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Prestigious Haute Route Amateur Cycling Event Returned to Asheville

By Dasha Morgan- An exciting and challenging event was organized again this year for amateur bikers here in Asheville from May 17 – 19th.

Haute Route racers peddle near College Street in downtown Asheville. Photos courtesy of Icon Media Asheville

This year to create a special event for those entering Haute Route, Asheville the organizers secured a rare permit to race on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as an opportunity to ride through the Biltmore Estate, with wonderful views of the house itself and the French Broad River.

There were close to 300 riders participating with the vast majority from out of state and about 20% from outside the United States.

Athletes came from Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, France, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. A little more than 50% of the field were first-time riders, and the age range was generally 30-60 years old with some riders in their 70s. In addition, there was apparently a couple who chose to ride this event as their honeymoon. What a way to celebrate beginning your life together!

The 2019 course featured a number of sites famous both in and outside of the world of cycling. Starting and ending downtown at Pack Square on Friday and Saturday, the course traversed Town Mountain Road, the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, and a portion of the event on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were a number of categories with various winners—solo, duo, and by age category.

Lesley McCormack came in first for the Female racers on the original (longer) course with an overall time of the three race stages of 6:49:59.43; and Kerry Werner came in first for the Men racers on the original course with a time of 5:29:51.81. Both are from the United States. Rolling off the start ramp for the Stage 3 time trial at Haute Route Asheville, only .88 seconds separated the top three riders in the Men’s Original competition.

With 9 kilometers of climbing, including pitches up to 10% in the first two kilometers and nearly flat sections toward the finish, Kona pro Kerry Werner opened the gap to his nearest competitors to take the win by 19 seconds over Hamish Beadle.

A closing ceremony was held at the Twisted Laurel mid day on Sunday to celebrate the weekend of activities. For a complete listing of this past weekend’s race results go to: https://www.hauteroute.org/live#0_0DA365.

For some riders, Haute Route Asheville was the realization of a hard-fought goal. For others, like Santiago Lyon, it was an important stepping stone on the way to other goals. “I did Haute Route Pyrenees 3 years ago. I live in New York, so Asheville was close. Last year I didn’t race or ride much and I was fat, out of shape and I needed something to motivate me. So I signed up and here I am.”

“The riding is only part of what makes Asheville appealing to Haute Route riders,” says Jim Rutberg of Haute Route North America. “The breweries, restaurants, galleries, and nearby attractions give athletes and their families a lot of options during their 3-day stay.” He says many returning riders brought family and friends with them to turn the 3-day event into a vacation. Last year was Asheville’s first time hosting the Haute Route event, and it undoubtedly had quite an economic impact on the area, as it brings so many cyclists and their families to Western North Carolina.

According to Matt Holden, CEO of Haute Route, Asheville was a natural choice for the acclaimed event. “Asheville has a storied cycling history, including hosting major cycling races, being home to several champions, and developing into a renowned training hub for road cyclists and mountain bikers,” he says. “In addition to the area’s cycling bona fides, Asheville is a vibrant and welcoming city, and we are happy to have support from the community and the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.”

Here in Asheville this was a three day event, whereas some of their events are longer, 7 day events. The Haute Route selects its host sites based on their significance to world cycling heritage, and many are in Europe and other countries, such as Norway, Oman, the Pyrenees, the Alps and even China. In August, 2019, the Haute Route will be going to Southern Utah (Cedar City) for the first time.

Riders will experience majestic Utah landscapes including breathtaking red rock formations, colorful desert sandstone, stands of Aspens, lava flows and a high alpine environment, all while reaching elevations exceeding 10,000 feet. In September, steep climbs and scenic ocean views in Marin County and the South Bay area around San Francisco, California, will be the course of the cycling terrain. To learn more about Haute Route and their many events, visit https://www.hauteroute.org

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