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New Year's Day at Sunrise Mountain (1/1/2016)

Date: Friday, January 1
Meet time: 9:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 9:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Rd. (map)
City: Henderson, Nevada
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Pace: 2 - medium pace
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 40

Happy New Year! Start your 2016 cycling off with a bang on this scenic and stimulating ride into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

We depart from Sunset Station, just off Hwy. 95, and we'll start with an easy spin over to Clark County Wetlands Park. (If it's cold, watch for the fascinating sight of steam rising from the Las Vegas Wash.) This takes us to Hollywood Blvd., where we'll slowly climb to the east side of North Las Vegas and our first rest stop.

Then, get ready to climb! Lake Mead Blvd. ascends 2.1 miles and gains about 500 feet on its way to the summit of Sunrise Mountain; it's got a couple of mildly steep parts (more like Evil Twins, not like Quadbuster), so you'll quickly forget about any morning chill that might be lingering. After that, get ready for fun: A descent of more than 6 miles (much of it on brand-new pavement with a gloriously smooth, wide shoulder) takes us into the Lake Mead NRA. This tollbooth is often closed on holidays, but if it's open, be prepared to pay a $10 cyclist fee (good for seven consecutive days, so come back later on your own) or show a valid pass. (The America the Beautiful interagency pass is valid, but the Red Rock-only pass is not.)

Take in the scenery as we ride through the recreation area and connect with Northshore Road, which rises and then descends steeply as it crosses Las Vegas Creek. This begins our other big climb of the day: 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of about 450 feet as we leave the recreation area and begin riding Lake Mead Parkway back toward Henderson. Again, a couple of short and mildly attention-getting parts, but nothing stupidly steep. After all, it's New Year's Day!

Our final 10 miles are mostly easy as we ride the smooth bike lane of Lake Mead Parkway back to Warm Springs Road (with a new buffered bike lane most of the way!) and our return to Sunset Station. Presto, you've already bagged 40 miles for 2016!

Ride With GPS reports about 1,900 feet of climbing for this ride. Toilets, water, and a Starbucks are available inside Sunset Station. Park and meet in the east-side parking lot, off Marks Street near the hotel entrance. Follow the signs for "Meeting Rooms," and look for the black truck with ALC goodies.

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