There were a lot of sore legs on the Stage 2 start line of Haute Route Asheville, so a controlled neutral rollout through the Biltmore Estate was a welcome warm-up for riders today. Afterward, a series of sharp climbs and rolling hills led to a hotly contested race. At the finish, the three leaders in the Men’s Original competition were separated by just .88 seconds!
Standing at the start, Raul Hernandez commented, “I’m excited for today. I had a massage and lunch after the stage yesterday, and then tried to relax. Today I feel good and I’m looking to do well!”
Haute Route Ambassador Evan Blankenship felt ready for the day. “I recovered well after yesterday’s stage. Got some good food in, lots of hydration with the Precision Hydration mix, put the feet up… the massage was very key. And I just rested. So, I feel good today, and it looks like everyone else is doing quite well. There are still a lot of strong men and women here!”
Whether riders felt rested and recovered or not, the ominous Crabtree Gap climb awaited them 38 miles into the stage. Though 2.6 miles long, the toughest challenge was second half that featured an average grade of 13% and a maximum of 20%! Blankenship recalled, “You just have to give it everything. Full gas. You just hope the end comes soon!”
Following Crabtree Gap and a feed station, riders tackled the longest timed segment of the day, a 14.6-mile stretch that included a sustained climb up Betsy’s Gap, a moderately-technical descent, and then the ascent to the summit of Doggett Gap. Even so, Donald May thought it was an easier day than Stage 1. “I feel like this stage is easier than yesterday. The climbs haven’t been as long as they were yesterday, and the temperature has been consistent. I had trouble with the weather yesterday going from hot to cold to hot.”
At the front of the peloton, the racing was what was getting hot. Starting the day, Jeff Mahin trailed overall men’s leader, Kerry Werner, by four just four seconds. At the end of Stage 2, only 17 seconds separated the top FIVE stage finishers, with Tracy Saine taking the stage win by 5 seconds over Hamish Beadle. In the men’s overall competition Beadle moved up to third place, and Mahin closed in on Werner, who now leads by a scant 88/100ths of a second!
In the Women’s race – both Original course and Compact course – the Stage 1 leaders again won Stage 2 and retained their overall leads. Lesley McCormack leads the Women’s Original competition and Karen Pilosof leads the Women’s Compact.
There was a new stage winner in the Men’s Compact competition, with Brady Irwin - owner of Bird Legs Bicycle shops in Tallahassee and Jacksonville Beach, FL – taking Stage 2. He didn’t win by enough, however, to overtake Quentin Turnbull, who still leads the Men’s Compact Overall.
And finally, local cyclists Reid Beloni and Nina Laughlin won Stage 2 and still lead the overall in the Mixed Duo category, but there was a change in leadership in the Men’s Duo race. The Fratelli team – Omar and Oliver Goyri – won the stage and overtook the Olds Spice team of Tom Olds and Casey Clarke.
On Sunday, riders face a tough 5.6-mile hillclimb time trial up Town Mountain to see who will be crowned Champion of Haute Route Asheville.