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.
In honor of the upcoming M-22 Challenge, we simply can't ignore one of the most beautiful ascents in Northern Michigan, and one that features in the bike leg. Indeed, the climb of Inspiration is as iconic as any in the area, and one that essentially puts the exclamation point on any ride in Leelanau County.
It's a fixture for most Glen Arbor rides and is the last ascent on the Pancake Ride (July 5) before the group curls into Glen Arbor for a quick break. On more leisurely cruises, it's always worth stopping for a look out over the beautiful Big Glen Lake.
The climb seems longer than its .8 mile official distance, but it's the steady ramp of around 8% that wears out riders and test the legs of even the toughest climbers around. Acceleration doesn't matter here; it's the ability to keep a steady effort, measured to perfection, that suits the climb the best.
When you check out the leaderboard, note the consistent date. The Pancake Ride, an annual fixture for over 20 years, traditional lights up first over Kasson Road, and perhaps more dramatically over Inspiration. There have been some demonstrative efforts over the summit, including current KOM Ty Schmidt. Ryan Kennedy is the best example of the a massive engine making great work of the climb, as well as Jason Whittaker and Aleks Bruce, smaller riders reliant perhaps a touch more on a bit of pop in the pedal stroke.
Melissa Ryba heads up the women on the climb, with Rachel Decker going as far as moving to Utah to get the climbing opportunities necessary to make up ground.
It would be an absolute treat to see WorldTour riders on the slopes of Inspiration, and it would be very well suited to a Michele Scarponi or Ryder Hesjedal.