The first North American event of the 2019 Haute Route Series began today with riders coming together for registration day at Haute Route Asheville.
Now in its second year, Haute Route Asheville’s peloton grew by 100 riders over the inaugural event, and riders will take on a scenic and challenging three-day route that features the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, the historic Biltmore Estate, and miles of curvy and quiet country roads.
Over two road stages and a hillclimb time trial, riders completing the Original course will cover 206 miles with 21,065 feet of elevation gain. Riders completing the Compact course will cover 117 miles with 10,859 feet of elevation gain. Both courses end with a 5.6-mile time trial up Town Mountain, an iconic local climb that takes riders from the edge of downtown up to the gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
With an international field of majority first-time Haute Route riders, the atmosphere at registration was a mixture of excitement, curiosity, and anticipation.
For Ben Harris, a first-time rider from the United Kingdom who lives in Montreal, Haute Route Asheville is the start of an ambitious season. “It is my first Haute Route event but I’m doing the Alps and San Francisco as well this year. I started to do more cycling last year, increased my goals from 3000 to 5000km. It’s nice to ride with other people, ride in big groups and from what I read and see this is a very well organized event, so this is something I thought I might give a try.”
He added: “I watched a lot of Haute Route videos on YouTube and as soon I heard about the Infinity Pass I bought one to try some routes abroad at reduced costs. This event is a test to see how I am doing for the season. My biggest test really is to finish the Alps. Going 20,000 meters in a week will be a challenge.”
Not everyone traveled as far as Ben or the groups of riders here from Colombia, Mexico, Europe, and beyond. John Livengood, for instance, lives just two hours away. “I live in Tennessee and I’ve never really ridden much in Asheville. I’m hoping to go to the Alps next year with the Haute Route so this is a test. It just looks like the organization is going a really good job and looks like nothing else I’ve ever done. I been riding 25 years but I haven’t done a multi-day event before. I am looking forward to the hills and being tired after a long day of riding.”
Speaking of our riders from Central America, Franco Ambrosi, Francisco Islas, and a group of friends from Mexico are all looking forward to experiencing their next Haute Route. Francisco said, “We did an Haute Route a couple of years ago and we liked it very much, so we wanted to do it again. I like the challenge, getting away from the routine and get the chance to ride for 3 days.”
His friend Franco added, “We are from Mexico so it’s close to home. And the event is well organized, we like it very much. As we bought an Infinity Pass we are doing Haute Route Asheville, Haute Route Alps and, of course, Haute Route Mexico this year.”
With sunny and warm weather forecast for Stage 1, the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway should be stunning tomorrow afternoon. Riders start from Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville at 7:00am and climb out of town almost immediately via Elk Mountain. The Original and Compact routes split in Barnardsville after about 22 miles, and the Original course continues on over Cane River Gap, through Burnsville, and around to a 33-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the highest elevation for the event at 5500 feet above sea level. The Compact course also rejoins the Blue Ridge Parkway before both routes descend Town Mountain to the finish line.