3 day Haute Route Asheville Routes Revealed
The course for the inaugural Haute Route Asheville May 18 - 20, highlights the roads and climbs that have drawn pro cyclists to the Appalachian Mountains for decades
In contrast to the expansive big sky views of our Colorado Rockies and Utah events, Asheville features small, twisting and turning tree-lined roads. The similarity of the region’s road to European riding is part of what has drawn professional cyclists to western North Carolina for decades. The terrain is stunning, demanding, and a ton of fun to experience on a bicycle!
From the hub at the Official Riders’ Hotel in Asheville, riders will tackle 192 miles and more than 20,000 feet of total climbing over three stages. The first stage heads north and east of town to circumnavigate Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,683 feet. Then riders will get their first taste of the incredible Blue Ridge Parkway, America's longest linear park, stretching 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.
After an afternoon and evening taking in the galleries, breweries, and restaurants in Asheville, Stage 2 will head west to tackle a route even World Tour Pros Brent Bookwalter and Matthew Busche describe as “a crusher”. And the time trial on the final day tackles one of the most popular local climbs up Town Mountain.
May in the southeast United States is typically hot and humid, but one of Asheville’s great qualities is cooler temperatures during the spring and summer. In addition, the lush forests provide for plenty of shady tree cover. Nevertheless, if you’re not accustomed to humidity you will want to pay close attention to staying well hydrated throughout the weekend.
Stage 1: Asheville – Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville
103 Miles | 10,850 feet of climbing
The opening stage of Haute Route Asheville circumnavigates Mt. Mitchell. After rolling out of downtown Asheville, riders will reach the first challenge about 3 miles into the stage. The climb up Elk Mountain Scenic Highway rises 1300 feet in 5 miles. The first half of the climb is steady and steep, and after a short reprieve in the middle the climb, it finishes with a stair-step series of steep pitches. World Tour pro cyclist Brent Bookwalter owns the KOM with a time of 18:36, and Nina Laughlin holds the QOM with a time of 22:32.
Following a descent and rolling roads through the valley, riders will turn right on North Fork Road in Barnardsville. After five miles of gradual climbing, riders will hit the start of the North Fork Climb, a 4.4-mile climb under dense tree cover that rises 1250 feet. The reward for reaching the summit is one of the most fun, twisty, and technical paved descents in the area. From the base of this descent riders will benefit from regrouping to share the pacemaking over the next 25 miles of flat and rolling terrain.
At Mile 63 Stage 1 will turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, which will take riders to the high point of the day at nearly 5700 feet above sea level (twice). As the Blue Ridge Parkway passes to the south of Mt. Mitchell, riders will tackle three climbs over the span of about 18 miles, topping out at Craggy Gardens. Once riders reach a short tunnel at Mile 84, the rest of the stage is essentially downhill back into the heart of Asheville!
Stage 2: Asheville – Besty’s Gap – Doggett Mountain - Asheville
84 Miles | 8300 feet of climbing
Though shorter than Stage 1 and featuring fewer total feet of climbing, Stage 2 of Haute Route Asheville is described by local pros as “a crusher” of a route. In addition to five sustained climbs, what makes this route so challenging is the endless succession of short, punchy hills.
The stage starts with a gradual and fast descent from downtown Asheville to the French Broad River. Upon crossing the river, the next 10 miles feature a gradually ascending series of punchy rolling hills until you reach the first significant climb. The climb of Newfound Gap is short, only 2.4 miles, but it climbs 700 feet onto a plateau of sorts, meaning you don’t get much of a descent on the backside.
After riding through the outskirts of Canton, riders will head up a very rural climb over Crabtree Mountain. The heart of this climb is only 1.4 miles long, but averages 11% and has pitches steeper than 15%. The descent on the backside is similarly steep, so take care!
Riders should take advantage of the flat roads through Crabtree, because they’ll be either climbing or descending for the next 25 miles. Following a climb and descent to Fines Creek, riders will reach the two longest climbs of the stage. The first is Betsy’s Gap, a 3.8-mile climb under shady trees that rises 1240 feet. This is followed by a fast and not-so-technical 6-mile descent to the Trust General Store, a frequently visited water stop for local cyclists. Immediately after passing the Trust General Store, riders will tackle the longest climb of the stage, the 5-mile ascent of Doggett Mountain.
Following the twisting descent off Doggett Mountain, there’s about 5 more miles of gradual descending before riders hit a 13-mile stretch of short and punchy hills. Retired local pro and 2x US Pro National Champion, Matthew Busche, warns, “With short, punchy climbs it’s not the first or second that gets you. It’s the fifth, sixth, and so on. Be careful not to give everything on the early hills and have nothing left for later on.”
Once riders reach the French Broad River, the next 9 miles follow the path of the river before turning up a very gradual climb to the finish Start/Finish in downtown Asheville.#
Stage 3: Town Mountain Time Trial
5 Miles | 1200 feet of climbing
Town Mountain is a classic Asheville climb local pros and amateurs have tested themselves on for decades. Retired local pro and 2x US Pro National Champion, Matthew Busche recommends thinking about it in three sections.
The first 1.5 miles of the climb is the steepest section as you climb the west side of a ridge, with pitches reaching 10-12%. The second section continues climbing, but much more gradually at 3-5%, for another 1.5 miles along the spine of the ridge. The final 2-mile section again features steep grades, but in a series of short pitches separated by flatter sections and even a very short downhill. World Tour pro cyclist Brent Bookwalter has the KOM on the climb at 18:50, and Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank pro Kate Buss owns the QOM at 22:25.
The Closing Ceremony for Haute Route Asheville will be held immediately following the conclusion of Stage 3.
To register for the 2018 Mavic Haute Route Rockies, go to https://www.hauteroute.org/events/overview/asheville-2018
About Haute Route
Haute Route was created in 2010 by global sports marketing and event company OC Sport to deliver an unparalleled professional experience both on and off the bike for amateur riders. Taking place in the world’s most iconic cycling destinations, the events are timed, ranked and fully supported with premium services typically reserved for the pro’s. Haute Route launched its first North American event in June of 2017 with the Mavic Haute Route Rockies. For more information and to access the full 2018 Haute Route calendar of events, which includes three new three-day U.S. events, Haute Route San Francisco (April 20-22), Haute Route Asheville (May 18-20) and Haute Route Utah (September 14-16), as well as the second edition of the Mavic Haute Route Rockies (June 23-29), please visit www.hauteroute.org.