It’s the hardest road race in the history of the state. There it is. We’ve said it. Take a look at the climbs. 

Chew on that for just a second. It’s the toughest road bike race you will attempt this season. Or last season. Or that you have ever done. Riders from Traverse City, and a number of out-of-towners, have been scouting out the course for three months now. If you haven’t made a recon trip yet, we will save you the gas money: soften up your chamois, chump.

According to Strava information each 22.9 mile lap gains 1,828 feet over some of the toughest, infamous climbs in Leelanau County. While the 2012 course waves a happy good-bye to the Schomberg Rollers heading south towards Cedar, climbers will eagerly welcome the return of Narlock. The new climbs of the hardest circuit in the state are both long and difficult ascents that can’t be faked or shadow-boxed. We’ll take a look at all the summits here.

Riders taking the start will negotiate a few tight corners and a short, steep climb on Hohke Road before turning north onto the Schomberg Drag. The climb goes up 242 feet over 2.1 miles, but it’s much tougher than the numbers might show. Especially with a north headwind, the climb is a leg-sapping slog over rough roads that will be the first slap in the face for riders not used to climbing for long periods of time. The loose surface was recently chip and sealed, and there are a few patches of tarmac with small, loose piles along the road.

1 Chris Kushman Jul 07, 2012 18.9mi/h 170bpm 316W Powermeter 6:35
2 Brian Hofstra Jul 07, 2012 18.7mi/h 161bpm 263W Powermeter 6:39
3 Chris Fisher Jul 07, 2012 18.6mi/h 160bpm 252W 6:40
3 Dan Hofstra Jul 07, 2012 18.6mi/h 163bpm 305W 6:40
5 Derek Graham Aug 01, 2012 18.4mi/h 157bpm 353W Powermeter 6:46
6 Webbcorp . Jul 07, 2012 17.9mi/h 179bpm 319W Powermeter 6:57
6 Jason Whittaker Jul 07, 2012 17.9mi/h 276W 6:57
8 Tim Jenema Jul 29, 2012 17.4mi/h 307W 7:09
9 Ryan Bolin Jul 04, 2012 17.0mi/h 268W 7:20
10 Cody Sovis Jul 01, 2012 16.8mi/h 286W 7:24

The next climb is another new summit for 2012. A bit of an unfamiliar climb even for locals, the Dufek Climb was an unheralded ascent turning back south off of M-22. Coming after a long descent from the Schomberg Drag, climbers will have time to move to the front on the more gradual lower slopes before a steep kick becomes the first decisive place of action on the day. Hitting 231 feet at 4.4% over 1 mile, it’s perhaps the toughest climb on any course in Michigan. It does come with well over half a lap remaining, so gaps created here may not hold up over the long, rolling straightaways south on French Road and west along Gatzke. However, in a race already being labeled as a matter of pure attrition, it’ll be another place where the unworthy see the favorites slowly pulling away. 

1 Derek Graham Jul 22, 2012 17.1mi/h 375W 3:27
2 Chris Fisher Aug 05, 2012 16.1mi/h 152bpm 323W 3:40
2 Chris Kushman Jun 30, 2012 16.1mi/h 167bpm 371W Powermeter 3:40
4 Tom Burke Jul 15, 2012 15.7mi/h 163bpm 325W Powermeter 3:45
4 Brian Hofstra Jul 21, 2012 15.7mi/h 165bpm 321W Powermeter 3:45
6 Ryan Bolin Jul 04, 2012 15.6mi/h 320W 3:47
7 Jason Whittaker Jun 24, 2012 15.4mi/h 125W 3:49
8 Joshua Hohner Aug 05, 2012 15.4mi/h 325W 3:50
8 Webbcorp . Jul 07, 2012 15.4mi/h 176bpm 358W Powermeter 3:50
10 Cody Sovis Jun 26, 2012 14.7mi/h 309W 4:00

It is after two long straightaways and one long downhill that the most infamous climb at the Cherry-Roubaix. After being excluded from the 2011 edition, Narlock returns for the State Championship where it truly belongs. It’s .9 miles at 3.4%, but those numbers don’t quite tell the whole story. That average gradient completely lies, quite frankly. The first part of the climb hits a numbing 13.5% in a few spots before spilling down to bring riders back up to over 25mph, winding to the foot of the second part of the climb and its summit. Sections of that hit 22.1% and roll cruelly over to a flying descent to Lime Lake Road, leaving riders no chance to recover as they storm north to complete the loop. It’s 215 at nearly 20mph.

1 Brian Hofstra Aug 29, 2010 18.7mi/h 178bpm 0W Powermeter 2:50
2 Chris Kushman Aug 07, 2010 18.0mi/h 169bpm 383W Powermeter 2:57
3 Nate Benke Aug 29, 2010 17.8mi/h 176bpm 343W 2:59
3 Jason Whittaker Jul 01, 2012 17.8mi/h 375W 2:59
5 Mike Anderson Aug 29, 2010 17.7mi/h 176bpm 390W Powermeter 3:00
6 Joel Gaff Jr. Jul 24, 2012 17.6mi/h 341W 3:01
7 Chris Fisher Jul 07, 2012 17.3mi/h 153bpm 321W 3:04
7 Brad Neagos Jul 05, 2012 17.3mi/h 169bpm 339W 3:04
9 Dan Hofstra Jul 07, 2012 16.7mi/h 155bpm 346W 3:11
10 Ryan Bolin Jul 28, 2012 15.8mi/h 325W 3:21

The final climb leads to a summit finish, not unlike a miniature Alpe d’Huez. At the top, a false flat to the line will result in a painful sprint for any race that finishes in a group, but all indications point to a race of small, isolated groups of ones and twos coming across the line. The Sugar Loaf Climb is just .7 miles long and 163 feet of elevation gain, but comes at a lumpy, winding 4.4% that averages roughly 9% over the final third. An important aspect of the climb is positioning in the run-in. Making the right-hand turn off M-22, the road is loose and rough on the inside, forcing the meek wide and the bold to take risks taking the corner tight. It’s a short twenty yards before the ramp kicks up hard to nearly 15% for about 10 yards and the first turn to the left. From there, it’s an open, boiling trip across the asphalt with glory or failure breathing over the shoulder of every racer.

1 Tom Burke Aug 14, 2011 20.0mi/h 167bpm 2:10
2 Collin Snyder Aug 14, 2011 18.6mi/h 168bpm 2:20
3 Colin Hebert Aug 14, 2011 18.2mi/h 179bpm 647W 2:23
3 Isaiah Jay Aug 14, 2011 18.2mi/h 2:23
5 Brian Hofstra Aug 29, 2010 17.8mi/h 180bpm 355W Powermeter 2:26
6 Craig Newell Aug 14, 2011 17.6mi/h 175bpm 407W 2:28
7 Dan Hofstra Jul 07, 2012 17.3mi/h 166bpm 400W 2:30
8 Mike Anderson Aug 29, 2010 17.2mi/h 179bpm 433W Powermeter 2:31
8 Greg Jenkinson Aug 14, 2011 17.2mi/h 175bpm 353W Powermeter 2:31
10 Mark Caffyn Aug 14, 2011 17.1mi/h 172bpm 331W Powermeter 2:32

Check back every day this week for Cherry-Roubaix Week, as we look at the Criterium, the Time Trial and make some Not-So-Bold Predictions heading into Cherry-Roubaix Weekend.

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