It only took 5 years, but the former potholed, washboard Guanella Pass Road has been transformed into a beautiful scenic highway that is smooth as silk. The road re-opened to traffic last fall and is destined to become a cycling destination, rivaling any mountain pass in Colorado.
The birth of Guanella Pass Road came in the 1860’s as a wagon route was established to link the mining towns of Georgetown and Grant. Silver mining was the driving force and Georgetown was hence known as the Silver Queen of the Rockies. The race course from Georgetown to the summit lies within the Silver Historical Region.
On June 17, 20012, Georgetown will host the Wheelock Construction Guanella Pass Hill Climb p/b Beau Jo’s Pizza. The race offers a $1700 prize purse plus merchandise and medals. In honor of father’s day there will also be special prizes for the Dad’s. This separate competition rewards the fastest dads in each category including three “Georgetown Experience Packages” that include a night stay at a B&B, tickets on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, dinner at a local restaurant and $50 shopping spree for the Mrs. at the Buckskin Trading Company. There are many family friendly activities in Georgetown so bring the gang along. There will be a kiddies race in the parking lot, enjoy a Father’s Day lunch afterwards, grab some ice cream or hit the cupcake shop, take the kids on the Georgetown Loop Railroad…Make a day of it.
The race starts at Georgetown Lake. It will be a neutral start, with each category being escorted from Georgetown Lake through the historic town by lead vehicles provided by Medved Autoplex. The flag will drop at the edge of town at the start of Guanella Pass road. The road then climbs 11 miles and 3200 ft. from Georgetown, Colorado to the summit of Guanella pass with sustained grades of 8-9% and up to 12%.
From the start of the pass road, you are immediately in it up to your handlebars as the road pitches up steeply right outside of town. Sharp switchbacks will explode each category into pieces. You will have to work your way through 4 switchbacks over the first mile before the road levels off, but only slightly. As soon as you think you have a rhythm, a second set of switchbacks, steeper than the first, hits you even harder.
The punishment continues until about 3.5 miles into the climb. After gaining 1500 feet, you finally get a break as you approach the first of 3 reservoirs. But don’t relax, as hidden around the corners are frequent short but steep bumps a few hundred meters long but in the 10-12% range.
If your Di-2 is running low you could borrow some juice from the Xcel Energy hydroelectric plant at Cabin Creek. Here you get another little break, dare I say big ring. But, look out, there is plenty more of those steep bumps hiding around the corners. The next 3 miles is more of the same.
Around mile 6 the view will open up and you will be staring at a wall of lodge poles seemingly stacked on top of each other leading up to tree-line. This is your next obstacle. You will get to stare at the wall, for the next 2 miles and think to yourself, “I am hurting now but I will really be hurting later.”
Once you reach the Guanella Pass campground, the final challenge begins. The road pitches back up as you pass the winter closure gate. You are 3 miles from the finish but it is another 6 switchbacks and 1500 vertical away. The air thins out as you poke your helmet above tree-line at 11,500 feet. With 1K to go, you will likely be alone with your pain but if there is anyone with you that you do not want to sprint against, get rid of them now. Keep climbing at 8-9% until a right hand turn brings you to the finishing straight in the USFS parking lot at the top of the pass.
It’s a great climb and destined to be an instant classic. The pass is now currently open after its winter closure and is in great shape. Highly recommended to head up there and pre-ride the course to figure out how to gauge your efforts. If you spend any spend any time or money in town after your ride, please let the local businesses know that it is the bike race that brought you up there. That will be a great shot in the arm in helping the event get approved for subsequent years.
More race information can be found at http://guanellapasshillclimb.com