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
 
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
Mar 12 2018 - NEWS: Less than 2 weeks until Mavic Haute Route Rockies
May 20 2018 - NEWS: Town Mountain Time Trial Closes Out Inaugural Haute Route Asheville
May 25 2018 - NEWS: I'm definitely coming back! - Riders Tackle 5 Gaps In 84-Mile Stage 2
May 19 2018 - NEWS: Haute Route Asheville Tackles Iconic Blue Ridge Parkway
Apr 23 2018 - NEWS: Angel Island Time Trial Closes Out Haute Route San Francisco
Apr 20 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route San Francisco 2018
May 18 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Asheville 2018
Jun 08 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Stelvio 2018
Jun 23 2018 - EVENT: Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018
Jul 13 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Alpe d'Huez
Aug 03 2018 - EVENT: Maserati Haute Route Norway
Aug 18 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Pyrenees 2018
Aug 26 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Alps 2018
Sep 07 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Dolomites Swiss Alps
Sep 14 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Utah 2018
Oct 05 2018 - EVENT: Haute Route Ventoux 2018
Mar 01 2019 - EVENT: Haute Route Oman