Haute Route Oman
Members Race Review
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akhdarEnd of Day 1 at the Jebel Al Akhdar Summit

Reviewer: Ewan Cameron
Race Name: Haute Route Oman
Age Group: 50-59
Location: Nizwa, Oman (about 2 hours inland from Muscat)
Date: March 6th-8th, 2020
Website link:  https://www.hauteroute.org/events/overview/oman-2020
Official YouTube videos of event: Stage1  Stage2   Stage3
Experience:  As a triathlete I’ve done many long rides, but this was my first multi-day cycling event and first event with serious ascents.


  • Experience the mountainous desert scenery of Oman
  • Challenge yourself with some epic climbs in a multi-day event without having to fly to Europe

Rationale for Choosing this Race
I wanted to a fresh challenge beyond doing Ironman triathlons and became interested in Haute Route, with the intention to enter the 7-day event in the French Alps in August. The 3-day tour in Oman was easy to travel to and would give me a good read of how I would get on in the 7-day event. Additionally, doing some serious climbing on the bike would improve my climbing skills for the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Greece. Unfortunately, both Greece and the Alps have been postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19.

Training for the Race
I had been training for the 70.3 in Muscat which took place 2 weeks before, so I’d been doing 10-12 hours of training a week with half on the bike, including several 4 hours rides. As Qatar lacks any hills to have any proper hill training, I had included plenty long low-cadence, high-power intervals into headwinds which was the best way to simulate some of the climbing I would be doing. 

Travel to the Race
I flew over to Muscat with Qatar Airways and rented a car for 3 days, arriving on Thursday night in time for the pre-race briefing at 1830. The race village was the Golden Tulip Nizwa which was a two-hour drive from Muscat airport.

Prior to the race we received a detailed race manual which outlined everything you needed to know about the event and each stage. At the venue, there was a well organised multi-stage check-in where you received a Haute Route backpack, a slick 2020 black/orange Haute Route jersey by Le Col, a printed copy of the race manual and all the bike numbers and timing chip.  The event started with a one-hour presentation by the Haute Route crew about the event with a focus on the Day 1, which included detailed elevation and gradient profiles of the climbs. The presenters were former pro cyclists, and as well as being entertaining, had plenty of valuable advice. The briefing was followed by a buffet dinner outdoors by the pool which hit the spot. As I didn’t know anyone at event other than my Haute Route Ambassador (Irishman Ian Hennessy who used to ride with the Qatar Chain Reaction 35s and now living in Dubai) so I found a seat and made some new acquaintances. As I had signed up relatively late for the race, I didn’t have a room at the main Golden Tulip hotel and was allocated a less salubrious hotel 10 minutes away down the road in Nizwa town. Although shuttle buses were put on, I decided to stick to using my car to shuttle back and forth at the end of the day.

Race Gear
My primary bike is a Cervelo Time Trial bike which are not permitted and any would not be suitable for the climbing involved. My roadbike, bought second hand for the odd road ride in Doha, wasn’t a great fit; it was a size too big and the chainset not ideal for the steep climbs. I decided to build a better fitting, lighter bike so bought a second hand Cervelo R5 frame and fitted it with a Shimano Di2 groupset with compact chainring and 11-30 cassette, giving me a ratio of 34 front-30 back which would be more suited for the climbing. I bought a integrated carbon handlbar set from bike24. I took the lightest carbon wheels I could find from another bike and fitted the seat from my TT bike, since I knew it would be comfortable for 4 hour+ rides. I took the power pedals from my TT-bike and 2 bottle cages. Weight of the bike was just under 7kg. 

FinishAt the finish line with the Cervelo R5


Day 1
As I was stressing out about how day 1 was going to go, I did not sleep well at all and woke well before my 5am alarm. The hotel provided a basic breakfast and I filled up on bananas, toast and jam and a cup of instant coffee. Arriving 30 minutes before the start line opened I realised I was way too early. Coffee had been promised at the start line but it was the arabic type with the cardomon which isn’t my cup of tea. I ran into some other guys from Doha – easy to spot as they were wearing Team Rasen Sports cycling gear so I got talking to them as well as Ian and found it easy to make new friends here and get a sense that everyone had similar levels of anxiety regarding what was in store on Jebel Al Akhdar. Eventually proper black coffee showed up and I managed a couple of more shots and met some Muscat-based cyclists. It was reassuring that most of the people I talked to were also as nervous about the climb as I was.

Day 1
At 7.30 we were on the way. The first 14km of the ride was in a neutralised, speed-controlled, peleton, running at about 25kph which allowed us to get warmed up and meet a few people along the way. In the last couple of km, the speed picked up and suddenly I was burning over 200w on a slight incline to keep up with the front half of the peleton as it broke away and the start of the climb loomed. Suddenly the timing mat was upon us and we started the first climb; 19km up Jebel Akhdar with an average gradient of 10%. The first 2km was some of the steepest and there was carnage everywhere once the fast guys had pedalled off. I decided to keep my eye on the power and stay below 90% of my FTP rather than try to charge up the hill. The views were amazing going up, and though it was difficult to make out exactly where we were heading, the top looked pretty far. After an hour and a half of riding
1,500m uphill with average over 200w, I finally made it to the first aid station – the longest, steepest climb was out the way.

The major climbs had a detailed profile provided, this is profile of the first climb up Jebel Al Akhdar and the picture below is me climbing it in the Haute Route jersey.

Climb 1
Ewan Akdhar climb
After a very quick stop to refill water bottles  and take in some food, we were off to the tackle the next part of the course, which was across the plateau of the mountain, with some downhill and a couple of tricky-steep sections where I grinded past some people walking up (20% at the steepest) toward the summit at 2,300m. On the way back to the finish line we had to descend those steep downhills, so this section of the ride was “neutralised” i.e. the time doesn’t count in your overall competition time so you don’t need to go crazy. That being said some complete muppets still overtook going 60kph+ down the winding road. I was getting tired going up the last climb towards the finish line and relieved to finally get the toughest day behind me. As the finish line was at the top of the first climb, we had the option to riding down back to the hotel which would be quicker than the bus. This provided a valuable opportunity to practice descending. The group I was in shot off like bullets leaving me to a more peaceful descent back to the hotel. My overall time start to finish with 5 hours 55 minutes to cover 108km, N. Power of 174w and 2,770 calories burned and a TSS of 353. My official time (excluding descents) was 4:16, 57th out of 96 and 13th out of 26th in the 50-59 age group. Not having a clue how I would do I was pretty pleased to sneak into the top half of my age group.
Back at the hotel, another massive buffet was put on, followed by a free massage for all participants and a chance to relax in and by the pool until the race briefing for Day 2.
This is blog video from day 1 by another participant which gives some good insight into the event and stage: Day 1 Blog Keira McVitty

Day 2

Day 2The second day routine was fairly similar to the first, but the profile of the race was completely different. The first part of the race was a flat, fast ride for 50km to the base of Jebel Haat. Immediately after the first 15km neutralised start of the ride, there was a short sharp climb, after which small groups formed. I managed to get into one of the faster groups upfront and it was very similar to a QCR Friday ride with the 35s with a paceline going and everyone taking a turn at the front. Along the way we picked up some others and had a solid ride to the start of the climb, refilling bottles and grabbing some fuel for the climb. 
The Jebel Haat climb was longer at 23km but with only 1,300m ascent averaging 6% not quite as steep, but on day 2 legs it was still a challenge. Towards the end there was no letting up on the climb, no opportunity to rest legs on any short flat sections, so again it was a relief to finally make it to the summit. I felt I had done better than the previous day, reaching the summit ahead of a couple of other riders that had been ahead of me the day before. Again, the long descent was neutralised so a group of us headed down to the bottom and we waited for a large enough group before starting on the “timed” 50km return to the hotel. The ride back was another unrelenting pace-line into a headwind but most of the group kept some juice in the tank for a the last short climb and a sprint finish to the line.

I finished day 2 with 5 hours 44 mins in the saddle for 145km, N. Power of 182w, 3,120 calories burned and a TSS of 375W. Officially my time was 4 hours 22 and I moved up five spots on the day to 52nd overall but was still 13th out of 26th in the 50-59 age group.

The day back at the hotel stuck to the same routine; huge buffet by the pool, swim, massage, some pre-briefing refreshments and the briefing for Day 3.

Day 3

Day 3
The final stage was a shorter time-trial event; 24km flat and finishing with a 300m climb over the final 4km. Start times were 30second intervals, based on our overall times for the first two stages so far so I was starting in the middle of the pack. I had taken my aero-helmet to look the part and was surprised I was one of the few. The start was a proper built up ramp just like a pro-race so as we lined up, I definitely felt we were part of a really professional event.
Time Trial

Stage 3 Time Trial starting ramp

I wanted do my best here and see if I could hold my spot on the ranking so I really went for it on the flat, averaging a solid 200w on tired legs, overtaking both the riders in front of me and not being overtaken by anyone on the flat. Hitting a climb when you’re already running a high heart rate is a recipe for trouble and the last 4km were the hardest of the 3 stages as I was keen not be overtaken and drop a place. I managed to overtake a half dozen other riders on the way up although a young Omani rider caught me with 200m to go as we put the hammer down to complete the stage and the event. My time was 1 hour, 1minute and 56s and I had improved to 50th place overall, and 11th in the 50-59 category for the stage. My power for total stage was 210w. 

It was a great feeling to reach the finishers area and catch up with the other riders and the new friends. At the finish line we received a medal, a polo shirt and you could have your picture taken with the finishers backdrop. Afterwards you could be bussed back but I opted for any easy 32km ride return to my car at the start. My total ride today was 2 hours for 67km and another 1,100 calories burned. Back at the hotel there was another stellar buffet, a couple of beers, lots of stories and a prize giving for all the category winners. Overall, my official time was 9 hours 40 mins and I placed 48th overall, and 12th in my category, so my time trial had allowed me to jump one place up in my age group which I was ecstatic about (I am sure bringing along my aero-helmet helped achieve that result) however no prizes for me. 

Evaluation of my race
Going into the race I really had no idea whether I could keep going uphill with 3,000m of climbing or whether I would be a wreck on the 3rd day so I was very pleased to finish with a strong performance. My placings put me into the top half of the pack and in the Masters category and gave me confidence that I could maybe go a bit harder next time.

I am pleased that I opted for this event rather than I was considering in June/July, notonly because the Covid-19 lockdown started just days after returning from Oman and means all the other Haute Route events in 2020 are cancelled. This means I will definitely consider repeating the event in 2021, in preparation of Haute Route Alps in August 2021.

Evaluation of the Race Organisation
I cannot fault anything with the race organisation. Haute Route appeared as a professional outfit from start to finish. Because it was a small, multi-day event, there was a lot more interaction with the Haute Route team and overall it felt friendlier and more relaxed than what I’ve experienced at any Ironman event. I’m looking forward to trying many of their other events, starting with Europe. 

Recommendations/Lessons Learned
If entering the race, make sure you contact Ian Hennessey or another Haute Route Ambassador as they will give you a discount code (15%). Additionally, after entering the 3-Day event, I received another discount code for 20% which I used for the 7 day event, reducing the price for the more expensive event by 36% overall. 
Book early and choose the premium accommodation at the start line, to save the faffing around with transits.
I noticed later in the day the good stuff like the energy gels were already finished at the aid stations. Though there was plenty of options there, like dates, fruit, etc, I would definitely bring a few extra gels to get me through the latter hours of the stage. 
There was a lot of debate on gearing. My 34/30 got me through the steep sections fine but I would probably be more comfortable tackling the steepest climbs with 34/32 so will be changing my cassette for the next Haute Route. I may also consider looking for a lighter set of wheels and seat, which could reduce the bike weight further.