Sunday, 23 June – The 2nd stage of the 2024 Tour de France totals 200 kilometres. The steep San Luca – 1.9 kilometres at 10.6% – is tackled twice.

The first 74 kilometres are as flat as can be, and the first cluster of hills appears. The Passo di Calbane—or, as the ASO puts it, Côte de Monticino—is 2 kilometres long and averages 7.5%. The route descends to Riolo Terme before the climb to Toranello, and the Côte de Gallisterna adds 1.2 kilometres at 12.8% to the mix.After plunging down to Imola, the tour continues on the plains of Emilia-Romagna and goes towards Bologna. But just before entering the town, a left turn leads to Botteghino di Zocca. The road to the village climbs for 1.9 kilometres at 6.8%. Shortly after the descent, the road goes uphill again, this time to Montecalvo, a 2.7 kilometre climb at 7.7%.The riders cross the line in Bologna to enter two identical 19-kilometre laps featuring an intriguing combo. The climb to the sanctuary of San Luca—1.9 kilometres at 10.6%—and the climb to Montalbano—1 kilometre at 5.4%—are divided by 1.5 kilometres downhill. The last 9 kilometres of each lap are half on descent and half on flat.

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

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