Hors catégorie (HC) is a French term used in stage bicycle races to designate a climb that is "beyond categorization". The term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass.
The HC climb is the most difficult type of climb in a race. It is more demanding than a Category 1 climb which in turn is more demanding than a Category 2 climb and so on. The easiest category is Category 4.
These five categories are defined by their steepness and length. In addition, their position on the route can play a role. For instance, a climb that would normally be a Category 1 climb can become a HC climb if it is the final climb of a stage.
The average HC climb in the Tour de France from 2012 to 2016 is 16.1 kilometers long and has a grade of 7.4%. There are around 7 HC climbs per Tour.
When the mountains classification in the Tour de France originated in the 1933 Tour de France, there was only one type of mountain. Points were given to the first cyclists to cross the mountains, starting with 10 points for the first cyclist, going down to 1 point for the tenth cyclist. After the Second World War, in the 1947 Tour de France, the mountains were divided into two categories, the first and the second category. The first category mountains gave 10 points to the first cyclist, similar to before 1939, and the second category mountains gave only 5 points to the first cyclist.
The division in categories was successful, and two years later, in 1949, the third category was added. These were even smaller mountains, which gave 3 points to the cyclist reaching the peak first.
In 1962, the fourth category was added. The points system was also revised: the first category now gave 15 points for the first cyclist, the second category 10 points, the third category 5 points and the fourth category 3 points. Although the fourth category disappeared in 1963, it came back again in 1964. The system with four categories kept in place until 1978, although the points distribution changed over the years.
In 1979, four categories was considered not enough, and another category was added. Instead of adding a fifth category, the Tour organisation decided to add a hors catégorie.
Tour de France
The following climbs used in the Tour de France have been ranked "Hors catégorie" at least once.
|Col||Height (m.)||No. of times
|No. of HC
as HC climb
|Col de la Loze||2304||1||1||2020||2020||||Steepest maximum gradient (24%) of any Hors Catégorie climb to date|
|Col Agnel||2744||2||2||2008||2011||||The first appearance of the climb in 2008 was not planned initially, as the stage was designed to go through the Maddalena Pass. Due to a seismic risk on the pass, the route was changed three months before the start of the race and the Col Agnel was included.|
|Alpe d'Huez||1860||30||26||1979||2022||||In 2013, the Alpe d'Huez was visited twice on Stage 18, firstly crossing below the summit at 1765m before returning as the stage finish at the designated summit (1850m).|
|Annecy-Semnoz||1655||2||1||2013||2013||||In 1998, the Semnoz (known as Crêt de Châtillon) was part of the route and was a 1st category climb. However, during the stage, racers went on strike to protest against the excessive police measures. The stage, although fully completed, was declared void.|
|Col d'Aubisque||1709||48||14||1980||2012||||No. of times visited includes stage finishes at Gourette|
|Port de Balès||1755||6||6||2007||2020|||
|Plateau de Beille||1780||6||6||1998||2015|||
|Col de la Bonette||2802||4||2||1993||2008||||Highest Hors Catégorie climb to date.|
|Col de la Croix-de-Fer||2067||19||11||1989||2022||||Shares the same slopes from the col du Glandon on two sides.|
|Col du Galibier||2645||58||21||1979||2022||||Highest stage finish in the history of the Tour de France.|
In 2015, the climb was scheduled to be used, but ultimately was not due to landslides. The Col de la Croix de Fer was used instead.
|Col du Glandon||1924||13||5||1981||2015|||
|Col du Grand Colombier||1501||5||4||2012||2020||||In the 2016 tour, the Col du Grand Colombier was climbed twice on Stage 15. First as an HC climb of 1483 meters and then as a category 1 ascent of 893 meters.|
|Col du Grand Saint-Bernard||2465||5||1||2009||2009|||
|Col du Granon||2413||2||2||1986||2022|||
|Col de l'Iseran||2770||6||3||1992||2019||||In the 2019 tour, GC times were taken from the top of the Col de l'Iseran when Stage 19 was neutralized due to landslides on the descent|
|Col de Joux-Plane||1691||12||7||1981||2016|||
|Port de Larrau||1573||2||2||1996||2007|||
|La Ruchère||1160||1||1||1984||1984||||Lowest Hors Catégorie climb to date.|
|Col de la Lombarde||2351||1||1||2008||2008|||
|Col de la Madeleine||1993||25||17||1980||2020|||
|Col du Mont-Cenis||2083||5||1||1999||1999|||
|Port de Pailhères||2001||5||4||2005||2013|||
|Pla d'Adet||1669||10||5||1981||2014||||The 1982 Tour de France finish was planned to end at another location, the Col de Portet, but was ultimately cancelled and the finish line was moved back to Pla d'Adet.|
|Plateau des Glières||1390||2||2||2018||2020|||
|Puy de Dôme||1415||13||2||1983||1986||||Only climb in the Massif Central to have received the Hors Catégorie rating|
|Col du Soudet||1540||6||2||1987||2006|||
|Col du Soulor||1474||22||1||1982||1982||||Usually climbed while descending the col d'Aubisque from its west side.|
|Col du Tourmalet||2115||90||28||1980||2021||||No. of times visited includes stage finishes at La Mongie.|
|Mont Ventoux||1909||18||8||1987||2021||||In 2021, the Ventoux was climbed twice, the first ascent started from Sault and was a 1st category climb while the second ascent started from Bédoin and was categorized HC.|
|Col de la Pierre St Martin||1610||1||1||2015||2015|||
|Montée de Bisanne||1723||1||1||2016||2016|||
|Col de la Biche||1316||1||1||2017||2017|||
|Mont du Chat||1504||1||1||2017||2017|||
|Col de Portet||2215||2||2||2021||2021|||
- ^ Analysis of categorized climbs at Danskebjerge.dk
- ^ All profiles are on Le Tour de France depuis 1947 (in French)