What are cycling scenarios?
When cyclists dream, they are making a legendary climb. In this blog, I highlight several scenarios of varying challenges, and in my next, I discuss how physical cycling can provide insights into how you might perform if you actually were able to make the climb.
Rating Cycling Climb Difficulties
A number of websites are dedicated to identifying challenging climbs and enabling cyclists to make their ultimate road trip. The ClimbByBike website is one of those. There are several formulas used to rate difficulty and we have a page discussing their ratings. Using their own formula, they rate Le Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii as the most difficult in the world.
How difficult is Le Mauna Kea?
The average grade does not appear steep at 6.1%, but the length is 68.6 km and the ascent is 4191 m, or 13,750 feet. As the depiction from Veloviewer.com shows, the average grade hides a steep ascent over the last third of the route.
Not only are the physical distances rough, but consideration the elevation and the thinness of the air as you get to the top.
The Alpe d’Huze in the Tour de France
This is one of cycling’s legendary climbs. Greg Lemond even named one of his Trek models after it. From below, you see it is a strong climb over an extended distance. It has an average grade of 8.1%, a length of 13.2 km, and an ascent of 1071 m.
Veloviewer.com provides graphical depiction of many interesting climbs such as the one for the Alpe d’Huez.
What makes this climb so legendary is its positioning in the Tour de France. It is not included every year, but it is usually the last climb in the stage, and a glance can indicate why it is so demanding.
What are the Alpe d’Huez Ascent Records?
The Ascent Record is 37 min 35 secs by Marco Pantani, with the second fastest held by Lance Armstrong one second back. In fact the five fastest climbs are held by these two.
Unfortunately, you have to go to the fourteenth fastest ascent by Nairo Quintana 2015 Colombia at 39 mins 22 secs to find a rider not drawn into the doping scandals of recent years.
The pressures to perform in these long distance events and compete for sponsorship were extreme on these riders. A sad consequence of this was the death Marco Pantini on 14 Feb 2014 at age 34. It was eventually concluded to have been a heart attack which could have easily been the result of long-term drug use.
The California Death Ride
The California Death Ride in what are called the California Alps East of Sacramento and near the Nevada border is another notorious cycling challenge. It is 129 miles long and ridden at a minimum elevation of 5500 feet. It includes five climbs with a total elevation gain of over 15,000 ft.
The VeloView of this ride shows that it begins in the center at Turtle Rock, climbs Monitor pass to the right and back to the center. Then It does the same thing with Ebbetts Pass on the lower left. Finally it makes its last climb over Carbon Pass and returns to Turtle Rock.
The Rock Store Snake Climb in Westlake Village
Nearby Westlake Village is a climb called the Rock Store Snake. It is frequently used as a practice route by Tour riders, and as part of a four loop ride on the last leg of the Tour de California.
How does it compare to the Alpe d’Huez? It is 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of 875 ft. It has an average grade of 7.3% and a max grade of 10.8%. When part of a last leg four loop ride, these numbers become 9.2 miles and 3500 ft in elevation gain. The climb stats are pretty comparable with the one significant difference that the Alpe d’Huez climb is continuous rather than broken into four loops.
I am proud to have made the climb in under 21 minutes. Of course, the tour cyclists do it under 11 minutes and I can guarantee you I would not have been only 44 minutes behind after the fourth ascent.
Determining if a climb will “eat my lunch?”
While there a lot of “pretty” graphics here, the real questions are “Can I do it?” and then “How fast could I do it?”
These are several cycling scenarios, and their many more out there. As a cyclist, whenever you learn about a new climb, what goes through your mind is “Can I do it?” and then “How fast?”
These questions are well suited to physical calculations, and the good news is they are some of the simplest calculations associated with cycling.