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Véronique Fortin Wins Haute Route Dolomites – World’s Highest and Toughest Cyclosportive

by John Symon

September 30, 2015 (Venice, Italy) – The 2011 Canadian elite women’s road champion, Véronique Fortin, recently won the 2015 Haute Route Dolomites held Aug. 31-Sept. 6, what organizers bill as the “world’s highest and toughest cyclosportive”. Fortin finished the 906km stage race from Geneva, Switzerland to Venice, Italy on the heels of winning the 2015 Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire on Aug. 15.

Veronique Fortin during the Haute Route Dolomites  ©  photorunning

Pedal caught up with the former Tibco team rider to find out how it went, how she’s re-adapting to life in Canada, her upcoming plans, and what makes her tick.

Congratulations on winning the Haute Route Dolomites.
Véronique Fortin: Thanks! It was 900km with 4km of vertical; one of the hardest cyclosportives in the world. The men’s edition sometimes sees professionals competing, but my competition in the Dolomites consisted of amateurs. However, former top British pro, Emma Pooley rode in the Pyrenees edition this year (There are three editions put on by the same organizers: Haute Route Dolomites, Haute Route Pyrenees, Haute Route Alps. More info here). I finished the race last Sunday (Sept. 6), took plane home Monday, and was at work on Tuesday (Sept. 8).

Veronique Fortin on one of the many climbs during Haute Route Dolomites  ©  photorunning

How are your legs?
VF: My legs felt awful. But I’m just surfing now and taking it easy.

How did you train for this?
VF: My training consisted of XC skiing last winter (editor’s note: in February 2015, she won both the Winter World Masters Games 15km freestyle race for 30-34- year-olds and the 42km FR Gatineau Loppet); this year I didn’t ride my trainer, but did some fat biking instead. I have no coach right now; for me it’s easier to manage work and training without a coach. I work between 35 and 80 hours a week as an anesthesiologist.

Veronique Fortin on her way to winning the 2015 Mont Washington Hill Climb  ©  Joe Viger

The Gatineau hills do not have the kind of vertical needed to train for the Haute Route – tell us more.
VF: Yes, My training involved trips to the Adirondacks (northern NY state) where I rode up Whiteface (4,865 ft / 1,483 m) and the Whites (New Hampshire), where I did the Mt Washington Hill Climb (MWHC).

(Editor’s note: when Fortin says she “did” the MWHC, she really meant she won it this year, climbing the 6,288 ft. peak in 1:05:58. Because the start line is not at sea level, the vertical rise of the MWHC is probably about 4,300 feet. The race is not sanctioned by the UCI.)

Is this how you took your vacation this year?
VF: Yes, I was on vacation riding my bike. At my job, we work hard, but get a lot of vacations

And you also rode the Dolomites in 2014?
VF: Yes, but my bike was stolen there; I am sponsored by OPUS and my Vivace was stolen. So I finished the 2014 race on a rental bike…

Veronique Fortin descending during Haute Route Dolomites  ©  photorunning

What are your future plans?
VF: I am 35 and a former professional cyclist, winning the 2011 national road championship. I want to keep living my life and being that fit. But no longer being a professional cyclist, I actually have more control over my schedule and can choose my races.

This winter, I will maybe do some (ski) races. Next summer, I am debating whether to do Haute Route Pyrenees in 2015 or The Mongolia Bike Challenge. I am also looking at The Singletrack 6 mountain-bike race in western Canada.

I hope that my exploits can be an inspiration for others, getting them to stay more active.

Congratulations on a strong season and winning such a challenging event.
VF: Thank you.

Veronique Fortin (l) and Marg Veronique Fortin and Marg Fedyna during Haute Route Dolomites   ©   John Ramsden

Finishing second behind Fortin was Marg Fedyna of Edmonton, another successful and decorated Canadian endurance cyclist. She also shared a few words about here experience:

“It was cool to ride with Veronique a few times. Even though Haute Route is more of an adventure event with an abundance of climbing and mileage packed into 7 days, a few of us race best as possible as competitors.

“The organizers put in many timing mats to start the timing at the bottom of a Col and stop the time at the top of a Col. This disrupted the flow of “racing” as riders could take their time at feed zones, and descend at their leisure. The organizers felt this was in the safety of the riders. It was in the benefit of climbing specialists and hindered confident descenders. Different packs then grouped up to start the next timed climb together. Timed sections were added together. I appreciated a comment from Veronique on my smooth descending skills when I got away one time.

“This year’s event was a battle of the extreme weather conditions. From super hot on Day 1 where most everyone was ‘shattered’ with 176 km and 4,000m elevation gain in 30C… to the latter days being cold, near freezing and rainy, where the lack of dry protective clothing at the appropriate time had riders struggling to continue. It definitely had me rethink what spare clothing to carry with me to complete a stage comfortably.

There was a strong Canadian contingent with 5 of 25 female riders from Canada. Fortin’s time was 18:31:25, Fedyna finished in 19:35:45, Martina Wan finished in 21:36:44, Richele Frank timed 21:39:21, while Sandra Yaworski DNF’d.

Visit the Haute Route website here.

Read Richelle Frank’s blog about the ride here.

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