The grand finale of our Series is also the irreplaceable finale to almost every County ride ever, and one of the true measuring sticks of Northern Michigan.
The racers, not the parcours, that make the race, and there's no better example of that than on the slopes of Philosophy. Other climbs might be steeper, or longer, or carry a more stern average gradient, but it's the placement and the pace of Philosophy that makes it tough. It's the last ascent before riders spill home into Traverse City, and tanks are inevitably emptied over the last 2 mile stretch of the ride.
The climb begins in earnest on the small kick past White Road. The gradient, which hits 6% for 30 yards or so, gives way to a stable 2-3% for nearly a mile, before a lazy left hander brings the riders to 3-4% as they leave the wide open exposed road to some tree cover in the final mile. It's under the trees and into the shadows that the grades comes back to 5%, and it's there that the attacks have to stick.
The climb briefly plateaus, back in exposed soy bean fields, for a quarter of a mile before another pitch of 7%, a short downhill and right hand turn, and the final leg that hits 8% to the summit.
At a pedestrian 2-3% for much of the climb, it's the pace that makes things tough. Even some of the snappier riders on the road can be reeled in by a flying, steady train of bigger, power riders. It's not anything unusual to see a line of 10-15 riders holding over 20mph on the lower slopes.
Brian Hofstra holds the KOM at a ridiculous 22.5 mph, in a time of just 8:20. Derek Graham and the Kushman Brothers, Chris and Ryan, are next on the leader board, and should indicate that it's a climb more suited for rouleurs more than small climbers.
You can see the full list and info on the climb here.