The Incredible story of one man who rode over the Dolomites, Alps and Pyrenees with just one leg

As if riding over the Dolomites, Alps and Pyrenees in three weeks isn’t hard enough, Frenchman Christian Haettich did exactly that, despite having lost his left leg and left arm below the elbow in an accident years ago

The so-called Triple Crown combines the three Haute Route rides — each a week long and very challenging in their own right — with just a single rest day in between. It’s a total of 2,575 km with 60 climbs and a total of 60,000m of climbing.

Haettich was born and brought up in rural Alsace, in north-east France. He describes his childhood as being completely normal until a devastating accident in December 1976 when he was 15 years old. He was out riding a moped when he was hit head-on by a car that was overtaking oncoming traffic. As a result of the accident he lost his left leg from the hip and his left arm from just below the elbow.

The Incredible story of one man who rode over the Dolomites, Alps and Pyrenees with just one leg

“Many things changed for me. It’s not easy ending up disabled for life at 15, especially in 1976. I had to learn how to live again and deal with being stared at. It’s tough being disabled at this age, I was often rejected,” he told the BBC. “I must admit that at one time I thought about ending my life.”

Although Christian Haettich has a prosthetic leg for walking, it is not suitable for cycling. Having his weight on the right side of his body made the process of learning to ride extremely demanding.

“I had no balance and fell off many times. I often felt like giving up and moving on to something else. My wife helped me a lot until the day I managed to ride without falling off and from that moment, everything began. It took me almost a year to feel confident but in the end the struggle paid off,” he says.

“My first mountain was just to the side of my house, it wasn’t even a mountain, just 1.8km (1.1 mile) long with an average gradient of 8%,” he says. “I was extremely ill, I thought I would die it was so difficult. I did it every day for 15 days. Pedalling uphill with one leg is hard, it’s just push and pull, if I forget one, I fall. I can laugh about it now but it was very tough.”

“My disability has never prevented me from climbing a pass. It gives me determination and mental strength. I can’t ride any other way, so I don’t have a choice,”.

“Cycling is above all a passion, it’s freedom. When I see everything I’ve done on a bike, I can only be proud. Cycling brings me happiness and a true balance to my life, that is indisputable. Cycling takes away my disability, it helps me move forward, it helps me to always go further, to make the extra effort. The bike is a source of inspiration.”

Tag: hauteroute
Feb 03 2019 - NEWS: Get Pro Coaching Tips to Train for an Haute Route
Jan 22 2019 - NEWS: 4 Insider Tips on the Best Way to Experience Haute Route Asheville
Jan 13 2019 - NEWS: Win a Haute Route 3 day Entry or Mavic Haute Route Cycling Kit!
Jan 11 2019 - NEWS: 5 Reasons Why You Don't Want To Miss Haute Route Asheville
Dec 11 2018 - NEWS: The Haute Route breaks new ground in China with Haute Route Qingcheng in 2019
Aug 29 2018 - NEWS: Revolutionary Haute Route Infinity Pass unlocks all events for Single Annual Fee
Jul 05 2018 - NEWS: David Millar to ride the inaugural Maserati Haute Route Norway
Jun 30 2018 - NEWS: MAVIC Haute Route Rockies Closes with Historic Pikes Peak Stage
Jun 29 2018 - NEWS: Riders Conquer Tough Haute Route Rockies Queen Stage
Jun 29 2018 - NEWS: Incredible story of one man who rode over the Alps and Pyrenees with just one leg
Jun 28 2018 - NEWS: Peloton prepares for Massive Queen Stage at Mavic Haute Route Rockies
Jun 27 2018 - NEWS: Steep Technical Time Trial Punctuates Stage 4 on Haute Route Rockies
Jun 26 2018 - NEWS: Temperatures and Competition Heat Up on Stage 3 of the Mavic Haute Route Rockies
Jun 25 2018 - NEWS: Riders Tackle 12,000 feet on Stage 2 of Haute Route Rockies
Jun 24 2018 - NEWS: Mavic Haute Route Rockies Rolls Out for Stage 1 in Boulder
Oct 05 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Ventoux
Mar 01 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Oman
Mar 15 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Malibu Invitational
May 17 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Asheville
Jun 07 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Dolomites
Jun 20 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Stelvio
Jun 22 2019 - EVENT: Mavic Haute Route Rockies
Jul 12 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Alpe d'Huez
Aug 02 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Norway
Aug 17 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Pyrenees
Aug 23 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Utah
Aug 25 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Alps
Sep 27 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route San Francisco
Oct 18 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Mexico