It could all come down to the time bonus at the top of the final climb of the final stage. However Chris Horner is in the ascendant, he’s been putting time into Vincenzo Nibali in recent days and could extend his three second advantage.
But with rain a possibility Horner will find the Angliru so steep he cannot use his trademark out of the saddle climbing style for fear of losing traction.
Stage 19 Review
An early break was reeled in and the overall contenders were left to fight it out. Joaquim Rodriguez won with an impressive attack, TV called it “a kilometre-long sprint” and he pulled out time on the improving Diego Ulissi. The Italian will be on home soil for the worlds. But such details get lost in the race for red. Vincenzo Nibali was off the pace again and even if he lost six seconds it was enough to see Chris Horner ride into the overall lead setting up a fascinating finale that will see two riders within three seconds and their teams will have to come up with a masterplan.
Stage 20 Preview
The Route: just 142km, this spirals inland via several climbs, each of a higher category.
- Alto de la Cabrunana: 5.2km at 6.6%
- Alto de Tenebredo: 3.4km at 10.5%
- Alto del Cordal: 5.3km at 9.6%
The Tenebredo is tough but short although there’s plenty of time to get back on. This isn’t the case with the next climb as the Alto del Cordal is climbed and descended straight to the foot of the Angliru. The Cordal will be selective and should trim the peloton down to less than 50 riders, perhaps much less.
The Finish: the Angliru isn’t as famous as Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux or the Passo Mortirolo but it’s arguably harder. Included for the first time in the Vuelta in 1999 it’s proved a tough contest for each of the five editions. Last time we saw Bradley Wiggins surrender his lead to Juajo Cobo in 2011, the race winning moment.
It’s true pro riders have the ability to level any mountain with a click of a gear but the Angliru is a real challenge for its irregularity. No more so than the Cueña Les Cabres section that is illustrated by the box above.
The Scenario: it should all come down to the last climb of the last stage. It’s as if Unipublic scripted this but they would have wanted a Spanish contender for the overall win. Alejandro Valverde is not climbing well enough and if Joaquim Rodriguez found his winning legs yesterday, he only found 24 seconds of time including the 10 second bonus. But either could win the stage, especially as Chris Horner doesn’t need to watch them too closely.
One thing to watch for is the old “relay” tactic of sending riders up the road. For example Katusha could get Dani Moreno in an early move and he is up the road to help pace Joaquim Rodriguez on the final climb, the same for Movistar. It’s hard to effect though. Meanwhile Euskaltel-Euskadi will send riders up the road but with no intention of waiting as they’ve get to win a stage and have little to defend on the overall.
As Manuel Pérez Díaz points out below, the last three winners on here have won the race overall. The superstitious say things come in threes so maybe the pattern is broken but more rationally if you can climb this the fastest then you have climbed to the other stage finishes the fastest and this puts Chris Horner as the obvious pick. But he has not ridden the climb before, not ideal but not ruinous either.
Weather: cool and cloudy with the threat of rain as the race climbs to the finish. Normally riding uphill in the rain isn’t a problem, you keep warm from the effort. But the Angliru is so steep that traction is a problem, a rider needs to sit over the back wheel to keep it in contact. Given Horner’s style of riding uphill out of the saddle, Nibali will be doing a rain dance.
TV: don’t miss a thing but note the finish will be around 5.30pm Euro time.
- Asturias has a special status for Spanish monarchy, since the heir to the throne has the title of Prince of Asturias (prince Philip’s wife, by the way, is Asturian). Every year the Prince of Asturias Awards (somehow similar to the Nobel Prizes) take place, and there is one category for sports achievements. Winners include Miguel Indurain (1992), Lance Armstrong (2000) and the Tour de France (2003).
- Avilés, today’s departure stage, is one of the three main Asturian cities. A coastal town, it’s a good place to taste fresh fish. In the cultural side, Centro Niemeyer is the place to visit some expositions.
- With 37,6 km to go it’s time for Mieres and its intermediate sprint. We have left the coast and are travelling along the inland valleys. Mieres is the heart of the coal mining industry in Spain. This industry has been under a severe crisis for decades, and social unrest is not strange to these valleys.
- Asturias is a great place if you like hiking. The Cantabrian Mountains are full of trekking routes, and the Picos de Europa National Park (shared with Cantabria and Castile and León) is one of Spanish natural highlights.
- L’Angliru (a.k.a. La Gamonal) needs little presentation. First used in 1999, the last three times the winner here took the overall in Madrid. The weather can make it even harder (ask David Millar if you disagree), so pay attention to the forecast.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel