You don’t have to be Cadel Evans to know there’s a difference between climbing the 1 in 20 and climbing Mt. Hotham. One’s a short and relatively easy climb on the lower slopes of Mt. Dandenong, the other is one of the most challenging climbs in the state.
But how do we differentiate between these climbs on paper? Sure, we can list the length and average gradient of each climb but wouldn’t it be great if we had a single number that could tell us, at a glance, how tough a climb is?
Of course, such a system is used in the Tour de France, with every climb worth its salt assigned to a particular category. The easiest climbs are designated as 4th category, slightly harder climbs are designed as 3rd category and so on, until you get to the most challenging climbs of all: the epic Hors Categorie (“beyond categorisation”) mountains.
So how do the Victorian climbs stack up? How many Hors Categories climbs are there in Victoria?
Well, I’ve gone through all of the climbs on this site, analysed their length, average gradient and their elevation change, and assigned them to a category accordingly. At the top of each climb’s page, you’ll see a little red image* showing what category that particular climb belongs to.
How do we determine what category a climb should be? In the Grand Tours the race organisers apparently take a number of factors into account, including:
- The length and gradient of the climb
- Where the climb falls in that particular stage of the race
- The quality of the road surface
In general though, it’s the difference in elevation between a climb’s start and finish that guides the classification process:
- 4th category: climbs with an elevation change of 100m-300m
- 3rd category: climbs with an elevation change of 300m-600m
- 2nd category: climbs with an elevation change of 600m-1000m
- 1st category: climbs with an elevation change of 1000m-1500m
- Hors categorie: climbs with an elevation change of 1500m+
These ranges are only a guideline and the classification of a number of climbs on this site don’t match the above guidelines if you only consider a change in elevation.
Mt. Baw Baw, for example, has an elevation change of “only” 960m which, according to the above guidelines, would make it a 2nd category climb. But given the difficulty of Mt. Baw Baw’s final 6.8km, it’s more than deserving of its Hors Categorie classification.
So, what are your thoughts? Are these classifications fair enough? Leave your comments and suggestions below.
* Images courtesy of MapMyRide