Mavic Haute Route Rockies brings new Challenges & Equipment choices
As the Mavic Haute Route Rockies rolls into Boulder, Colorado, this week for the Grand Depart on June 24th, it marks the first time the popular seven-day sportives have made their way beyond the European continent. With Haute Route events currently in the Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomites, it’s easy to imagine the climbing challenge that comes along with each one. For the Rockies event, in addition to the 53,000 feet of elevation gain that comes over the course of 515 miles, there are two other unique challenges that distinguish it from its European counterparts: high altitude and dirt roads.
With summits such as Independence Pass reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation, the term ‘high altitude’ is a slight understatement. On top of the elevation, the route also includes a total of 110 miles of gravel roads. Even though the condition of the dirt roads is excellent, days like Stage 6 that goes from Snowmass Village to Crested Butte includes 41 miles of gravel roads; and if you’re not prepared for it with the correct setup and tire pressure, those sections can quickly create additional fatigue.
Mavic Ambassador riders, Tim Johnson and Janel Holcomb, along with Neil Shirley are three riders that took part in the Haute Route Rockies test event held last year to recon the routes. That allowed each one of them an inside look at what equipment would be best this time around, when they line up with 500 other riders. With 30+ hours of saddle time ahead of them for the week, ensuring the right balance of performance and comfort is achieved is the overwhelming goal in determining the ideal equipment selection.
One key advantage the three will have is Mavic’s new Ksyrium Pro UST tubeless wheels along with Yksion UST tires. “Riding a tubeless system will be a real benefit in keeping relaxed by finding a good ride quality through air pressure without the worry of flat tires”, Tim Johnson said. He continued, “I’ll set the pressure between 60-75 psi depending on how much dirt we’ll be riding that day, which is going to allow for a much smoother ride than I could get with a tube-type tire.”
Tim will be the only one of the three on disc brakes, as he’ll be riding a 2017 Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod EVO Disc with SRAM Red eTap Hydro. “It’s set up to be fast but comfortable on the long climbs that never seem to end. For gearing I’m going with 53/39 chainrings on a Quarq powermeter and 11-32 cassette.”
For Janel, who has a background as a professional road cyclist, she doesn’t feel disc brakes are entirely necessary. “During last year’s test event I was stunned by how smooth and packed the dirt sections were every day. So for this year I didn't feel the need to use anything more than my Focus Izalco Max with rim brakes, it descends and climbs beautifully. I'm thrilled to be riding Mavic's new UST road wheels for a multitude of reasons: reduced risk of flatting which means I'll get to keep rolling with my group and have a good chance of uninterrupted timed segments; improved ride quality on all surfaces; less weight to carry up all the climbs. Tire width was also an easy choice–the extra width of 28mm tires improves comfort of the ride and provides an added sense of security on the dirt roads with a greater contact patch.”
Neil is also taking more of a minimalist approach when it comes to his bike of choice, going with an Allied Alfa rim brake version. “With so much elevation gain and the fact that the altitude makes it so your VAM [vertical ascent in meters per hour] is lower, weight plays an even larger role in performance than at sea level. Keeping my bike below 15 pounds is important, and I’ve still managed to do that even with having a Pioneer power meter for pacing and to help me stay on track with caloric expenditure. Having gearing that allows me to maintain a comfortable cadence for the long climbs is a huge part in staying strong throughout all seven days, so I opted for a compact crank with an 11-28 cassette."
“Another important piece for me is going with the Yksion UST tire in a 28mm width. There’s such little difference in weight between that and a 25mm, yet the increased width allows me to drop the pressure slightly and achieve a more comfortable ride, regardless of road surface or condition” explained Neil.