Monday, July 25, 2005


Today I discovered the beauties of Topo USA. No, it's not what you're thinking. It gives you topographic maps of the USA. In 3-D. Yes, I am a geek. My application du jour is crunching the stats on my favorite hills...height, percent grade, and distance.

Some notables:

Collier Hill -- 191 feet gained over 0.7 miles. 5% average grade, 12% maximum. (This one has always felt worse).

Robinson Creek hill -- 164 feet gained over 0.6 miles. 5% average grade, 11% maximum. (Same here...I always dread this one coming back from London...maybe the lengths?).

And the best two, both in Barbourville:

Sharp's Gap -- 135 feet over 0.3 miles. 9% average grade with 27%(!) maximum.

Paint Hill -- see my "6/18/05 Today's Ride" for more. 318 feet over 0.9 miles. 7% average grade with 18% maximum.

Being the completist that I am, I decided to see how these compared to Tour de France climbs. Here are the criteria:

Climbs must be at least 3-4% to be rated. Ok, no problem here.

Mountain climbs are generally 7-9%. And miles long. Umm...

4th Category - 200-500 feet.

3rd Category - 500-1600 feet.

2nd Category - 1600-2700 feet.

1st Category - 2700-5000 feet.

Hors Category - 5000+ feet.

So, for all my lung-crushing, pedal-stomping, hamstring-ripping deathrolls, only one is Tour caliber, and it would no doubt be dismissed as an "uphill stretch" to be completed during the next commercial break. I guess that's why they call them the "Kentucky Hills" instead of the "Kentucky Mountains."

Feeling a little embarrassed by these stats (and naturally a bit masochistic as well), I fired up Topo USA to find some Tour-worthy mountains in the neighborhood. Considering that he highest point in Kentucky is a little over 4100 feet, a Hors Category may be hard to find (yes, I do aim high). I also noticed that roads in Kentucky don't usually attack the mountains...they simply follow the path of least resistance through the "hollows" at their bases.

There is hope though. And most of it is directed southeast. Pine Mountain looks like the best target so far...a 3rd category climb (~1200 feet) over about 5 miles. It's distance that I've been missing, so that's what I'm after.



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