There are few places in the world that are more appealing to professional cyclists than the mountains in Transylvania County. The idyllic California sun comes to mind, but then so does the traffic and cost of living. The mountains of British Columbia are home to more than one professional cyclist, but in the winter these men and women hang their bikes up and resort to gym training and snow sports.
Brevard and Transylvania County are different though. An average winter temperature of 48 degrees means cyclists are not stuck in the gym or on a trainer. The athletes who live here get to ride outside all winter.
The terrain is the biggest draw though. With over 250 miles of mountain bike trails between Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest, and countless miles of paved and gravel country roads that are virtually traffic free, athletes can tune in and focus on their training.
In the summer, Transylvania County gets a good amount of rainfall. For the mountain bikers who live here, that rain means great training for the international stage. The ability to practice in adverse conditions means they will be better suited to handle race day. On the World Cup circuit, races do not get cancelled because of a little rain.
Brevard is now home to two World Cup downhill racers, Neko Mulally and Mick Hannah.
Mulally has secured a sponsorship with local brewery Oskar Blues to supplement his sponsorship with GSTAAD-Scott. Mulally has come into his prime since his move to Brevard. In 2014 he managed a fourth place finish at the World Championships race in Norway with no chain, an impressive feat considering he had no chance to pedal the entire length of the course.
“I can’t think of a better place to live and train,” said Mulally. “I am surrounded by amazing trails that I can pedal to from my house. Within a couple hour drive there are three places where I can ride terrain that rivals the race courses. Bailey Mountain bike park just north of Asheville gives us a place to ride our downhill bikes in a controlled environment. The culture here is just great. Everyone is into the outdoors. It’s encouraging to see so many people living active lifestyles.”
Mulally hosted a downhill race series this spring. The first race was held in Chattanooga at the Trials Training Center, and attracted over 150 riders from the region. Mulally is a Pennsylvania native but was drawn to the mild winters and proximity to the technical terrain of Pisgah National Forest, training grounds for his coach at the time, former professional downhill racer Christopher Herndon.
Herndon is a Brevard native and raced on the international circuit before turning his attention to coaching up-and-coming racers. He has often told his athletes and their families that Brevard is a great place to live and train.
And people are starting to listen.
Australian World Cup downhill racer Mick Hannah moved to Brevard last winter. Hannah has stood on the podium four times during World Championships. Hannah has one World Cup win in Vigo, Spain notched on his belt and is the 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013 Australian national downhill champion.
Not all cyclists moving to Brevard are mountain bikers though. The road biking is arguably some of the best in the world. While roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway are busy during the summer and fall leaf season, cyclists can easily pedal out to the two-lane backcountry roads and escape the tourists.
Matthew Busche knows this, which is why he and his wife, Lisa, bought a house in Brevard. Busche is the 2011 and 2015 U.S. National Road Champion and will be riding for the UnitedHealthcare Pro
Cycling Team based out of Asheville, N.C.
“It’s a change in teams for me,” said Busche. “But it is one that I am excited about. I am focusing this year on the big U.S. races instead of going to Europe.”
Busche said the big races for him this season are the Tour of California, the U.S. National Road Championships and the Tour of Utah.
The diversity in roads offers the perfect training grounds for road cyclists.
Busche’s winter training regiment focuses on long, low-intensity base miles that will provide a base layer for the high-intensity drilling he will put his legs through before the race season starts.
When not on his road bike, Busche spends time with his family, explores the mountain bike trails and gravel roads on his cross bike, and he also likes to fly fish. There is no shortage of trout streams in Transylvania County.
“Lisa and I are both into the outdoors scene in Brevard,” he said. “In the off season we explore, and there are so many options. We’re going to have a ton to do for many years to come.”