At the top of Cathedral Ledge Lookout

Day 14: Category 1

The Tour de France, happening now, runs almost a month through the Alps and Pyrenees, and includes some of the most grueling climbs in professional bike racing. But none of those climbs are as steep as the mile-long road up Cathedral Ledge Lookout. 

There and …

Of course we didn’t know that when we started. All roads look flat on a map.

But maybe this view of Cathedral Ledge as we biked past this picture-postcard barn should have given us a clue.

Cathedral Ledge road (we discovered) climbs 700 feet in its mile length, for an average grade of more than 13%. For comparison, the steepest part of the entire Tour is 11% for 2 miles and is labeled a Category 1 climb. Most of the climbs in the Tour de France max out at around 7%, half as steep.

Climbs are rated by category – based on both length and grade – from 4 (easiest) to 1 (hardest), with the occasional beast labeled Hors catégorie, or difficult beyond categorization. A Category 3, for example, can be as short as one mile with a “very steep grade” (say the Tour organizers) – “perhaps 10%.”

To be very clear, Tour climbs can go on for miles at grade, testing the endurance of the most elite cyclists in the world. We’re not anywhere close to that conversation. At all. Seriously.

But still. For a dude pushing 60 and his 50-year-old bride, to get to the top of that sonofabitch after an hour standing on the pedals was plenty gratifying, even acknowledging our couple of rest stops along the way.

So we were delighted to earn the view from the top.

And if you look towards the bottom center of the image, you can see climbers regrouping halfway up the stone face. *shudder*

… Back Again

After our oh-so-speedy descent and a root-rutted ride around Echo Lake, we circled back to where we started, riding for home past adorable alpacas (which we didn’t stop for) …

… and fresh strawberries (which we did).

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