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Tour de France 101 – Helpful tips for new Tour fans

  • By Ben Delaney
  • Published Jun. 13, 2009
  • Updated Jul. 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM EDT

How are mountain climbs categorized?

There are no set rules on how the organizer can categorize hills or mountains. This is how the Tour de France climbs are defined:

  • The easiest is a Category 4, which is typically less than 2km long and about 5 percent grade, or up to 5km at a 2-3 percent grade.
  • A Category 3 can be as short as one mile with a very steep grade, perhaps 10 percent; or as long as six miles with a grade less than 5 percent.
  • A Category 2 can be as short as 5km at 8 percent, or as long as 15km at 4 percent
  • A Category 1, once the highest category, can be anything from 8km at 8 percent to 20km at 5 percent.
  • An hors catégorie (“above category”) rating is given to exceptionally tough climbs. This could either be a Category 1 whose summit is also the finish of the stage, or one that is more than 10km long with an average grade of at least 7.5 percent, or up to 25km miles long at 6 percent or steeper.
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