Tuesday, 9 July – The final week of the Tour de France opens with a race from Gruissan to Nîmes. The 16th stage is a predominantly flat test of 188.6 kilometres.

The 2nd stage of the 2017 Vuelta a España went in the opposite direction. The race from Nîmes to Gruissan spanned over 200 kilometres and featured less than 600 vertical metres. Strong winds shredded the peloton in the finale before Yves Lampaert launched his attack in the final kilometre. The Belgian seized the stage win and the leader’s jersey. The route from Gruissan to Nîmes heads more inland, with an altitude gain of almost 1,200 metres. The most challenging climb, Côte de Fambetou, 1,2 kilometres at 5%, appears around the midpoint.While Gruissan has not participated in the Tour de France before, the opposite is true for Nîmes. The race has visited the ancient city three times in the past decade.


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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