This is the second article in a series for ActiveReno that describes some long road rides in the Reno/Tahoe area (generally 50-100 miles). These routes are good if you are planning on getting into shape for a target century or other non-competitive event, or if you are looking to have some fun and prepare for longer competitive events. In this series of articles Scot Ferguson will talk about the ride, the challenges, and some other tips about long distance cycling.
The Hills around Virginia City, almost 80 miles and a little over 8,000 feet of climbing. I did this ride on Wednesday, June 19th on a solo mission. I call this ride “the 4 leaf clover” because it does have 4 climbs, but I thought that on a map it would look a bit more like a clover leaf or at least a 4 pointed star. Anyways, I was hoping to do the ride in about 4 hours but I really didn’t know how long it was or how much I would be suffering on the last couple climbs. The weather cooperated well, and I had little wind and the temps were mild. The best part about this ride is that each of the climbs are very different- both in length and intensity.
I have always wanted to do this ride and to complete all 4 climbs heading into Virginia City, but I was a bit nervous that the climbing would be too much so I took it relatively easy. Don’t get me wrong, it was really hard, but not one of those mind-blowingly difficult rides that make me start wondering why I do this sport at all. Challenge yourself to this ride and see which type of climb you prefer- the long, steady climb of Geiger and the Virginia City truck route, or the rolling climbs with super steep pitches found on 6 Mile Canyon and Gold Hill.
Climbing Geiger grade. Smooth pavement, decent amount of space, and a consistent 7 mile climb.
The first climb is Geiger grade, a nice 7 mile climb that has a lot of bicycle traffic. The climb is relatively even-pitched and doesn’t have any really steep parts so it’s easy to keep the speed consistent and get it done. I really like this climb as it offers some really nice views of the Mount Rose and Reno areas. The climb has become much safer in recent years due to the increased bicycle traffic and motorist awareness. The road surface was resurfaced last year and is now nice and smooth. Over Geiger summit there is a long descent into Virginia City which again is not too steep but you can really get moving.
The descent into Virginia City. Some old mines are visible in the background.
After getting to Virginia City, I decided to do 6 mile canyon next because I though the ride would look like a clover leaf on a map and wanted to do the climbs in order, clockwise starting from North. The road down 6 mile canyon is marked with a green sign, and goes down the hill to the East just before you hit downtown VC.
The turn down 6 mile canyon from Virginia City.
Six mile canyon is a much different climb than Geiger- it rolls along at a low grade for 3 miles of the climb, then enters a canyon with lots of nice cottonwood trees. Toward the top, especially the last mile, it gets really steep all the way until you hit the turnoff. Keep a little bit of gas in the tank so the legs don’t completely burn up before the end! The last time I did this climb was during a Reno Wheelmen hillclimb race a couple years ago and it was awful because there were fires burning in California and the course was super smoky. I also got to the race late and did not properly warm up – a recipe for some seriously burnt lungs! Luckily this time was much better.
Next I rode through Virginia City and descended and climbed the truck route, a 6 mile climb that is a nice and easy grade, not too hard. I like going past all the little abandoned mining buildings and mine entrances on this climb, and the people that live out on the road seem to be a bit quirky. The shoulder has a decent amount of space, and if you ever find yourself tired and needing to get back to Virginia City I would pick the truck route over the grind of Gold Hill, but it’s up to you!
Finally I did Gold Hill, a tough 3 mile climb with some really steep stuff at the end. One of the hardest things about this ride is doing Gold Hill last, so if you want to switch up the order of the climbs so you don’t have to climb the steeps on tired legs, do 6 mile and Gold Hill first and save the truck route for the end. Often in the afternoons the truck route will have a tailwind too.
After Gold hill stop in Virginia City for a little people watching and candy eating. I like ice cream from the candy shop before the final climb out of Virginia City to backside of Geiger grade. It is about an 800 foot climb, but pretty mellow compared to the other main climbs. At this point in my ride I did 60 miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, so you know it’s hilly! The rest was 20 miles of downhill and flat sections all the way home, a welcome break after all the hard pedal pushing!
Scot Ferguson is a USAC level 2 coach and certified in Power Based Training (CPBT). Scot is a long time collegiate cyclist and raced for many years with the UNR cycling team and Team Clif Bar Cycling. He now coaches the UNR cycling team as well as his own personal clients and strives to help them succeed. Additional information about his coaching programs can be found at www.winningmovecoaching.com.