The Haute Route Rockies was a very, very last minute endeavor for yours truly. I found myself registered for the 7 day long stage race/fondo/ride with 5 minutes before close at 4pm on Friday (ask me for the story sometime). Many texts, phone calls and favors from friends later – I had mostly sorted out where I’d stay each night along the point to point route. We’d travel from Boulder into the mountains to the west, through Winter Park, Avon, Snowmass and Crested Butte on our way to the finish in Colorado Springs.
If you’re unfamiliar with Haute Route cycling events, as I was, think of road stage racing but in this case the peloton would somewhat regroup after portions – or the race would neutralize through towns or dangerous descents. Remove the complex team support component and have all the categories start together (again, neutral). You end up with one part cycling tourism, one part race, and a full pro experience with race support from Mavic.
What I did NOT know going into the event was just how long the timed sections were. I’ve raced enduro format MTB events, where intense downhill segments/stages are timed and then you take your sweet time pedaling up to the start of the next stage. This was a completely different animal. I remember one timed section in the middle of our stage from Avon to Crested Butte that was about 90km long and conquered two mountain passes. Another stage, nearly all of it was timed except for a couple short jaunts through two towns.
This makes for a true stage racing experience yet accessible to anyone who wants to sign up. Granted, adequate training ahead of time will make sure you get your money’s worth vs. spending many hours traversing the Rockies with the ‘Lantern Rouge’ rider, signaling the tail of the field. It could be worse – our Lantern Rouge rider this year was Anne Donley and if you’re going to drag your butt to the finish, it doesn’t hurt to have an upbeat riding partner to get you there.
Mavic provides exceptional neutral support before/after each stage as well as their fleet of race support vehicles (motos, sprinter and multiple cars). The event has complimentary massages after each day, some pretty solid food at each finish, and hauls all your gear for the week from place to place. The race staff as well as Colorado State Patrol do an excellent job of controlling intersections and keeping everyone safe. The aid stations are well stocked and the staff is super friendly. At the front of the race you’ll find current and former pros battling one another and at the back you’ll find riders looking for a challenging experience on the bike, working hard to finish each day.
You can read all about each stage via the Haute Route Rockies site, so I’ll omit that here. I do have videos from the stages below (except stage 1 and 7) that should give you an idea of the scenery, road surface and the overall vibe at the front of the race. A few additional notes:
- Bring your big tires
- Colorado has some lovely roads – it just so happens some of them are dirt, or are connected with dirt sections. I wouldn’t use anything narrower than a 28mm tire for this event. We were lucky and some of the unpaved sections were as smooth as pavement but you could find yourself in a tough spot if conditions leaned the other direction. A road bike that can clear 30mm tires – perfect. Disc brakes would be lovely as well. In my opinion, you do not need a full-on gravel bike for this, however.
- Get the hotel package – you’re worth it.
- The convenience of sleeping where you finish/start every night cannot be overstated. I juggled staying at friends’ homes throughout the event and it was…challenging. Granted – if you can coordinate rides from/to the starting area each day at 6 different places, you could save yourself some coin but you’ll be earning it. With the accommodation package, your post-race meal and breakfast each day will be walking distance from your room. Perfect!
- Train for it. Yes…actually train for it.
- This is not an event to jump off the couch and participate in unless you’re training/racing regularly in the first place. Multiple racing days nearing 100 miles long at altitude and up to 9k feet of climbing, some back to back…let’s just say this isn’t Ride the Rockies.
Who’s it for?
Riders who not only want a multi-day cycling event (plenty of those out there) but who also want to race. Enjoying the scenery and taking in some of the best riding in Colorado, all while having a bit of competition to see how you measure up against other riders your age (results include overall as well as broken out by age category, gender).
Why should you do it?
The biggest factor for me on this is route. Each one of these days on their own (save the Avon hillclimb) would be a fantastic ride. Additionally, some of these stages I would never ride without a decent sized group based purely on traffic. Having a follow and lead motorcycle (thank you Colorado State Patrol!) ensured we made it from point to point with as little vehicle-drama as possible. So, having the vehicle escort opens up some great riding options that you might otherwise not do. For the racing-inclined folk, this also makes for an awesome training camp substitute.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!
Stage recap videos from my YouTube channel are in order below. They’re a bit rough around the edges as I was editing them each day after finishing.
Stage 2 through 6 full playlist: