Mavic Haute Route comes to the Rockies

Weeklong timed gran fondo-style event shows off best of Colorado

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Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Beautiful high mountain scenery was the hallmark of this first year Colorado event.

Back in August of 2011, I got to live out one of my cycling dreams. It was the first year of the Mavic Haute Route Alps, a seven-day timed gran fondo style event that started in Geneva and ended in Nice. In between those two great European cities, myself and a few hundred other lucky riders pedaled up and over a greatest hits parade of Tour de France climbs: Colombière, Madeleine, Télégraphe, Galibier, Izoard, and Cime de la Bonette just to name a few.

Check out videos from every stage of the 2017 Mavic Haute Route Rockies.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Riders spent plenty of time off the beaten path, including the trip up Sunshine Canyon Road just outside Boulder.

It was one of the hardest — and most rewarding — weeks I’ve had on a bike, availing a no-talent amateur the chance to see what it feels like to be a pro. There was neutral support on course, expertly marked routes, chip timing, and even massages at the end of the day. It was also a massive eye opener to the sheer difficulty of stage racing. It’s one thing to go hard one or two days in a row. But I could not (and still cannot) imagine exerting that kind of effort over the span of three weeks. Recovery, ladies and gentlemen, is key.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

One of many iconic sights along the Colorado route, the famed Red Cliff Bridge north of Minturn at the foot of Battle Mountain.

Flash forward to present day, and the Mavic Haute Route enterprise is thriving. Since that first year, they’ve added weeklong events in the Dolomites and Pyrenees, plus a host of shorter events in Europe. And this year, they expanded across the pond to my home state of Colorado, launching Mavic Haute Route Rockies, which started in Boulder on June 25, and ended a week later in Colorado Springs.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The Colorado event’s total mileage tally was 507 miles with 49,000 feet of climbing. Fortunately there was lots of descending, too.

While not steeped in pro racing tradition like the routes used in the weeklong European events, the roads in Colorado served up a different kind of challenge: dirt and altitude. (Check out full Mavic Haute Route Rockies results.)

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

A little dirt never hurt.

Indeed, as both a means traffic avoidance and to give competitors (67% who hailed from outside the U.S.) a taste of America’s ever burgeoning gravel cycling scene, event director Chandler Smith put together a course that was heavily off the beaten bath. Every day except the stage 4 time trial in Avon had at least one unpaved section. And some, such as stage 6 from Snowmass to Crested Butte, saw extensive dirt road riding time.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic sent a fleet of mechanics to keep the Haute Route peloton rolling.

But just like that first year back in 2011, the Haute Route Rockies experience was all pro. Mavic neutral service mechanics were available at the start, along the route, and at the finish. Course signage was spot on, letting racers know where they were and what was coming next. And once again there was a squadron of skilled massage therapists on call at stage’s end, ready to rub away the pain of what were some huge days on the bike.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Your author only did three of seven stages, but they included back-to-back 100 mile days and a trip over Independence Pass.

All told, there were four stages of 85 miles or more, including back-to-back centuries on stages 5 and 6, which also included extended time at high elevation, topping out at the summit of Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. For riders coming from lower elevations, these days were a study in humility. Sure your FTP might be 300 watts at sea level. But up here good luck maintaining 250, lest you go so deep in the red you have to pull over and catch your breath.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

On course signage was spot on.

Fortunately, the Haute Route utilizes an enduro-style timing format, meaning only portions of each stage actually count toward your final time. That meant you could give it all you had up Independence Pass, but not have to worry about staying on the gas during the sketchy west side descent.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Kebler Pass: 25 miles of dirt and a lifetime’s worth of million dollar views.

Personally, the best part of this newest Haute Route event was the joy of watching such a diverse group of riders enjoy the place I grew up in and have been riding regularly for most of the last two decades. Colorado may not have Tour de France history or Giro d’Italia lore, but it’s certainly no less beautiful than the Alps, Dolomites, or Pyrenees. If you don’t believe me, just keep scrolling. Pictures really do tell the story.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The event attracted some serious hitters, including former U.S. national cyclocross champion and Mavic brand ambassador Tim Johnson.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The brutal grind up Magnolia Road outside Boulder was one of the event’s hardest climbs.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Arguably the biggest name in the field was Britain’s Emma Pooley, an Olympic silver medalist and former world road champion who retired at the end of last season. Pooley dominated the women’s race in Colorado and became the first female to claim an individual Haute Route stage victory when she bested all on the ride from Avon to Snowmass.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Yay bikes!

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Passing through Leadville on the way to Aspen.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The front of the race was fast and highly competitive.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

There were 292 riders that completed the first year, 7-day event.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The race wrapped up in Colorado Springs with a route that wound its way through the spectacular Garden of the Gods.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The Mavic neutral support car was ever present along the route.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Even riders not used to pedaling off pavement soon settled into the road less traveled.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Every entrant got one of these sharp looking kits.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Yet another high mountain climb — this time up and over Berthoud Pass near Winter Park.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The start of the uphill Avon time trial was an all-pro affair.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

The aptly named Balanced Rock near Colorado Springs.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Former WorldTour rider turned CTS coach Matthew Busche (left) took the overall win, with Brit Matt Davies second (center), and Tim Johnson (right) in third. Total timed time for the top riders was a shade over 14 hours for the week.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

Rolling across the Rockies.

Mavic Haute Route Rockies

For more info, visit www.hauteroute.org. All photos courtesy Mavic Haute Route Rockies.

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About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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