Wednesday, 10 July—The 17th stage of the de France is a 178-kilometre test between Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Superdévoluy. The elevation gain is roughly 3,000 metres, and most of it is in the last 40 kilometres.

The race sets off from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, where young Olav Kooij sprinted to victory in last year’s Paris-Nice. The route is predominantly flat until the riders reach Gap, a renowned launch pad for mountain stages – Le Tour was there 47 times for either a stage start or finish.After moving through Gap, the riders enter the Col Bayard, a 6.8-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 7.3%. Following the descent to La Fare-en-Champsaur and a 1.4-kilometre climb at 6.3% to Poligny, the Col du Noyer begins moments later. This is a 7.5-kilometre climb at 8.4%.

Only 11.7 kilometres remain at the summit of the Col du Noyer. The first 7.9 kilometres fly downhill, and then the Côte de Superdévoluy enters the Tour de France history.


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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