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Last Update: 25-OCT-05

Comparing Local Climbs with World Famous Climbs

Ever wonder how Mount Washington stacks up against Mont Ventoux?  Whiteface with Alpe d’Huez?  This page will give you some insight.  I hunted around on the web to find profiles of a few of the most famous climbs of the grand tours (I plan to ride these great climbs soon!).  The chart below compares Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez from the Tour de France, Agliru from the Vuelta a Espana, and Passo dello Stelio from the Giro d’Italia, with New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and New York’s Whiteface Mountain.

 

As you can see, nothing approaches the steepness of Mt Washington.  Angliru comes the closest, with an average grade of 10%.  Agliru has sustained pitches that are much greater than 10%, so it is a very challenging climb.  The image here suggests peak grade at 23.5%!  Whiteface and Alpe d’Huez are also similar climbs.  Both gain ~3,500 feet in 8 to 9 miles.  Whiteface is slightly steeper, but gains slightly less vertical.  Mont Ventoux compares similarly to Mt Washington when starting from the town of Gorham in terms of average grade.  However, Gorham to the auto road is only a couple percent grade, then the rest of the climb is at 12%.  Mont Ventoux stays right around a much more modest 7% grade.  Passo dello Stelvio is a huge climb, a pass through the mountains, gaining just over 6000 feet in elevation.  Stelvio will be in stage 14 of the 2005 Giro.  There are some great pictures here.

 

When we local hillclimbers attack Mt Washington, Whiteface, or Equinox, we often train and peak for that once per season event.  We back off days or even more than a week before the climb to let our bodies recover.  We do the climb, and it hurts bad, then recover for a couple days afterwards.  It is too easy to fall into a trap and say gee, I just did Whiteface in X hours, which isn’t much slower than some of the Tour pros did Alpe d’Huez.  There really is no comparison.  Those guys have been going at it for days, 100+ miles per day, at an unbelievable pace.  A stage finish atop a big mountain might even be the fourth or fifth climb for that stage alone.  And, they have to get up the next morning and do it all over again.  A good comparison might be to do the White Mountains Century on Thursday, finishing at the summit of Mt Washington at race pace.  Then do it again on Friday.  Then do it again on Saturday, recording your hillclimb time.  You get the idea.  Those guys come from a different gene pool.

 

 



 

Quantitative Stats on the Climbs

 

Climb

Vertical
Rise (ft)

Terrain
Distance

(mi)

Avg

Grade

(%)

Max

Grade

(%)

Max
Elevation (ft)

Fiets

Difficulty

Index*

Washington Autoroad

4727

7.6

11.9

22

6253

17.7

Stelvio

6073

15.4

7.5

 

9049

15.5

Angliru

4085

7.8

9.7

23.5

5151

12.9

Mont Ventoux

5650

14.1

7.2

 

6273

12.5

Washington from Gorham

5490

15.3

6.8

22

6253

12.0

Whiteface

3522

8.0

8.3

 

4562

9.34

Alpe d’Huez

3671

9.3

7.5

 

6033

9.14

*  Difficulty index from Dutch cycling magazine Fiets.  It is computed by H^2/(D*10) + T(>1000m)/1000, where H is height in meters, D is terrain distance in meters, and T is summit elevation in meters (if above 1000 meters).  This metric puts emphasis on steepness of climbs, and adds additional difficulty for climbs that finish above 1000 meters (about 3,300 ft) above sea level.  For more info, see fiets or here. My numbers may differ from other published numbers due to differences in exact starting location.  The Fiets index also does not take heat, wind, mud, gearing, rider fatigue, etc into account.