were more relaxed than at home. There must have been a pack of 50 or so!! There was no point pushing it, so it was a bit if a procession to the bottom of Alpe d’huez. This group was soon to be blown apart, as everyone settled in to their own rhythm as we hit the assent.

I was not sure how I would fair on this type of climb, my power to weight ratio was clearly much lower than some, and as people took off, I knew that however good my run was, I would not see them again. I caught the odd person, but quite a few came past and some must have been 20kg lighter than me! The weather was not great, as we had heavy rain and cloud, although I was warm enough from the intensity of the climb. As I neared the summit (with 3k to go), I felt that I had paced it well, my legs were feeling it, but I felt as though I would have something left for the run. I came into T2, I felt ok and headed out in a bid to catch as many people as possible.

I made good progress. The altitude on the run did not seem too bad and I continued to pass people. It was a great atmosphere as I crossed the line. I was pleased with the way I had raced. I came 4th in my Age Group. Not quite the podium I’ve recently become accustom too, however this was a completely different experience for me and a very enjoyable one.

A big thank you to our Sponsors for making it happen:

Wilier – Triathlon Frames
FFWD Wheels – Race Wheels
Huub – Wetsuits
Schwalbe – Cycle Tyres
ISM – Saddles
Lezyne – Pumps, Tools, Bottle Cages
Altura – Triathlon and Cycle Apparel
Fenwicks – Lubrication
Camelbak – Bottles
Tifosi – Sunglasses
Limar – Helmets
Lake – Cycling Footwear
Jagwire – Cables & Housing
Swans – goggles
Shimano – Groupsets
Amphibia – Transition Bags
Stages – Power Meters
Race Ware Direct – Custom Garmin Mounts
Zero Point Compression – Compression wear
Speedfil – Speedfil Hydration Systems