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The Hell of the High Country

Article Published: Apr. 21, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Hell of the High Country

Bicyclists forge ahead in last year's Boone Roubaix in historic Todd. Photos courtesy of Pirate Race Productions

The subtitle of the bike race says it all: The Hell of the High Country.

The beginning of the course is deceptive, though, as it starts along the New River on Railroad Grade Road, which is fast and flat.

Soon enough, after some challenging climbs and descents, cyclists approach a grueling incline on Mill Creek Road.

"All of a sudden, the road just turns into a wall," Andrew Stackhouse, founder of Pirate Race Productions, said. "There is an incredibly steep, paved section that sort of looms on the horizon and bears down on you. It is singularly demoralizing."

Still, the crux of the course is yet to come. After cresting Mill Creek Road, there is a moment of descent and a left turn on Big Flats Church Road.

"(It) is the most brutally difficult section of the course," Stackhouse said. "It is unpaved, loose and so steep. If you lose traction and spin out your rear wheel, it will be next to impossible to get back on and get going."

The race is modeled after a French bike race called the Paris Roubaix, a "horrifically" long and difficult race with many miles of unpaved terrain.

"What we can offer at Boone Roubaix is the same riding experience, an incredibly unique and difficult challenge on beautiful roads along the New River in historic Todd," Stackhouse said. "That's what we are trying to recreate."

The Boone Roubaix consists of two different courses covering similar ground and four entry categories: Novice men and women, professionals, masters age 35 and up, and masters age 45 and up.

The novice men and women's course stretches 43 miles with 2.5 miles of unpaved road in six sections. This course climbs 3,682 feet and includes the crux, which is called the Koppenberg of the High Country, named after a section in another French race, the Tour of Flanders.

The professional and masters race, the Le Grand Parcourse, which is 54 miles long with 6 miles of unpaved roads and a 4,565 feet climb. Le Grand Parcourse includes two trips up the local Koppenberg.

The Boone Roubaix finishes in historic Todd. The last 9 miles are flat, following the New River upstream. The race, with a combination of flat, fast terrain mixed with slow and steep inclines, is a dichotomy of sorts.

"Your pure climbers, really small light people who can produce power will do really well on the long climbs," Stackhouse said. "Big power guys, who are incredibly strong, they don't climb well, but they can make a bike go 30 miles an hour on a flat stretch and overtake the strong climbers."

This is the second year of the Boone Roubaix. Last year, more than 150 cyclists participated, and once again, the race will benefit Wine to Water, a local nonprofit.

Dolce Vita Wine Bar in Charlotte will provide the professional and masters' winners with a bottle of wine. Winners of the novice races receive flyfishing and tubing gift certificates for RiverGirl Fishing Company, and the winners of the professional and masters' races receive cash prizes up to $499.
The races start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 23. Online registration ends at noon on Friday, April 22, though on-site, day of event registration is available.

For more information or to register, click to or email Andrew Stackhouse at (

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