Thursday, 4 July—The 12th stage of the Tour de France is a 203.6-kilometre test between Aurillac and Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The route features 2,200 metres of climbing, mainly in the first half.

The riders clip into their pedals in Aurillac. The small town on the River Jordanne has been included fourteen times in the Tour de France. The last visit dates from 2011, when the 10th stage went from Aurillac to Jussac, where André Greipel took the spoils.

Sprinters are expected to suffer in the first 135 kilometres of the race, as there are several climbs to conquer. The Côte de Saint-Mamet-la-Salve is crested as early as kilometre 11 after an uphill of 3.6 kilometres at 3.9%. Following an undulating section and a 10-kilometre downhill, the riders move through Saint-Céré, only to go up again. The Côte d’Autoire is 2.7 kilometres long and averaging 5.9%.

The Côte de Rocamadour (2 kilometres at 5.8%) and Côte de Couzou (1.7 kilometres at 6.3%, not classified)—both featured in the opposite direction in the ITT on the penultimate day of the 2022 Tour—are the last two climbs inside the first 90 kilometres. The route then continues as a false flat to Saint-Projet.

After the intermediate sprint in Gourdon, the riders head for the last KOM climb of the day: the Côte de Montcléra, which is 2 kilometres at 4.6%, with the summit almost 70 kilometres from the finish. The route remains undulating after that, but the toughest uphill sections are over.

An uphill section of 2 kilometres at 3% inside the last 10 kilometres could make or break a late attack (possibly from the breakaway) before a false flat downhill leads onto the final 5 kilometres of flat terrain.

Climbing Defined by the Number

You’re either going up, down or flat when you’re riding.

For every 100 feet, you go forward, you will also travel vertically for a certain number of feet.

You’ve got your grade if you put a percentage sign after that vertical distance.

For example, suppose you go up two feet as you go forward 100 feet. That’s a 2% grade. Suppose you climb eight feet as you go forward 100 feet. That’s an 8% gradient.

If you want to determine the status of climbs by the numbers, we can look at the classification system used in most professional races.  That would mean climbs are classified as 4, 3, 2, 1 (and Hors Categorie or “HC” in the Tour de France.)  This determination is made by a combination of length in kilometres and average gradient, with the position of the climb in the route and the degree of road surface being lesser determinants.  See below:

  • Category 4 – the lowest category, climbs of 200-500 feet (70-150m). Length is usually less than 2 miles (3km)
  • Category 3 – climbs of 500-1600 feet (150-500m), between 2 and 3 miles (3km and 4.5km) in length.
  • Category 2 – climbs of 1600-2700 feet (500-800m), between 3 and 6 miles (4.5km and 10km) in length.
  • Category 1 – climbs of 2700-5000 feet (800-1500m), between 6 and 12 miles (10km and 20km) in length.
  • Hors Category (HC) – the hardest climbs of 5000+ feet (1500m+). Usually more than 12 miles (20km) in length

As for gradients, typically, the average gradient has to be above 4% to classify a climb.  Hors Category (HC) generally climbs on average of>10% or has an extreme length at a slightly lesser grade.

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