Road: Climbs

March 1, 2011

Four billion years of volcanic, tectonic and glacial activity left their mark on the Keweenaw. Below ground, deposits rich in copper formed; above ground, a spine of rock was pushed up and gradually smoothed over. Extending from Copper Harbor to the Porcupine Mountains near Ontonagon, the ridge line offers no shortage of climbs and some of the best scenery in Michigan. The topography is at its most unforgiving at the peninsula's northern tip between Lac La Belle and Copper Harbor. Though a far cry from L'Alp d'Huez, some of the climbs would make even a Pro Tour rider beg for mercy. Or at least a 39x23. Closer to Houghton, the climbs are generally more gradual, but there are numerous short, steep pitches that, with a few cobblestones thrown in, would fit in fine in Flanders.

The Categories
The numbers that appear on the Categories map don't quite comply with UCI specifications. Subtract a few numbers though, and you wouldn't be far off. The classification values are subjectively assigned relative to the Brockway Mountain climb, given the honor of being an hors categorie, as there's nothing quite like it in the Midwest. Brockway's net elevation gain of 800 feet over four miles doesn't sound too difficult. Five upward pitches, some as steep as 20%, punctuated by equally steep descents, relentlessly suck the energy from legs and mind. Given the difficulty of the climb, we can see UCI officials, Swiss minds loosened with a few KBC ales, giving it Cat III status and bestowing Cat IV status to a number of other nasty little climbs peppered throughout the Keweenaw. You'll know them when you find them.