With family commitments and long office hours, it’s tough to find time to get out on your bike. But is riding in a 3D computer game adequate preparation for the Haute Route Rockies, one of the world’s toughest amateur stage races?

Thirty miles out of the old mining town of Leadville the road twisted 180-degrees and rose dizzyingly above and behind us. I had been comfortably out of breath for the past hour, but as a gentle climb through pine forests gave way to a 6% treeless grind I could feel panic build.

Independence Pass reaches 3,685 metres as it crosses the continental divide, the spine of the Rockies separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. That’s nearly 900 metres above the highest point ever reached on the Tour de France (the Col de la Bonette at 2,802m) – and way beyond anything I had ever attempted on a bike.

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