Traverse City’s Three Giants: The Leg-Wreckers Of Leelanau County

Today, the Tour de France climbs three of the most picturesque and terrifyingly difficult summits in France. We have a few here, too. 

The Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer, and the summit finish high above the clouds on La Toussouire make for the hardest stage of the 2012 Tour de France. The stage itself is just under 150km, but almost all of the race is spent climbing or spiraling down the backside of the mountain with the next peak looming not far off in the distance. The stage is going to be the first true summit finish of the Tour and the first real opportunity for the likes of Evans, Nibali and Menchov to grind Sky down and isolate Bradley Wiggins.

For those in Michigan, however, a treble of incredible climbs is not quite so easy to locate. So, here are three you can ride back-to-back-to-back to test your commitment to climbing. It’s also an excellent trio of climbs to keep in mind for the upcoming Circle of Death Challenge from kolo t.c. and Rapha.

First up, the most known climb, Philosophy. For most Leelanau Rides, Philosophy looms as a final test on the way back to civilizations. Often called Hoxie as well, Philosophy is a long, gradual climb with a few kicks towards the top almost tailor-made to break up groups after a long ride. With miles in the legs, there’s no climb quite as unforgiving as Philosophy. Some of the best riders around confirm their reputation with solid times and legendary attacks. The don’t quite tell the whole story on a climb like this, but here they are, nonetheless.

Distance: 3.1 Miles
Average Grade: 2.3%
Elevation Gain: 385


Leaderboard // Overall



9th / 34



All Time
Men and Women
Rank Name Date Speed HR Power VAM Time
Brian Hofstra Brian Hofstra Apr 18, 2009 20.5mi/h 172bpm 323W 9:07
2 Chris Kushman Jul 24, 2010 19.9mi/h 172bpm 332W Powermeter 9:25
3 Jason Whittaker Jun 24, 2012 19.8mi/h 317W 9:28
4 John Leach Jun 16, 2012 19.5mi/h 302W 9:37
5 eli brown May 22, 2012 18.5mi/h 340W 10:06
6 Dan Hofstra Apr 13, 2012 18.2mi/h 166bpm 10:16
7 Webbcorp . Apr 13, 2012 18.2mi/h 338W Powermeter 10:18
8 Wes Sovis Sep 04, 2011 18.1mi/h 280W 10:22
9 Cody Sovis Jun 29, 2012 18.0mi/h 296W 10:23
10 Don Waddell Aug 07, 2010 17.0mi/h 159bpm 11:01
Kasson Road serves as a sort of gateway to Leelanau County. If you’re headed west, you’ve got to up somewhere, and Kasson is the immediate choice for tough rides like the Sunday Shootout, the Pancake Ride and this past spring’s Gentlemen’s Ride. Kasson starts gradual and stirs itself into a frothy mess with a final kick that hits 14.6% near the top. It’s a climb that demands a well-rounded rider capable of drilling it along the more gradual sections but with the power and light-load to roll over the steep kicker at the top.
Distance: 1.1 Mile
Average Grade: 4.5%
Elevation Gain: 273 feet
1 Jason Whittaker Jul 01, 2012 16.7mi/h 355W 1212 4:07
2 John Leach Jun 16, 2012 16.4mi/h 333W 1193 4:11
3 Chris Kushman Jun 16, 2012 15.9mi/h 172bpm 373W Powermeter 1156 4:19
4 Brian Hofstra Jun 16, 2012 15.7mi/h 162bpm 290W Powermeter 1143 4:22
5 Dan Hofstra Jun 23, 2012 15.5mi/h 153bpm 338W 1130 4:25
6 Cody Sovis Jun 16, 2012 15.4mi/h 346W 1117 4:28
7 Wes Sovis Jun 16, 2012 15.2mi/h 359W 1109 4:30
8 Webbcorp . Jul 07, 2012 14.5mi/h 167bpm 341W Powermeter 1055 4:44
9 Joel Gaff Jr. Jul 07, 2012 14.3mi/h 355W 1043 4:47
9 Chris Fisher Jul 07, 2012 14.3mi/h 146bpm 276W 1043 4:47
Like Philosophy, Herman Road’s infamous Hermanator climb is rarely engaged without some tough miles in the legs. It’s a mean, curling, snarling ascent that culminates in a rewarding downhill. The road climbs until it bends back down next to an orchard, and the curves along the way are often flicked with gravel, cherries and the offal of cyclists incapable of keeping pace. Some of the best climbers around have trouble with the Hermanator, because it’s a climb that has to be taken at your own pace. Trying to stay tacked onto the back of the group can sometimes be more costly than giving ten feet and chasing over the top. Here’s the data:
Distance: 1.3 Mile
Average Grade: 3.9%
Elevation Gain: 283 feet
Brian Hofstra May 30, 2010 17.3mi/h 168bpm 302W Powermeter 1119 4:38
2 Chris Kushman May 21, 2011 16.7mi/h 174bpm 331W Powermeter 1076 4:49
3 Jason Whittaker Jun 19, 2010 16.1mi/h 297W 1040 4:59
4 Brian Griffin Sep 17, 2011 15.8mi/h 160bpm 260W 1016 5:06
5 Dan Hofstra May 12, 2012 15.4mi/h 192bpm 302W 991 5:14
6 Cody Sovis Apr 27, 2012 13.5mi/h 259W 871 5:57
7 Chuck Ball Jul 12, 2011 12.9mi/h 167bpm 834 6:13
8 Peter Leugers Aug 06, 2011 12.8mi/h 823 6:18
9 Chris Fisher Jun 28, 2012 11.9mi/h 136bpm 208W 768 6:45
10 Carol Waddell Jun 16, 2012 11.2mi/h 167bpm 160W 725 7:09
As an added bonus, here’s one of my personal favorite climbs. The Crossover starts on East Lincoln and hitches over to the east side of Hoxie to summit along Bugai Road. It’s full length brings riders up to 1,052 feet and an elevation gain of 439 feet. It’s also got two steep kicks that are enough to knock the stuffing out of nearly anyone.
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Average Grade: 3.3%
Elevation Gain: 439

Cody Sovis
Sep 06, 2011 15.3mi/h 294W 824 9:45
2 Wes Sovis Jun 13, 2012 15.2mi/h 294W 815 9:51
3 derek delzer Jul 05, 2012 13.6mi/h 284W 734 10:57
4 Brian Hofstra Sep 08, 2011 13.2mi/h 143bpm 223W Powermeter 709 11:20
5 Jason Whittaker Apr 29, 2010 13.1mi/h 154bpm 222W 707 11:22

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