Why should Zwift add Mt Lemmon to its distinct and challenging assortment of alpine climbs?
Mt Lemmon in Tucson, AZ is nationally recognized as a top cycling “must do” destination. The 28 mile, 5% avg grade, and 6,000 ft total elevation gain route is a breath-taking tour of several distinct environmental biomes; from the dry desert floor with its iconic Saguaro cacti, to the often cloud encircled, pine forest peaks.
Bicycling Magazine ranked Mt Lemmon as the #2 Hardest Hill Climb in the World (24 Oct 2019). This publication also recognized it as a Winter Desert Classic Ride (23 Jan 2012) pointing out its lush and dramatic vegetation evolution as “saguaro cacti and mesquite trees give way to cool pine forests, brisk air, and dramatic windblown igneous rock formations” and descending “along the velvety-smooth road…sweeping, no-brakes descent.
Outside Online (Spring 2018) confirmed that “the 20-mile, 5,000-foot ascent of Mt. Lemmon must surely be one of the only places in the Lower 48 where you can ride an alpine ascent in shorts in January”
Canadian Cycling Magazine Online included Mt Lemmon in their Sunshine Pro: Ultimate Training Guide (2 April 2019). “Mount Lemmon is ideal for long intervals and you will be able to recover between efforts because it’s not too steep.”
The Denver Post (2 Mar 2011) points out the mountain’s allure for professional teams. “Mount Lemmon is the prime reason so many professional European cyclists come to Tucson for winter training. And it is the reason Lance Armstrong rented a house here several winters ago.”
AFAR Online (12 Oct 2018) confirms the Peloton’s fascination with this assent. “At Tucson’s northeast corner, Mount Lemmon is a dream ride for many serious road cyclists and has long been a training destination for Tour de France racers who need sustained two- to four-hour climbs at a 5 to 6 percent grade.”
Cycling Tips Online (Feb 2020) describes the unique scenery from a geological standpoint. “Sky Island is a term for an isolated mountain surrounded by a vastly different climate – in most cases, desert. The term originated in the American Southwest where 12-14,000 years ago, the climate warmed and dried the valley floors. Isolated mountains retained unique biodiversity especially in contrast to the desert floor below. On Mount Lemmon, you pass through four distinct life zones from cactus of Sonora Mexico, to alpine conifer found in Southern Canada. The vertical gain means you pass through several different climate zones, from sparse desert to tall pines, saguaro cactus gives way to pine forest and unique hoodoo rock formations. Closer to the summit, riders are greeted to a new ecosystem of aspen trees and crisp mountain air. Upon arrival at the summit you can visit the alpine ski resort of Ski Valley and the village of Summerhaven including the famous Cookie Cabin and General Store’s fresh made fudge!