Sunday, 7 July—Today’s race is a brutal one from Loudenvielle to Plateau de Beille. In a 197.7-kilometre race, the riders must conquer four intermediate climbs before the finish climb kicks in. This is a 15.8-kilometre toil with an average gradient of 7.9%.

In recent years, the Tour de France has gone big on Quatorze Juillet.This year’s stage traverses the Pyrenees from Loudenvielle to Plateau de Beille. The first half of the race features the Col de Peyresourde (6.9 kilometres at 7.8%), Col de Menté (9.3 kilometres at 9.1%) and Col de Portet-d’Aspet (4.3 kilometres at 9.7%), before the Col d’Agnes (10 kilometres at 8.2%) and the climb to the line stand out in the second half.

Plateau de Beille was first included in the Tour de France in 1998. It was last included in Le Tour nine editions ago.

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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