De Three Peaks Bike Race is een bikepacking-race door dwars de Alpen van Wenen - in het oosten van Oostenrijk - tot Nice in Zuid-Frankrijk. Onderweg zijn er drie checkpoints bovenop legendarische Alpenpassen: de Grossglockner in Oostenrijk, de Col du Sanetsch in Zwitserland en de Mont Ventoux in Frankrijk. Tussendoor zijn de deelnemers vrij om hun route zelf te kiezen - ik heb de mijne gepland met komoot. De etappe met de laatste 500 kilometer door de Provence is voor alle deelnemers gelijk.
Uiteindelijk kwam mijn route uit op 2.000 kilometer met bijna 28.000 meter hoogteverschil - een loodzware race die ik na vier dagen en zes uur finishte, als tweede achter de winnaar Ulrich Bartholmoes. De gemiddelde afstand die ik per dag heb afgelegd komt overeen met circa 470 kilometer.
The start is given in Vienna at 4 p.m. and the 130 riders set off. Carried out half day, half night, the first 350 kilometers are spent on quiet and bucolic country roads.
At daybreak, the big piece looms with the ascent of the Grossglockner at the top of which is the first Checkpoint. With an average slope of 8.5% and passages over 11% it is one of the most difficult passes in Europe. Once the switch has been made, I head for the Italian border.
I travel the Tyrol largely on cycle paths, to the city of Bolzano. At the end of these first 24 hours, I drove 600 km.
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After descending the Sanetsch, I head towards Martigny. The litany of passes is not over since I have to climb the Forclaz to cross into France. When I arrive in Chamonix, night is falling.
It is in the dark that I go to Grenoble before launching my assault on the Hautes Alpes in the early morning. After the pass of Lus la Croix Haute, I head for Buis-les-Baronnies, a village from which I start to walk along the magnificent gorges of the Ouvèze.
The third 24 hour segment comes to an end as I get ready to climb the Ventoux.
It is very hot when I arrive in Malaucène, at the foot of the Ventoux, the summit of which is the third Checkpoint. Fortunately the climb is gentle and shaded on this side. From the Reynard chalet, the route is no longer free and I must follow the trail provided by the organization to reach Nice.
After the rapid descent of Bedouin, it is the ascent of the moderately steep but very long Perty pass that awaits me. No respite after the descent since it is the mountain of Lure that I must climb now. At about halfway I stop for a few hours to sleep. I resume the ascent at dawn and, on this splendid road, do not meet a living soul to the top.
If the immediate continuation of the course is devoid of col, the difference in height remains important. It is very hot in Provence, the succession of small bumps is difficult to manage.
The highlight of the show for these final kilometers is obviously the Verdon gorges. The imposed loop allows us to take full advantage of it. And the views from the lookouts are breathtaking. A final difficulty arises before reaching the finish: the Col de Saint-Barnabé.
Fortunately, it is an ascent that offers moderate percentages. Once you reach the top, there is mainly the descent before arriving at the Promenade des Anglais, which marks the end of this incredible adventure.