The Spin: Vuelta Stage 8

The high mountains appear in the Vuelta. We’ve had several exciting climbs and summit finishes so far but things step up a level with the finish in Andorra today although the final climb is not the biggest in the Pyrenees.

The Route: a ride across the region of Catalonia, the race heads north towards the Pyrenees. The start town is Lleida, home to the Volta a Lleida, the amateur version of the Tour of Catalonia. Note how the route goes up and up before any climb is reached, reaching over 1,000m above altitude. This saps the strength and riders who don’t eat and drink properly will pay later. The first climb is the Alto de la Comella, just 3.8km long at 5.2%.

The Finish: the Collada de la Gallina climb is 7.2km at 8%, enough to make this a tough climb but it’s hardly the most severe climb in the Pyrenees around Androrra. That said, most of the roads around here are big wide highways to ferry tourists with ease but today’s climb is enough to give travellers motion sickness, it is not narrow but it maxes at 15% and has sections at 11%. It makes for an irregular ascension with 17 hairpin bends in the final 4km and it is uphill all the way to the line.

The Scenario: it’s hard to see anything else than a fast pace to Andorra that gobbles up any early breakaway and then the big guns coming out on the final climb. We should see Rodriguez, Contador, Froome and Valverde once again detaching themselves from the rest but perhaps with an interloper capable of coping with the steep and irregular climb. The climb should suit Rodriguez and he’ll want the time bonus as well as the stage win. He’s also been training in the area prior to the race and should know the roads well.

Weather: despite the race going to the mountains conditions remain hot and sunny with temperatures of 31ºC and only a light tailwind.

TV: as usual 4.00pm to 6.00pm Euro time with the action coming in the final hour.

Local rider: red jersey rider Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez is not from Andorra but he is Catalan, the region of Spain that also covers Andorra. But he is known to train in the mountains here for weeks at a time and can count on big support from locals along the way. Plus the race arrives in his home city of Barcelona tomorrow.

Andorra? It’s a micro-state in the mountains, a principality in the Pyrenees. An independent nation, it thrives on tourism and the lack of a sales tax, meaning visitors come from cities like Toulouse and Barcelona for skiing, biking and hiking and return with shopping goods from cigarettes to designer clothing.

21 thoughts on “The Spin: Vuelta Stage 8”

  1. Question – what is the toughest climb in Andorra?
    The Arcalis climb? Long long uphill grind to get there if you ride into Andorra La Vella first, sure, but it’s not a tough climb from there unless you’re trying to hold Contador’s wheel. The Port d’Envalira climb tops out pretty high (2407 metres IIRC) but it’s a very steady climb.

    Anyway, there are plenty of worse places to be a cyclist – road or MTB – and the food at the local cafes isn’t bad either.

    • The toughest, steepest climb in Andorra is probably the Coll de la Gallina itself, precisely, if you go to the top of it, at 1.910m, with two full kms at more than 10%, and another two at 9%. I don’t know why the race doesn’t go to the top.

    • Yes, the Arcalis and Envalira are very long climbs. You can use the big ring at times, the kind where riders are dropped by the speed and not the slope of the climb. Today’s climb is very different, it twists and turns, kicks up and is irregular. It’s ideal for Rodriguez but the quarter of Rodriguez, Valverde, Froome and Contador can each have a bad day like Contador cramped in Jaca.

  2. Another stage for Purito? No sir, I think Froome-dog will have his day and snatch the stage win to claim the red jersey. It will be interesting to see if Contador will be able to follow the pace because he looked jaded at Rapitan. All and all, a very interesting stage which I will end up missing 🙁

  3. Well, la Gallina today is really the perfect climb for Contador. It’s really the gradient and length that suits him. If he can’t distance his rivals, it will surely mean he’s not winning this Vuelta.
    On La Comella, we can remember the 1985 Vuelta, the first day with Robert Millar in yellow, after he’d ambushed the leader the previous day, in coalition with Sean Kelly’s team. He was in his turn attacked near the top of this irregular climb by a coalition of Spanish teams. He only lost a pocketful of seconds after the descent, but that Spanish alliance would eventually cost him the race.

  4. I’m going for Froome today. He showed on Thu that he wants a stage, and I think he’s also got an eye to the bonus seconds which is certainly what Purito’s trying to pick up as much as possible to give him a buffer ahead of the TT. How will Bertie show today, I wonder?

  5. Contador and Froome shouldn’t do anything more than follow Purito and Valverde and bide their time until the next weekend. Attacking today wouldn’t be very clever IMO.

  6. Catalonia doesn’t cover Andorra – the principality is not part of Catalonia or the Spanish state – it does border Catalonia and France, but that’s it.

    • Yes, Andorrans are Andorrans but the language is Catalan, it has obvious connections and links. There is the strict definition of Catalonia as in the defined region in Spain but for many locals it spreads wider, for example into France too.

  7. Sky got it wrong. Lost their men too early, went too quick. Riders not wanting to attack cos they are saving themselves for the time bonuses at the finish….interesting. Riders not being able to smash out top form all the time….encouraging.

  8. A great finish today. Lots of attacks and counter attacks. VAl and JRod are doing what they need to do to win the Vuelta. Get time gaps and bonuses. Froome will have the edge in the ITT and last 4 climbing stages.

Comments are closed.