Sunshine Canyon is a popular climb and in almost all conditions is an appropriate ride on a road bike, especially to the end of the pavement after 5.7 miles.
Length: 9.65 miles (15.53km)
Average Grade: 6.4%
Maximum Grade: 11.86%
Vertical Gain: 2923 ft (891m)
Summit: 8460 ft (2579m)
Tour de France Category: 1
Tour de France analogue:
Col de la Ramaz – 3rd climb, Stage 8, 2010 TdF — Note: This climb would be very close to an HC categorization if it did not include the flat/downhill sections to rest and was the final climb of a stage.
Sunshine Canyon is another classic Boulder climb, but this time with a twist: the last few miles are dirt. Sometimes the dirt is washboarded and loose, but still can be negotiated by road bike, although it is smarter to descend an alternate route (down Fourmile Canyon). Many ride the road past the first steep section, to the second mile marker and descend Poorman Road (also dirt), but if you ride this short portion of the climb, realize that you’ve only scratched the surface.
After the Poorman turnoff, the road reaches its steepest point, averaging 11.86% for 0.3 miles. After this follows a brief respite of downhill, and another couple miles of flat-ish riding. Once the road turns to dirt, it climbs steeply, now with switchbacks which highlight the grade and dirt surface. A few more flat and false flat sections are thrown in near the summit to add some variety.
The climb is punchy, and despite its 9 mile length, takes most riders about an hour, which makes for a serious workout. Recently it has also hosted the annual Sunshine Hill Climb race in the spring. Don’t be afraid of the dirt. Give it a shot, you’ll be glad you did (in a way).