Asheville will play host to the international cycling event Haute Route this spring thanks to a collaborative effort between multiple city organizations.
Additional assistance in securing the three-year commitment came from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County Recreation Services. More than 300 riders from across the United States and Europe are expected to participate, resulting in more than $1 million in total economic impact.
Asheville will be the first of three domestic locations to host a shorter, three-day format of the global cycling series. Scheduled May 18-20, 2018, the event will begin and end each day in downtown Asheville, allowing cyclists and their families to explore. The first Haute Route held in North America was in Colorado in June 2017. The seven-day, point-to-point event was won by Brevard resident and renowned cyclist Matthew Busche.
“Asheville has a long history of hosting cycling events, and we are excited to bring the Haute Route experience to the region,” said Demp Bradford, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission. “Haute Route Asheville will have the flair of the European cycling experience with good southern hospitality.”
Asheville hosted Tour DuPont in 1994 and 1995 – Lance Armstrong won the race into Asheville in 1995 – as well as the 2015 and 2016 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, the 2016 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships and Cycle North Carolina.
“Hosting the first Haute Route on the East Coast will continue to build on our reputation as a world-class competitive biking destination,” said Stephanie Brown, president and CEO of Explore Asheville.
“Haute Route has a history of attracting riders from across the U.S. as well as internationally, with many of the riders coming early and staying late to acclimate and to enjoy the area surroundings. While they are here, we know the participants will experience the best the area has to offer and will help share our story when they return home.”
During a recent site visit, organizers for Haute Route conducted a test ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway that included 18 local cyclists. In addition to its natural landscape, Asheville was deemed attractive because of the number of professional cyclists who have moved to the area to train.
The event will include timed segments strategically placed throughout the routes. Participants will navigate roughly 100 miles each day and will conclude with individual time trials on Sunday morning. The winner will post the best times over all three days and segments.
The rides will encompass the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the exact route to be announced early next year. Registration and the pre-race briefing will be on Thursday, May 17.
Buncombe County welcomes 3.8 million overnight guests, providing a customer base that assists in the sustainability of businesses in the community and contributes to tax revenues. Annually, tourism generates a $2.9 billion economic impact to the region.
(Image: USA Cycling 2014 Crit Nats by Weldon Weaver.)