Haute Route’s spectacular multi-stage cycling events are heading stateside in 2017 with the Mavic Haute Route Rockies, June 24-30. I rode a 550mi reconnaissance test event from Boulder to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Today Haute Route announced the start and finish cities of each stage.
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First, a quick primer on the Haute Route. Born in the Alps, the Haute Route events are weeklong stage-race adventures for well-heeled amateur cyclists that feature nearly absurd amounts of climbing. Each day is a massive timed sportive on its own, with a running cumulative time kept just as in professional stage races like the Tour de France. Add up seven back-to-back stages and you have something for amateurs like nothing else in the world.
Who is Haute Route for? And how competitive is it?
Haute Route events are not traditional amateur racing events. License amateur racers will certainly appreciate the timed, stage-race format and the Mavic support, but a racing license is not required. For riders who don’t consider themselves racers but enjoy challenging rides like tough gran fondos or even Ironman-length triathlons, a Haute Route is a bucket-list elite challenge wrapped in luxury treatment.
So how competitive is it? Well, that’s up to you. As in a marathon, you can make the Haute Route what you want it to be. Some riders will race at or near the front every day, watching their competitors. Others will ride at their own pace, and consider it a success to finish the massive challenge. However you choose to ride it, you’ll receive the same pro-level technical support from Mavic, which will be on route with mechanics on motos and in cars, with your luggage shuttled from hotel to hotel and daily briefings from the race directors.
Unlike its European counterpoints in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites, the Mavic Haute Route Rockies will tackle multiple stretches of dirt and gravel roads in addition to tarmac. For our test event, we used mostly 28mm tires with some riders running 25s. Either is adequate for the course; choose wider for more comfort and narrower for a little more speed. Or, bring both and tailor your tire set-up for each stage.
The Haute Route format in Europe usually consists of six road stages and one time trial covering around 750km (466 miles) with 20,000m (65,000ft) of climbing.
The Mavic Haute Route Rockies will also feature six road stages averaging about 100mi and one uphill time trial (11mi). Total mileage will likely be in the 550mi range, with a whopping 52,500ft / 16,000m of climbing. Some sections will not be timed — parts where race directors are concerned that race speed might not be safe — but most of each day will be.
Another statistic that figures into the challenge — every day is at altitude. Boulder and Colorado Springs are the lowest points at about 5,000ft / 1,524m. In addition to riding over 10,000ft and 12,000ft passes, riders will be sleeping at 7-9,000ft (1,524-2,744m).
The Haute Route organizers asked us to not reveal the details of each stage until the final route is set. But in the meantime, here are the basics with mileage and elevation gain on each day.
- Stage 1: Boulder > Boulder, 75 miles, 7,300ft / 2,225m
- Stage 2: Boulder > Winter Park, 85 miles, 10,000ft / 2,300m
- Stage 3: Winter Park > Avon, 98 miles, 7,500ft / 2,286m
- Stage 4: Vail Time Trail, 11 miles, 1,600ft / 500m
- Stage 5: Avon > Snowmass, 103 miles, 10,500ft / 3,200m
- Stage 6: Snowmass > Crested Butte, 106 miles, 8,500ft / 2,600m
- Stage 7: TBD > Colorado Springs, TBD miles, TBDft / TBDm
Our test run
For the reconnaissance test ride, a group of journalists, ex-pros and various VIPs were treated to not only full Mavic support on route but also nightly and morning briefings from the race directors and the vital nutrition stops — often in the middle of nowhere — staffed by coaching company CTS employees. The idea was to replicate the experience as much as possible, to recon not only the course but also the various logistics like where to put feed stops, or where radio communication would require an additional boost.
The route was created by two well-qualified race directors: Chandler Smith orchestrated the 7-day Ride the Rockies for years, while Dave Cristen ran Ironman Boulder. Both men understand the logistics behind putting on world-class events that sprawl across multiple counties. It was fun and insightful to hear their daily briefings on what to expect for the stage ahead, and reassuring to see the lengths to which they go to work with local paramedics, police and other agencies to account for everyone’s safety.
After living and riding in Colorado for 13 years, I was impressed with the quality and variety of the routes, and a little embarrassed that I had never spun my wheels down half the beautiful paved and dirt roads we rambled down. When my tongue wasn’t out from the effort, my phone was out for tourist photos. Granted, I am biased, but Colorado dirt and paved road riding is among the best in the world. Case in point: on stage 3, we were zooming down a packed dirt road at 50mph, with a river below, majestic snow-capped mountains above and nary a car for miles and miles.
The price tag is as steep as many of the climbs — bring a compact crank! — but the Haute Route delivers a luxury experience tip to tail, whether shuttling your luggage from hotel to hotel or having a Mavic veteran service a wheel change and pace you back to your group like you were a pro rider in the days before on-moto TV coverage.
Realistically, only a few hundred people on earth can do this. The $2,200 entry and 600-person field limit make it exclusive. However, the Mavic Haute Route Rockies stoked the desire in me and others on our recon trip to do a smaller, homemade version.
That said, while the roads are open for anyone to ride at any time, there are things about Haute Route you just can’t recreate with a group of friends, such as a rolling enclosure with police engagement or professional Mavic support, never mind the professional timing and 600-person competition.
What I enjoyed most about the recon ride was its extended luxury road trip nature. Being able to string together multiple 100mi point-to-point group rides through gorgeous scenery with quick CTS-fueled stops for ice socks, cool drinks and Nutella sandwiches — out in the middle of nowhere — and then arriving at a hotel with luggage waiting was a beautiful indulgence.
Whether looking for inspiration or for consideration in signing up, check out the deep photo gallery above from our test ride. As mentioned before, I’m biased, but I believe the road cycling in Colorado is world-class.
For more information, visit the Haute Route website.