In cycling, climbs are categorized by difficulty from easy, Cat 4, to hard, Cat 1. I don’t know the exact details of how they work it out – i think it’s one of the UCI’s closely guarded secrets – but it’s a combination of grade and length of climb.
And anything that’s harder than one is classified as “Hors catégorie” which is Cycling French for BLOODY HARD.
On Thursday we rode Col de la Madeline, my first HC climb, about 25Km of uphill. The Tour was going up there (I did one big climb that day, they did THREE) so the plan was to get as close to the top as we could before we were stopped by the promotional caravan and then the race, because the road is closed for about 2 hours.
We were a bit late getting going (I’m on holiday), and a little slower on the ride across the valley than planned (things happen) so we ended up being stopped about 10K from the top. Luckily there was a little bar there, we had a sandwich – that hadn’t been in my back pocket for a few hours before it was eaten, a comfy chair, and even a TV to watch the race on.
Getting going after lunch was tough, and I needed a couple of stops for the remaining 10K.
Our hotel was about 5K down the other side, so the day finished with a great bit of descending (what goes up must come down).
Yesterday started with an amazing 15K descent, then a short run across the valley to see the start of the day’s race. We were on the side of the road a Km or two from the start, so we saw the bunch go through all together while the race was still neutrailsed, very exciting.
Next challenge was the Col du Telegraphe: 12Km of climb, with an average gradient of a bit over 7%. But unlike most climbs that dip and vary, this was just a solid slog that didn’t go below 6%.
Picnic lunch at the top (I decided a glass of Rose wasn’t a good idea) then the big one: Col du Galibier – 20 something Km at an average of around 7%.
Relentless. Endless. Bloody hard. Nothing quite describes what it was like. I needed a few little stops on the side of the road, and we had a good rest at a bar about 10K from the finish. And after that I was the Little Engine that Could: I think I can, I think I can, and maybe 2.5 hours after starting I was at the top.
And of course there was another amazing descent as a reward! Here’s a bit of it … http://t.co/mRCKG0V8
I’m not into golf or a footy fan, but I think the last few days have been like sinking a put at Augusta, or having a kick on the MCG: I got to ride where any number of epic cycling battles have been played out, saw some amazing scenery and ticked off a few HC climbs.