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How are climbs rated?(3 posts)

How are climbs rated?hayaku
Jul 24, 2002 5:55 PM
What makes Cat1/2/3 and unclasified climbs? Is it the grade, length or height?
Also, what happens if one person wins two jerseys? Like the Yellow and the Polka dot? Surely they can't wear both but do the get recognition for it? Pointless questions really but thanks for your replies.
re: How are climbs rated?nn23
Jul 24, 2002 6:33 PM
Try this link:

Rating the Climbs of the Tour de France
by Bruce Hildenbrand

One of the most frequently asked questions is how do the organizers determine the ratings for the climbs in the Tour de France (TIOOYK). The Tour organizers use two criteria: 1) the length and steepness of the climb and 2) the position of the climb in the stage. A third, and much lesser criteria, is the quality of the road surface.

It is important to note several things before this discussion begins. First, the organizers of the Tour have been very erratic in their classifications of climbs. The north side of the Col de la Madeleine has flip-flopped between a 1st Category to an Hors Category climb, even though it seems to be in the same position of a stage every year.

Secondly, rating inflation, so rampant in other sports has raised its ugly head here. Climbs that used to be a 2nd Category are now a 1st Category, even though, like the Madeleine, they occupy the same position in a stage year after year.

Let's talk about the ratings. I will give you my impressions on what I think the criteria are for rating the climbs based on having ridden over 100 of the rated climbs in the major European tours.

Note that gradual climbs do not receive grades. It has been my observation that about a 4% grade is necessary for a climb to get rated. Also, a climb must gain at least 100m for it to be rated.


4th Category - the lowest category, climbs of 300-1000 feet (100-300m).

3rd Category - climbs of 1000-2000 feet (300-600m).

2nd Category - climbs of 2000-3500 feet (600-1100m).

1st Category - climbs of 3500-5000 feet (1100-1500m).

Hors Category - the hardest, climbs of 5000 feet+ (1500m+).

The organizers of the Tour de France also claim that the quality of the road surface can influence the rating of a climb. If the surface is very poor, like some of the more obscure climbs in the Pyrenees, then the rating may be bumped up. Also, remember we are rating only paved (i.e. asphalt) roads. Dirt roads vary considerably in their layout, condition and maintenance because there really are no guidelines for their construction. This makes it difficult to compare these climbs and inappropriate to lump them with paved roads.

Steepness also plays a factor in the rating. Most of the big climbs in the Alps average 7-8% where the big climbs in the Pyrenees average 8-9%.

Please remember that I am giving very, very rough guidelines and that there are exceptions to every rule. For example, L'Alpe D'Huez climbs 3700ft (1200m), but is an Hors Category climb. This is because it usually comes at the end of a very tough stage and the climb itself is unusually steep (~9%) by Alpine standards.

More confusing is the Col de Borderes, a mere 1000 feet (300m) climb outside of Arrens in the Pyrenees mountains. I have seen it rated anywhere from a 3rd Category to a 1st Category !!! This is most likely due again, to its placement on the stage. The 3rd Category rating came when it was near the beginning of a stage where its 1st Category rating came when it was near the end.

Flat or downhill sections can also affect a climb's rating. Such sections offer a rest to the weary and can reduce the difficulty of the climb considerably. This may be one of the reasons that the aforementioned Col de la Madeleine, which has a 1 mile downhill/flat section at mid-height, flip-flops in its rating.

European vs. United States Climbs
I am often asked how climbs in the United States compare to those in Europe. Most of the US climbs are either steep enough by European standards (6-8% grade), but are short (5-10km) so they fall into the 3rd Category or 2nd possibly; or the climbs gain enough altitude, but are too long (they average <5%) so again they would fail to break the 1st Category
Jul 25, 2002 5:42 AM
If a rider wins more than one jersey then he wears the more prestegious of the two and the next highest ranked person in the other category wears the other jersey. From what I understand the jersey's follow this order Yellow, Green, Polka Dot, White. Therefore if the wearer of the White best young rider jersey was to take the Green points jersey then he would wear the Green jersey and the second best young rider would wear the White.