Monday, February 18, 2008

How Are Mountain Climbs Categorized?

There are no set rules on how the organizer of a race can categorize hills or mountains. This is how the Tour de France climbs are defined:
Category 4 - the easiest which is typically less than 2 km (1.24 mi) long and about 5% grade, or up to 5 km (3.1 mi) at a 2-3% grade.
Category 3 - can be as short as 1.5 km (.93mi) with a very steep grade, perhaps 10%; or as long as 10 km (6.2 mi) with a grade less than 5%.
Category 2 - can be as short as 5 km (3.1 mi) at 8%, or as long as 15 km (9.3 mi) at 4%.
Category 1 - can be anything from 8 km (5 mi) at 8% to 20 km (12.4 mi) at 5%.
Hors Categorie ("above category") rating is given to exceptionally tough climbs. This could be a Category 1 whose summit is also the finish of the stage, or one that is more than 10 km (6.2 mi) long with an average grade of at least 7.5%, or up to 25 km (15.5 mi) long at 6% or steeper.

The climb up Newport Coast to the Vista Ridge Summit is about 3.65 mi. (5.9 km) and is a 5%-11% grade. I guess that makes it about a Cat 2 climb. Nice symmetry to this climb since I did it twice. Newport Coast begins at PCH and ends in Irvine past Hwy 73 at Bonita Canyon Drive. If you turn right at Vista Ridge or Ridge Park you can extend your climb. Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley may be a Cat 1 climb since it is 8.24 mi. (13.3 km) and has a grade of 5%-17%.
Pine Valley (San Diego County) may also be a Cat 1 climb even though it averages a 5% grade. It is 15.64 mi (25 km) long.

The ride up the road to the Palm Springs Arial Tram is 4.52 mi (7.3 km), but it is very steep with an average grade of 8.8% and a 17% grade near the very top when your legs are already burning.
This would make it an HC climb for me. It took me 1 hour to climb that 2,640 ft "hill" averaging 4.7 mph. About as fast as an elephant walks.
Here is the same ride viewed with my Polar monitor. It is plotted over time instead of distance. You can see how long the climb took vs. the descent which looks like I fell of a cliff. Even with braking (for fear of dying) the descent took me only 9 minutes with an average speed of 25.4 MPH hitting a max speed of 36.5 MPH.


John McBomb said...

Great post, thanks!

Anonymous said...

unporauFor two years I have been puzzled by how to interpret the categorized climbs in The Tour. You article was very helpful and took much of the mystery out of it. Thanks for taking tmie to provide this for us.

lee woo said...

Love it! Very interesting topics, I hope the incoming comments and suggestion are equally positive. Thank you for sharing this information that is actually helpful.