Sunday, 14 July – The Tour de France. The 33.7 kilometres route between Monaco and Nice features two climbs – 8.1 kilometres at 5.6% and 1.6 kilometres at 8.1% – before riders plunge down towards the Côte d’Azur.

It’s almost 20 kilometres along the coast from Monaco to Nice, but luckily, the riders are sent into the mountains after a short stint on the flat. The riders roll off the ramp in one of the most famous harbours in the world and set off in the direction of Italy but make a U-turn and return to climb up the D53 to La Turbie. It’s an 8.1-kilometre effort with an average gradient of 5.6%.

The route then descends to Éze, a staple section on Paris-Nice. Usually, the riders go straight ahead and further downhill towards Nice, which is not happening this time. Instead, a righthander takes the riders onto a 1.6-kilometre climb at 8.1%.

After reaching the summit of the Col d’Éze on its steepest side, the riders continue downhill towards Nice and the Promenade des Anglais on the flat along the Mediterranean. They then make a U-turn, return to the city centre, and finish on Avenue Jean Médecin.



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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