In the lead up to the 2015 Tour de France, we've spent way too much time thinking what we'd include if Northern Michigan could somehow host a TdF stage. While lacking true mountains, the sheer volume of punchy, dragging and wearing climbs would make for an unforgettable stage, putting even WorldTour veterans to the test. We've picked a few of our most favorite climbs to include in a route.
Much like the Wayne Hill debate, Herman Road offers two sides, literally, about which to debate. Which is really the tougher ascent, the Southface heading north, or the Northface heading south? More than a few have offered the simple explanation that whichever you are doing is harder, but for the purpose of our proposed stage, and as an ode to some of the legendary duels at the real pinch point of rides, we've selected the Southface.
The climb itself starts gradual and ratchets up on an almost orderly timetable. The turn left from either Center Highway or Pleasant View gives riders only a glimpse of the full extent of the ascent ahead of them. A total of three gentle bends and a long road make the top invisible save for the final few hundred meters of the climb.
It's on Herman Southface that the annual first road ride usually happens, where TC's road community gathers for an early season jaunt around Lake Leelanau, and the route invariably brings riders to Herman for the first real climb of 2015 together. It's at the top, too, where the first 'nature break' usually takes place under the barren branches of what by May is a beautiful cherry orchard.
It's a climb that favors a true grimpeur, especially one capable of a stern acceleration on the steeper slopes near the top of the 1.3 mile climb. While the average gradient is just 4%, it doesn't do the climb justice. The real hotting up happens with just under a half a mile to go, where the gradient first hits 8% and stays steadily in the 8-11% range all the way to the top. It's here that one move-just the right move-is usually enough to cease hostilities and have one or two riders clear for the summit.
From the WorldTour, it's hard to go too far from big names like Chris Froome or Alberto Contador for their ability to accelerate after already having put in a solid effort. The locals boast some incredible times, including the time that has held for five years now by KOM Brian Hofstra. Chris Kushman and Ty Schmidt are right there as well, some predictable names on such an ascent.
Herman itself is a sort of gateway to some massive rides in Leelanau County, whether before heading north towards Nortport or curling west along 204 towards Lake Leelanau's caffeine institution, Pedalin' Beans, or onwards to Glen Arbor, Leland, Cedar and parts unknown.
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