The 2015 Giro d'Italia is entering the final week of racing with Alberto Contador now squarely in the lead over Fabio Aru. A buffer of nearly three minutes seems safe, but six (or eight) time Grand Tour winner Contador reiterated today that nothing is won yet, with more mountain stages left to tackle, including the Cima Coppi on the race's penultimate day. Indeed, many consider the race's Queen Stage to be only marginally harder than Friday's 236km slog over with three category one climbs back into the last half of the stage.
Long, demanding and packed with historic, infamous ascents...what would it look like in Traverse City? We chatted with a few guys at the shop to think of a route that would be equal parts tough, grueling and exciting; for amateurs, knocking off a handful of kilometers can often make the race even more dynamic, as they'll have the legs to really be aggressive, rather than just survive. That's a model that has started to spread even to the WorldTour ranks, with short, 130-150km stages with summit or lumpy finishes often providing more exciting finales than longer, more anticipated days.
We created a route that incorporated classic races like the Tour de Leelanau, Cherry-Roubaix, and the ol' Saturday Shootout, and weaved together some of our favorite climbs in Leelanau County.
Neutral Roll-Out: The trip through TC would be neutral, with the start coming in the Ec parking lot. Spectators, and there would be dozens, could enjoy a latte and cookie at their leisure. Hitting the TART trail, riders would highlight our crosstown cycling transportation before racing began in earnest.
The Opening Salvo: The first climb of Carter Road is one of the biggest, and provides the perfect launching pad for a breakaway in the opening kilometers. Some famous Tour stages have planted a big climb right from the gun. In the 2010 Tour, a beaten and bruised Lance Armstrong, sitting well down on GC, used an early climb on Stage 16 to get into a break and ultimately battle for stage honors. His swansong was not to be; even armed with Chris Horner as his lieutenant in the break, he still was beaten in the sprint. The combination of Kasson Rd. (273 feet at 4.5%) and Inspiration (239 feet at 5.4%) should be enough to establish the break, if Carter hasn't already done the trick.
The Body Blows: After ten miles of relative calm around Little Glen Lake and the picturesque Sleeping Bear Dunes, the climb of Trumbull Road (174 feet at 7.8%) starts the selection process once again as the race nears the halfway mark. Trumbull is historically trouble, and is almost always paired with Hlavka (234 feet at 4.6%) in one of its directions. The eastbound direction is a bit longer and gradual, but still spends time over 7% in the middle of its ascent.
The Big Four climbs remaining include two Cherry-Roubaix classics, the Schomberg Drag and Dufek. Schmomberg (242 feet at 2.2%) is long and steady, with a fast descent to the foot of Dufek (230 feet at 4.4%). The blueprint here is to put on a solid tempo on Schomberg, with the the true climbers featuring on Dufek's steeper grades.
The Knockout: If the breakaway is still gone, the time to pull them back is almost over as the race heads over Herman road and over the undulating 641 back south. The wind could play a factor as well; a warm south wind would be right in the face of riders, while anything from the north would make it a fast run into the final two tests of the day.
The Col du Bugai (355 feet at 4.3%) is a great launching pad for an aggressive rider to make the move, with ten miles remaining from the top of the climb to the finish. It's a twisting descent through the trees on East Lincoln before spilling towards Solon and the foot of the infamous Philosophy climb. At just over three miles and with a relatively gentle average gradient of 2.3%, it isn't the 385 feet of elevation that create the challenge, but the pace the climb is taken. If it's controlled, it's like a 3 mile sprint leadout at 20mph, while in a small group the pace can ebb and flow, with lots of riders capable of attacking, regrouping, and going again on the steeper pitches.