The Haute Route Mexico is a brand new event that will take place on October 18th to 20th 2019. Last year we sent one of our cycling team, Chris Breckon to take part in the Haute Route Mexico Test Event as we continue our connection with the Haute Route and look to support the spectacular events they run. Chris is a vastly experienced rider who has ridden many events across the world, this blog details what it was like to ride the Haute Route Mexico Test Event and what we can expect from the Haute Route Mexico in the future. So over to you Chris…
Having been involved with Sports Tours International since 2013 and after riding several Haute Routes myself I was interested to see how this new event would compare and what it could offer to adventurous cyclists who are looking for a new location and a new challenge to test their legs.
For a rider more used to cycling at between 200 to 300 metres of altitude in a north European climate there were two very obvious challenges which hit me about riding in Mexico. How would the humid almost tropical climate affect things, and how would my lungs cope with climbing at over 3500m?
After arriving in Mexico City and enduring the infamous traffic jams and smog it was a rapid two hour van journey to Valle de Bravo which will be the base town for the entire three day event. Valle de Bravo is a renowned centre for outdoor activities and it offers sports from Parasailing, Mountain Biking, Water Skiing, Motocross, and lots of other endless extreme stuff. This is the place that people from Mexico City come to relax and unwind, or to go crazy and burn up some adrenaline.
Featuring narrow cobblestoned streets and traditional simple Mexican architecture it had an atmosphere during both the day and evenings that was really unique and made it a great place to experience the real Mexico. The food and drinks on offer need no description, this was genuine Mexican and it was good!
After an initial riders briefing on the Registration Day, held in Spanish and English, we were prepared for what was to follow. Three days of riding in the usual Haute Route format, two long days and a mountain time trial on day three.
Day One dawned bright and sunny, Armwarmers were needed for the start but once the Mexican sun arrived it quickly heated up to a perfect 22 degrees. The route on Day One started at the Main Dock on the lakeside and totalled 116km with 2547m of climbing, a serious leg stretcher and a chance to acclimatise and get used to those altitude gains.
With plenty of short sharp ramps and several good length main climbs the route was an ideal introduction to riding in Mexico. Passing through many eye catching villages and enjoying the support and smiles of the locals was a great feeling. The Haute Route brought its colourful procession of Lycra and Carbon fibre and the locals looked on with interest and friendly waves.
It was an atmosphere that I’ve never had on any previous Haute Routes, to be so close and feel a connection to these little towns and their residents which are so different to anything you can find in any European culture.
The highlight of Day One was the section locally known as the ‘Tour de France road’ A sliver of gently twisting and undulating tarmac which switches between glimpses of both the road ahead and the road behind, whilst edging its way precariously along the vibrant green valley and hills for which this area is famous. With tropical vegetation and a warm micro-climate this was a jewel in the crown, a road built for riding by bike. After re-joining the road back along the lake it was a flat cruise back to the pave of Valle de Bravo to prepare for Day Two.
On paper the 148km of Day Two did not worry me, but studying the road book and seeing a climb of 40km and reaching 3500m high on up the side of a Volcano did generate a few alarm bells. Considering Stelvio tops out at 2750m this was an extra 800m of climbing beyond that famous summit. How would a European rider with Jetlag cope on the thin air? Would my lungs give up before my legs? Was it wise to drink that Mezcal tequila the night before??
In the end the climb was more manageable than I had thought, rising gently and at a decent constant grade of around 5% to 7% it was a climb of attrition rather than brutality. With thick trees and vegetation still at the summit it was not exposed and therefore did not cause any extra problems, other than having to ride for more than one hour uphill whilst desperately trying to hold on to the wheel in front as the power increases – a real Haute Route tester of a climb.
An adrenaline inducing fast descent followed down through the forested slopes of the Volcano, before a final 5km climb and a welcome 30km section of almost all downhill back to Valle de Bravo brought an end to Day Two. Regrouping back at the lakeside with fellow riders we exchanged congratulations at having conquered the Volcano challenge.
The third and final day again started at the Main Dock on the lake but in true Haute Route style it would be an individual mountain time trial. Leaving across the rough cobblestones and smoother pave through the town centre there are several km’s of flat road to warm up the climbing muscles. A right turn began the next 17km of steady climbing, with a few sections of gentle flats to recover before going up again. The finish line at the top brought a lot of celebrating and great spirits, a perfect way to conclude the Test Event, and as with all other Haute Route events a great connection was formed with my fellow riders. New friends and new contacts were made as we all shared in the highs and adrenaline produced from such a memorable three days in Valle de Bravo.
The Haute route Mexico will be an awesome event, dramatic roads, amazing villages, perfect weather, friendly local residents, seeing a different culture so close and so memorable. It may have been a Test Event but I will definitely be back for the real thing in October 2019, viva Mexico!