Saturday, 29 June—Stage 8 of the Tour de France is hilly, with an elevation gain of 2,400 metres. The climbs are neither long nor steep, but the endless succession will add to the fatigue. The 183.4 kilometres run from Semur-en-Auxois to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.

It’s a first for Colombey-les-Deux-Églises while starting venue Semur-en-Auxois featured once before on Le Tour. The 6th stage of the 2007 edition set off from the ancient town on the Armancon River to finish in Bourg-en-Bresse, where Tom Boonen outsprinted Óscar Freire.

The 8th stage traverses the hilly terrain of the Côte-d’Or, a département in Burgundy. The riders tackle the Côte de Vitteaux (3.2 kilometres at 5.8%), Côte de Villy-en-Auxois (2.7 kilometres at 5.4%), Côte de Verrey-sous-Salmaise (3.6 kilometres at 5.2%) in the first 50 kilometres. The subsequent section of 50 kilometres is played out on rolling terrain before the Côte de Sainenoge adds 1.5 kilometres at 7.1% to the mix.

Following the Côte de Bay-sur-Aube (2.7 kilometres at 4.7%) and Côte de Giey-sur-Aujon (1.4 kilometres at 7.2%), 44 kilometres remain. The race then continues on flat to rolling roads towards the Côte de Eufigneix. This 2.2-kilometre climb at 4.5% is crested 15 kilometres before the finish line in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.

The final kilometre goes up at 3%.


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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