Stage 2 of Haute Route Asheville rolled out of town along the French Broad River, and without a major climb early on, the peloton stayed largely intact. Even after the first two big climbs up Newfound Gap and Crabtree Gap, large groups reformed to work together and talk about the timed segment they’d already completed.
For many riders, Haute Route Asheville has been their first experience competing in the timed segment format. After experiencing Stage 1, riders rapidly adapted their riding and competition strategies to take advantage of the format.
General Classification leader Corey Davis commented, “I can see why this format is catching on. We raced hard up Crabtree Gap and the field was pretty split up, but instead of having to chase each other in small groups over the next 40 miles, we could sit up, regroup with teammates, work together, and get ready for the next segment. It’s a lot of fun.”
Between the rural enclaves of Crabtree and Trust, riders experienced nearly 16 miles of another iconic North Carolina road. Route 209 from Lake Junaluska to Hot Springs, North Carolina is known as “The Rattler”, a 36-mile stretch of blacktop with 234 bends, twists, and turns. It’s a hidden gem for cyclists and motorcyclists who enjoy curvy mountain roads!
Somewhere in the middle of the field, Patrick McConnell was also enjoying the timed segments at Haute Route Asheville: “The camaraderie with an event like this is much better than a true road race, where it’s a lot more cutthroat. With the timed segments, it’s like having a race inside a race, so there’s strategy, but you get to get caught up on what you need to and focus and organize yourself. Where you might get dropped in a real race, you can pick up with other people. That makes it a lot more fun.”
The third timed segment of Stage 2 featured two big climbs and the descent between them. First, riders climbed Betsy’s Gap on Route 209 before descending into Trust, NC. After a right turn around the Trust General Store and Café, it was time to go up again, this time to the end of the timed segment at the summit of Doggett Gap.
“I was a little worried when I first signed up that there was going to be a killer race start to finish, but with the timed segments we can stop, recover, and say hi to some friends. So, it’s like four races today rather than one long race,” commented Dan Knechtel.
That fourth timed segment of Stage 2 was a rolling 5.5 miles with all intersections controlled by law enforcement so Haute Route riders had the right of way to go as fast as they could. Although the majority of the route was open to traffic, during the entire stage riders were fully supported and kept safe by 61 Haute Route staff, 41 law enforcement officers, and 70 volunteers on the roads, in aid stations, and in the caravan of 21 support cars and 12 motorcycles.
A mountain time trial awaits riders for Stage 3 on Sunday morning. Every town has its signature climb that locals both love and dread, and in Asheville that is Town Mountain. The 5.6-mile climb ascends 1209 feet as it connects downtown Asheville with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once riders get through the finish line, man are likely to enjoy a cool down spin on the BRP before descending back down Town Mountain for the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Haute Route Asheville.