Randy Warren is an Haute Route Ambassador and longtime cycling coach who lives and rides in Asheville, North Carolina all year. With Haute Route Asheville coming to his hometown roads on May 17-19, we asked Coach Warren for some insider advice on the climbs and the routes.
What makes road cycling in Asheville special/different for experienced riders?
I have ridden in many places both here in the United States and overseas and I can honestly say that Asheville has some of the best riding anywhere. Not only are there a multitude of amazingly quiet and scenic roads with good pavement on which to ride, but we have an unparalleled variety of rolling hills to punchy climbs to big mountains. Here in Asheville, we not only get our choice of climbs but also varied descents, from thrilling switchbacks to smooth and flowy downhills. The Blue Ridge Parkway provides the area with a road that was specifically designed for sightseeing. Shallow grades, gentle curves and breathtaking views abound along the Parkway through the area around Asheville. This is truly a road cycling paradise.
Haute Route Asheville takes riders on some great climbs around Asheville. For riders new to the area, what are the climbs like?
Haute Route gives riders some of the best climbs around Asheville. While we do not spend hours on any single climb, we do get to do a few climbs that will take most riders over 30 minutes to complete. These tend to be steadier climbs where the rider can get into a good rhythm and settle into the climb. We also have some very steep climbs that may not be long (about 2 kilometers) but will make you glad you brought that compact! Other climbs come in “steps” that allow for some recovery during the climb. Really, in Haute Route Asheville, you will experience just about every kind of climbing.
While there are descents included in some of the timed sections, these are primarily “flowy” descents where you can (mostly) lay off the brakes and enjoy the way downhill. Some of the descents in the non-timed sections can be exhilarating and riders should definitely err on the side of caution as they make their way through the steep and sharp corners.
Knowing the type of climbs in the area, do you have any pacing advice for riders so they can have a great three days on the bike?
It pays to study the Haute Route Asheville courses in detail before the event to understand the best way to keep strong throughout the event. The first timed section on Day 1, for example, comes early in the day and if you go too hard on Elk Mountain, you may not have much left for the long, but beautiful, climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway later in the day. It may pay to be a bit conservative early on in order to save something for later in the day.
On day 2, however, the first timed section occurs much later in the ride and the first climb is much smaller than the first climb on Day 1. As such, it may pay to stay in a solid group as you approach the fist timed section on Day 2 and maybe extend yourself a bit more in order to keep with a group through that first timed section. Being in a group and conserving energy in and between timed sections is crucial whether you are going for a personal best or just trying to beat the lantern rouge each day.
What advice do you have for riders on recovery between stages so they can have a great three-day experience?
The key to having a strong overall Haute Route Asheville experience is to maximize day-to-day recovery. This will allow you to give your best on the 2nd and 3rd day of the event. When you come to Haute Route Asheville, all you have to worry about is riding, eating and sleeping. Haute Route does a great job of making these things as easy as possible! Not having to worry about normal day-to-day worries or responsibilities allows you to devote your full attention to recovering from one big day and getting ready for the next one.
Because of the timed sections each day, there is no time penalty for stopping at aid stations. You should certainly stop at all of the stations and be sure to take in plenty of calories and fluids. You do not have to carry much food with you while you are riding because you can eat what you need at the aid stations and then pack something along if you need additional food between aid stations.
A good general rule is to eat 40-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour and to drink 1 large water bottle of fluid per hour. Keeping your food and fluid stores topped up throughout the day means that you will have less stress on your energy systems, and it will be easier to recover after the day’s riding.
Be sure to schedule your post-ride massage immediately after you cross the finish line each day. Grab a protein-rich bite to eat in the first 20 minutes after you stop riding and then head up to get that massage. After your massage, if you haven’t eaten a full meal, make sure to do that within 2 hours of getting off the bike. Make sure that you get a good night’s sleep each night. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of socializing with the many amazing people you will meet from around the country and around the world, you just may want to hold off on the dancing until after Stage 3’s Hill Climb Time Trial.
Multi-day events are great fun on their own, and can also be great training. From a coach’s perspective, how can cyclists take advantage of Haute Route Asheville as a 3-day training block?
In general, this event will give the athlete a chance to test their day-to-day recovery and continue to build long-term fitness that will be apparent as the summer event season approaches. To get the absolute most out of the event, athletes should come into the event “fast and fresh” (rested but not “stale” from lack of hard efforts) and then allow for a couple of recovery days post-event to allow their body to begin the post-ride re-build and super compensation from the hard efforts. If the athlete’s goal is to use this as a “build” event, then they should tackle each of the timed sections with maximum effort and rest as much as possible between each effort. This will allow for multiple threshold efforts throughout the event and to gain the most out of each of these efforts. Again, riding in a group as much as possible both during and in between timed segments is a key component to being as fresh as possible and thus being able to go as hard as possible during the timed segments.