“When I was flying in today I was thinking about how much I’d like to do this event,” said Dempsey, as he stood at the start line of stage 3, a brutal individual Time Trial up the Col du Granon involving over 1,050 metres of climbing. “I think it would be a great experience but I’ll have to start training now! I know for a fact that cycling, especially racing, can be just as intense as motor racing. A lot of F1 drivers I know do a lot of training on bicycles.”
Dempsey, a brand ambassador for the avant-garde Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer, the Official Timekeeper of the Haute Route, is here in the Alps to get first hand experience of the event, the world’s highest and toughest cyclosportive that challenges riders to climb some of the most challenging and iconic mountains in Europe over seven days.
“These riders beat themselves up on these climbs,” he said. “This event is brutal and yesterday with the weather, it must have been so hard for the riders.” Dempsey was referring to the events of Monday, when competitors had to deal with appalling weather at the top of the Col d’Izoard, including torrential rain, on one of the toughest climbs in cycling.
While the conditions were kinder, the race against the clock created a different sort of pressure for the peloton of 650 riders that included French sport’s icon Luc Alphand, Former Ski Champion and Dakar Rally Winner. Pierre Vaultier, gold medal in the snowboard cross at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, was also warmly supported by Patrick Dempsey.
Dempsey is a keen cyclist and fully understands the challenge of the Haute Route: “To do the Haute Route you have to be comfortable suffering. It’s not something to take lightly, you need to train but if you have the right attitude you can do it.
“There comes a point in this race when you are truly challenged and that’s where the mental strength comes in and that’s where you can’t crack under pressure. The pressure of the physical exhaustion – that’s the challenge that every single Haute Route rider faces.”
The Haute Route is impossible to some, achievable to others. There is no actual difference between those two sets of people other than their mind-sets and of course a lengthy amount of training. Known as the world toughest and highest cyclosportive, the Haute Route spans the most mythical cols of the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Swiss Alps. And it’s tough. Really tough.
The question is, will we see Patrick Dempsey on the start line of the Haute Route 2016?