Arnoult can offer that kind of five-star support because he knows these roads as well as his own bike shop. No slouch in the saddle himself, he’s a former pro rider and director sportif (cycling coach). When he moved to Maui in 1999, he thought he’d retired from racing. “I wasn’t going to do anything with the bike,” he says. “I just kept one for fitness.” But then he discovered the roads—this gritty, scenic loop around East Maui, an equally impressive route around West Maui and the island’s pinnacle ride: Haleakala. “I’d go on all these great rides and see nobody,” he says.
That didn’t last. Cyclists here on vacation would spot Arnoult’s shaved legs and bike tan at the beach. Recognizing one of their own, they’d pester him for suggestions on where to rent decent equipment and ride. Finally he took the universe’s nudge and launched a cycling tour business in 2002, followed by a bike shop. Maui Cyclery in Pa‘ia has become a de facto headquarters for the island’s biking community, and every Sunday the gear-head staff at the shop leads well-attended community rides out to Hana.
When biking’s big names come to Maui, they contact Arnoult for the lay of the land. Their signed jerseys decorate Maui Cyclery’s walls. There’s even a maillot jaune, the sport’s most coveted souvenir: the yellow jersey worn by the stage winner in the Tour de France. Next to it hangs a poster of Andy Hampsten pedal-deep in snow. The US cyclist famously rode through a blizzard to win the Giro in 1988. Still a fierce competitor, Hampsten regularly comes to Maui to train. Last year he joined the Maui Cycling Camp crew. Scribbled across his poster are the words: “Mahalo and thanks a million for my best cycling vacation ever!”
Since 2008, Arnoult has sponsored Cycle to the Sun, a race to the top of Haleakala. Bicycling up a 10,023-foot-tall volcano sounds hard enough, but racing? It’s an irresistible challenge to a cadre of hard-core cyclists. Each summer, two hundred competitors travel from all points of the globe to tackle the mythic mountain in the already legendary race. The steep highway zigzagging up Haleakala is the third-toughest hill climb in the country, according to The Complete Guide to Cycling. Riders start at sea level at Pa‘ia bay and pedal thirty-six miles relentlessly uphill. They pass through several climate zones to finish in the otherworldly atmosphere of the summit, where the scorching sun is tempered by frigid winds. From this chilly apex, the euphoric, oxygen-deprived racers can stare down at planes circling to land at Kahului Airport.
The Haleakala ride is what the campers have to look forward to; it’s the finale of their week on Maui. “I have some unfinished business with that volcano,” says Meeder. Last year he bailed out just five miles shy of the summit, when the temperature suddenly plummeted and he worried about hypothermia. “I ride in snow at home,” says the Canadian, “but I wasn’t expecting to do that here.” This year he’s prepared: He brought long-fingered gloves, tights and booties. There’s no time pressure because the campers won’t be racing. But they will be riding with the record holder for the fastest two-wheeled ascent of Haleakala. In 2009, Hesjedal bee-lined to the summit in a mere two hours and thirty-two minutes—not much longer than it takes to drive.