Summit finish withdrawal symptoms? It’s been several days since the Vuelta had an uphill finish for the overall candidates to dispute the stage win but today this is fixed. The final climb of the day is less than two kilometres long but compensates with vicious gradients.
The Route: another long day along the coast, 190km of which about half follows the Galician coast line. There are two intermediate sprints at 128km and 156km, notable because John Degenkolb is hunting for points to keep the green jersey. And then it’s on to the finish and the Mirador de Ézaro, the Ézaro look out, high above Dumbria.
The Finish: a fast approach along the coast leads to the final climb to the finish, a wall of road. It is 1.9km long averages 13% with some sections at 20%. The middle has a concrete section, rougher and slower than normal tarmac. There’s talk of 30% gradients but only if you ride the wrong line through the inside of a hairpin bend when you’ll be so slow there’s time to deploy a theodolite. There are good sections at 20% and if you remove the “easy” section with 1km to go then the typical gradient is 17% with double-digit gradients all the way to the finish line, surrounded by wind turbines that spin in the Atlantic breeze. I’ve added a video of the climb to the bottom of this piece.
The Scenario: a breakaway will go and what chance it stays away? Well Argos Oil – Shimano will fancy the intermediate sprints for Degenkolb and then many will want a fast pace for the finish, if only to protect their leaders on the approach to the climb.
The Mirador is steep enough to be important for the overall contenders but short enough to allow other riders to contest the win, setting up a tempting battle between Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert, although I see Rodriguez as the obvious pick today, ahead of Alberto Contador. Rodriguez is in form and excels at these kind of finishes, whether in the Flèche Wallonne or the Vuelta.
Weather: cool coastal conditions with temperatures of 19°C (66°F). Above all the wind will pick up with a breeze of 30km/h coming from the north-east which means the latter part of the stage could be tricky with crosswinds.
TV: 4.00-6.00pm Euro time with the finish planned for 5.30pm, tune early in case a fast pace means the race finishes early.
Pilgrimage: after today’s stage all riders make their way to Santiago de Compostela. The regional capital of Galicia it is also a big centre for Christian pilgrimage. The pious make long journeys across Europe to reach the cathedral, often on foot but sometimes on bicycle.
If this isn’t for you then at least note it gives rise to a large network of paths and roads across Europe which are signed and lined with hostels, inns and restaurants along the various routes. It means even rural areas have places to stay and because these are often spaced by the distance of a day’s walk, the touring cyclist can find places to stay. But today’s racers will just want a bed for the night.
Video: here’s the final climb in a video, complete with some Euro pop.