Friday, 12 July – The 19th stage of the Tour de France goes from Embrun to Isola 2000. The route is 144.5 kilometres long and includes an elevation gain of 4,400 metres.

Embrun is a regular on the Tour de France. The town has hosted five stage starts since 2008; this time, the riders headed for Isola 2000. They will conquer the Col de Vars and Cime de la Bonette to get there. The first is an 18.8-kilometre climb at 5.7%, and the second is a colossus of 22.9 kilometres with an average gradient of 6.9%. At 2,802 metres, it’s the highest point of the Tour de France. Cime de la Bonette is the highest through road on asphalt in Europe.

The road, which is actually the Col de la Bonette Restefond with an extension underneath the Cime de la Bonette—or, in English, Peak of the Bonette—was built in 1961 and included in the Tour the following year. Federico Bahamontes was the first rider to crest the Alps giant.

The riders will fly down the Cime de la Bonette to Isola, where the finish climb kicks in. The ascent to the ski area is 16.1 kilometres, while the average gradient is 7.1%.


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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