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.
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. Climbs that have been announced for the 2017 Tour are indicated in italics. Note, however, that this does not guarantee that the climb will be HC in this edition of the race.
|Col||Height (m.)||No. of times
|No. of HC
as HC climb
|Agnel, ColCol Agnel||2744||2||2||2008||2011||The first appearance of the climb in 2008 wasn't 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, Alpe d'Huez||1850/1860||30||26||1979||2015||In 2013, the Alpe was visited twice on Stage 18, firstly crossing below the summit at 1765m before returning as the stage finish at the summit (1850m).|
|Andorra Arcalis, Andorra Arcalis||2240||3||3||1997||2016|
|Annecy-Semnoz, 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|
|Balès, Port dePort de Balès||1755||4||4||2007||2014|
|Beille, Plateau dePlateau de Beille||1780||6||6||1998||2015|
|Bonette, Col de laCol de la Bonette||2715/2802||4||2||1993||2008||Highest Hors Catégorie climb to date.|
|Croix-de-Fer, Col de laCol de la Croix-de-Fer||2067||18||10||1989||2015 (x2)||Shares the same slopes from the col du Glandon on two sides.|
|Galibier, Col duCol du Galibier||2556/2645||56||19||1979|| 2011 (x2)
|| Highest stage finish in the history of the Tour de France.|
In 2015, the climb was scheduled to be used, but ultimately wasn't due to landslides. The Col de la Croix de Fer was used instead.
|Glandon, Col duCol du Glandon||1924||13||5||1981||2015|
|Grand Colombier, Col duCol du Grand Colombier||1501||2||2||2012||2016||Only climb in the Jura mountains to have received the Hors Catégorie rating.|
|Grand Saint-Bernard, Col duCol du Grand Saint-Bernard||2465||5||1||2009||2009|
|Granon, Col duCol du Granon||2413||1||1||1986||1986|
|Col de l'Iseran||2770||5||2||1992||2007|
|Isola 2000, Isola 2000||1900||1||1||1993||1993|
|Joux-Plane, Col deCol de Joux-Plane||1691||12||7||1981||2016|
|La Plagne, La Plagne||1980||4||4||1984||2002|
|Larrau, Port dePort de Larrau||1573||2||2||1996||2007|
|La Ruchère-en-Chartreuse, La Ruchère-en-Chartreuse||1160||1||1||1984||1984||Lowest Hors Catégorie climb to date.|
|Lombarde, Col de laCol de la Lombarde||2351||1||1||2008||2008|
|Luz Ardiden, Luz Ardiden||1715||8||8||1985||2011|
|Madeleine, Col de laCol de la Madeleine||1993||25||17||1980||2013|
|Mont-Cenis, Col duCol du Mont-Cenis||2083||5||1||1999||1999|
|Pailhères, Port dePort de Pailhères||2001||5||4||2005||2013|
|Pla d'Adet, Pla d'Adet||1669||10||5||1981||2014||1982 Tour de France finish was planned to end at the col de Portet, but was ultimately cancelled and the finish line was moved back to Pla d'Adet.|
|Pra Loup, Pra Loup||1630||3||1||1980||1980||The most recent climbing is in 2015 with category 2|
|Puy de Dôme, Puy de Dôme||1415||13||2||1983||1986||Only climb in the Massif Central to have received the Hors Catégorie rating|
|Soudet, Col duCol du Soudet||1540||6||2||1987||2006|
|Soulor, Col duCol du Soulor||1474||22||1||1982||1982||Usually climbed while descending the col d'Aubisque from its west side.|
|Tourmalet, Col duCol du Tourmalet||2115||88||26||1980||2016||No. of times visited includes stage finishes at La Mongie.|
|Val Thorens, Val Thorens||2275||1||1||1994||1994|
|Ventoux, MontMont Ventoux||1909||16||7||1987||2016|
|la Pierre St Martin, Col deCol de la Pierre St Martin||1610||1||1||2015||2015|
|Bisanne, Montee deMontee de Bisanne||1723||1||1||2016||2016|