Mountain Xpress - The Haute Route, which offers the world’s most prestigious multi-day events for amateur cyclists, is returning to Asheville May 17-19. Last year was Asheville’s first time hosting an Haute Route event; organizers confirm the number of registered riders has increased by more than 50% compared to 2018.
As one of only two American cities to host an event, Asheville will count itself among rarefied company in the cycling world. The Haute Route selects its host sites based on their significance to world cycling heritage. Host sites, such as the Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux in France, cover some of the most famed and cherished landscapes in all of cycling. Haute Route courses trace the paths of the sport’s most legendary riders, and the famed grounds where they trained and competed.
According to Jim Rutberg of Haute Route North America, 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.”
Based on Sports Commission reports, the 2018 Haute Route Asheville generated nearly $1 million dollars in economic impact for the Asheville area, including more than 1,100 room nights in local hotels and more than $64,000 in tax revenue.
The 2019 course features 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 traverses Town Mountain Road, the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, and Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, among others. Haute Route even secured a rare permit to hold a portion of the event on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In addition to world-class cycling terrain and history, Asheville also offers a unique and vibrant downtown scene to visiting participants — who come from at least 30 states and 7 countries. “The riding is only part of what makes Asheville appealing to Haute Route riders,” says Rutberg. “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 are bringing family and friends with them to turn the 3-day event into a vacation.
Stage One of the Haute Route kicks off Friday, May 17 at Pack Square.