Micah Rice and Haute Route are a perfect pair. Having firmly established the branding for USA Cycling championship events, Rice was ready for a new challenge. Haute Route, a European company that puts on elite events for amateur riders, is looking to further penetrate the U.S. market. Who better to guide that endeavor than the former vice president of events of USA Cycling? Hence, Rice is now head of operations of Haute Route North America.
Following the success of an event this summer along the Colorado Rockies, Haute Route is about make its presence known in a big way. Three-day races in Asheville, North Carolina; San Francisco and Utah are scheduled for 2018, and several one-day events are planned, too. Rice discussed with Connect Sports what differentiates Haute Route from other event groups, what’s ahead for the company and what he’s most proud of from his time at USA Cycling.
What can you tell us about Haute Route?
Haute Route started cycling events in 2011 with Haute Route Alps. Essentially, each event is super difficult, high-experience level cycle sportif. In the U.S., we use the term “gran fondo.” Haute Route runs multi-day events where amateur riders can experience being in a professional level stage race event. The idea is you get all those things you would if you were on a professional team in an extremely difficult multi-day stage race.
What comes with that?
You go from city to city each night and you have full neutral support. There’s a team car behind you if you have technical problems. There’s a massage for everyone every night and food ready each day. Luggage gets moved from hotel to hotel for you. The idea is you don’t have to think about anything except riding a bike and making sure you’re eating and sleeping enough.
How many riders compete in Haute Route events?
We limit the number to 600 to keep the experience level high. We’re not going for numbers. We’ve seen riders in their 20s and some in their 70s. There’s a wide range from a true amateur without a racing background to top-end professionals. At Haute Route Rockies, right up front were Matthew Busche, a former national champion, and Emma Pooley, a former world champion.
Where and how do you see Haute Route expanding in the U.S.?
There is a plan to add another one or two three-day events in 2019 that feed into our queen event, Haute Route Rockies. There’s been discussion about having at least one in Canada in the next few years. We also love the idea of the Northeast and Northwest markets. There are a lot of possibilities.
What are you most proud of at USA Cycling?
USA Cycling brought me in to take national championship events and pull them up to a bar across the board. They had to have a certain level of look and feel, whether it was the professional road event or collegiate mountain bike event, or amateur track event—all the five disciplines that USA Cycling is involved with. I took the national championships and brought them up to the next level or couple of levels. I was able to improve the look, the feel and the value of that brand over a number of years.