Ahead of tomorrow’s procession into Madrid this is the last real day of racing and it’s a giant day with several big mountain passes coming before the steep climb to the highest point of the 2012 Vuelta. If there’s still any uncertainty about the winner of the race, it will all be settled later today.
The Route: the start and finish are not far apart but the race instead heads out for a long loop to add in more climbs.
- Puerto de Navafría: 10.1, 5.6%
- Puerto de Canencia: 9.8km, 3.9%
- Puerto de la Morcuera: 9.2km, 6.9%
- Puerto de Cotos: 13.8, 4.9%
The Finish: the final climb is 11.4km at 8.6% but it gets steeper and steeper as the race progresses, moving to a rough surface on what is little more than a forestry access road to the and 20% sections within the final 3km.
Note the high altitude. Ascending is gradual but as a rough rule, once above 1800m oxygen debt comes with a high interest rate that even the best struggle to repay. Attack and you can crack.
The mountains jersey will be settled today. Australia’s Simon Clarke leads the competition but by two points on Rodriguez. A special prize, the Cima Alberto Fernandez is awarded today as the finish is the highest mountain in the race and there are more mountain points than usual available on the line today.
The Scenario: everything points to a coronation for Alberto Contador although this is no victory lap. Having been done over by Contador and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, can Joaquim Rodriguez get revenge? He can try but I think he is still better suited to the short, sharp climbs or a searing acceleration in the final moments of a race as opposed to a long range raid, he could content himself with another stage win today. Indeed we could see Rodriguez instead thinking about a plan to unseat Alejandro Valverde’s second place – mountain sherpa Nairo Quintana fell hard in a crash yesterday – but again, this would be difficult. It’s quite possible Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez camp on their overall positions, they have such an advantage on the others that they can afford to mark each other.
Instead there are still places in the top-10 to settle and if the TV cameras might not pick up the action between the likeable Laurens Ten Dam or Andrew Talansky then don’t ignore the fight. A high finish is important in sporting terms but remember 8th place overall lands as many UCI points as a podium spot in a classic like the Amstel Gold Race.
Weather: warm and sunny with temperatures of 26° (75°F) in the valleys.
TV: video from 3.30pm Euro time, and possibly earlier. Don’t miss the final hour to see the action on the final climb. Even if the action is in the final 30 minutes it comes after a gradual process of attrition.
Local Rider: Alberto Contador. Ok, he’s not from the foot of the Bola del Mundo but the mountains are in the Madrid region and it is here that Contador trains a lot. He knows the climb well and can count on plenty of regional support. Spanish cycling seems to sit midway between France and Italy when it comes to regional support, with the Italians being very attached to their region – even the pro teams have a regional take – whilst the French can be attached to local riders, everyone is still celebrated.
Bola what? Bola del Mundo means a globe and the mountain is strictly known as the Alto de las Guarramillas.