"Azur Ambassador" Paul Hamblett wins the Haute Route Triple Crown 2014!!
Watch Paul in action on stage 6 of the Haute Route Pyrenees
Paul is an extraordinary athlete whom I first met whilst out on the bike in January 2013. He told me he’d just given up competitive rowing (turns out he had been National Lightweight Sculling Champion) and had taken up cycling instead.
“And do you have any goals in mind for the year?” I asked, thinking back to when I had started cycling seriously and my goal had been to complete a few UK-based sportives.
“Yes, I’m doing the Haute Route Alps in August” he declared confidently.
I knew the Haute Route was 7 days of serious racing over the Alps from Geneva to Nice – essentially an Étape du Tour done at race-pace every day for 7 days. I wondered if Paul really knew what he had bitten off, and even if he did, thought it was probably more than he could chew.
Fast-forward to August 2013…I met up with Paul in a café on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice a few hours after the finish of the race, to hear at first hand the ups and downs – both physical and metaphorical – of the week. He had finished in 37th place out of 450 finishers. 37th. After just 8 months on the bike.
Far from biting off more than he could chew, it was clear he had appetite for more. For most people at the end of such an endeavour, the overwhelming feeling for days if not weeks or months, is one of “never again”, until the painful memories fade and the satisfaction of the achievement comes to the fore, together with the nagging sense of unfinished business: “I could do even better next time if I train harder, if I do this and that differently, if I have no repeat of the mishaps I suffered…etc”. For Paul, there was no “never again” moment; I could sense that as soon as he got off the bike in Nice, he was already determined to tackle it again, and with more training and having experienced a week-long race, determined to improve on 37th place.
So I wasn’t surprised when later in 2013 Paul told me he had entered the Haute Route 2014. But I was surprised when he told me he was going to be one of just 11 elite semi-pro and amateur cyclists to race all three Haute Routes back to back: Dolomites, Alps and Pyrenees…for the Haute Route Triple Crown.
Superlatives are often used to describe endurance cycling events; in this case, it is hard to find the superlatives that pass muster, so let’s allow the numbers to speak for themselves:
– 21 stages, with just 2 rest days (one of which is spent travelling from Nice to Barcelona)
– 2,600km (1,640 miles)
– 61,000m of climbing
On average, that’s 125km (80 miles) with over 2,900m of climbing, per stage, for 21 stages. ‘Nuff said.
It’s been a privilege to be able to support Paul by providing accommodation and training facilities at the AZUR base near Nice. Paul has spent extended periods down here putting in incredible hours on the bike, and when he tackles a climb, even when not going “full gas”, you can be pretty sure of a top-10 rank on Strava against some strong competition, not least the large number of professionals who live and train here. I’m grateful to Paul for being such an inspirational ambassador for AZUR.
Paul won the Triple Crown by a country-mile.
And against riders doing just one week, he also came 2nd on GC in the Pyrenees, 4th in the Dolomites, and 8th in the Alps.
Justin knows the area like the back of his hand, he can give you a 50 mile route with some Cat 3 or 4 climbs, or for the more brave amongst us 100 miles with Cat 1′s or HC climbs!
The area has so many beautiful climbs, and well-known climbs such as Col d’Eze and the “Armstrong” training climb, Col de la Madone. Whatever riding you want it’s all there with brilliantly smooth roads.
The area is nice and quiet with many very good restaurants less than 5 minutes walk away. Lovely apartment with wonderful sea views, very stylishly fitted out to a high standard.
It’s a real 5-star training camp!
Col sign, Italy-style!
Oxfordshire Road Race League
“ORRL Abroad!” – we are hosting 4 days of riding and racing in October, aimed at road racers participating in Category 3/4 races and above. See here for details >>
Come and race in France!
If you enjoy road racing in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter), then you will love racing in France! Include a road race as part of a long weekend, or longer, and you will have an amazing trip you will never forget. Check your racing licence has a UCI number (virtually all do), and with that you can race in France.
It’s the vision of a passionate cyclist sharing the best of the region. Iconic climbs, flowing coastal roads into Italy and a local cycling community in which you’re as likely so see famous pro’s as enthusiasts. I have been back 4 times and each trip uncovers new highlights personally.
That I’ll get in quality training miles for the race season is just the icing on the cake.Paul E