Tuesday, 25 June—The 4th stage of the Tour de France travels from Pinerolo to the French Alps. After the descent from the Col du Galibier, the finish is situated in Valloire. The race is 139.6 kilometres long, and the elevation gain is 3,600 metres.

Before crossing the Italian-French, the riders climb to Sestriere. It’s a 7-kilometre trek with an average gradient of 7.2%, but if you start your mathematics at the start, the ascent is 39.9 kilometres long and sloping at 3.7%.

The Tour descends into France and continues north towards the Col de Montgenèvre. This 8.3-kilometre climb at 5.9% is crested around the midway marker. Following a relatively short descent, the riders descend a false flat towards the Col du Galibier, which is a beast—23 kilometres long and averaging 5.1%. The last kilometre goes up at 9% before a 19-kilometre descent leads to the line in Valloire.

Valloire has only seen one Tour de France stage finish until now.

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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