Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

SCOT TARES: The best part of cycling up a mountain is the swooping descent that follows

Cormet de Roseland.
Cormet de Roseland.

Road cycling has an obsession with pedalling up mountains.

For me personally, that joy is greatly enhanced by the anticipation of a fast and swooping descent. But for many the joy of burning legs, sweat dripping in their eyes and lungs about to burst is enough of a lure.

Perhaps the challenge is part of the attraction; being able to push yourself to the limit on a climb that, for many, might seem like an impossible hurdle.

For those masochistic souls, it is the gradients of mountains of continental Europe that exert their magnetic pull. They look to emulate the professional warriors of the road by following their pedal strokes up the climbs in the Alps, the Picos, the Dolomites and the Pyrenees made famous by races such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

Each of these climbs is graded as to its difficulty from Category 4 (easy, in relative terms) to Category 1 (difficult) to Hors Catégorie (HC – beyond categorisation – ouch!).

The categories are defined by the steepness and length of the climb. But how is this decided? Strava, for example, decides on the category of the climb based on the calculation of the length of the climb in metres multiplied by the average gradient of the climb.

Scot Tares.

This causes some problems as very few climbs have a consistent gradient, some have flat sections and some may even have short descents, all of which can mislead in determining the overall gradient of a climb.

An apocryphal story in the cycling world is that categorisation of climbs was first decided for the Tour de France using a Citroën 2CV. The lowest gear that the car had to change down to on the ascent would be the categorisation of that climb.

The climb would be awarded HC status if the 2CV failed to get up, or only managed it in reverse gear. It is a lovely story, but one that I have never been able to verify. I’ve spoken to locals in the French Alps and they shrug their shoulders and grunt “peut-être” – maybe. Perhaps the timeline offers a more reliable witness.

It was not until 1948 that the 2CV first went into production, falling in between the official designation of Category 2 climbs in 1947 and Category 3 climbs in 1949. As usual however, the myth and legend is far more attractive than the possible reality, so I won’t probe any further with that one.

1933 was the first year of the Tour de France “King of the Mountains” classification was introduced, and was won by the Spanish rider Vincente Trueba. That year it was Alfredo Binda who won the race overall, and Trueba who lost his advantage on each descent finished 6th overall.

It was 1905 when the first “official” climb, the Ballon d’Alsace was introduced to the Tour de France, although the Col de la Republique had been used in the Tours in 1903 and 1904.

In those days the riders pedalled up unsurfaced mule tracks on single-geared bikes with tubular tyres slung over their shoulders and Tour de France organiser Henri Desgrange, never one to shy away from hyperbole claimed that “no cyclist would be able to ride over…” the Ballon d’Alsace. They did, and on that day the legend of the “Grimpeur” (a climbing specialist) was born.

Since then the mountains have become shrouded in legendary stories, places where warriors battle. Races have been won and lost in them and riders have lost their lives racing on them.

We have given them names like The Circle of Death, that fearsome stage that includes ascents of the Tourmalet, the Peyresourde and the Aubisque. The fiercer they sound, the more fabulous the battles that are fought on their slopes the more cyclists want to go and ride on them.

They may be a place of pain and suffering, but for road cyclists they are also a place of pilgrimage and joy.