Another day, another summit finish with the steepest part saved for the top of the climb.
The Route: a long section parallel to Spain’s north Atlantic coast but most of it is not on the coast itself and so the riders won’t be blasted by the sea breeze. The race then does a loop to climb the Alto del Torno, 10km at 3% but in words of Dr Spock “it’s highly irregular” thanks to a variety of steep sections and flatter parts. The next bump on the route to Ortiguero isn’t a marked climb but adds to the vertical gain with some 5% slopes before a reciprocal descent.
The road turns up the valley of the Rio Cares and starts climbing before the final climb proper starts in Poncebos as the race crosses over the river twice in short succession before the formal start of the final climb.
The Finish: 12.7km at 7.9% but this includes the flatter part midway. It’s steep from the start as the road quickly gains elevation up the side of the valley walls and on a decent road that’s wide for a climb and with a good surface. It’s full of long ramps and few bends, along with some short tunnels along the way as it rises to the village of Sotres. Here the road is steep as it goes by the buildings and then climbs onto a smaller and rougher road (unless it’s been redone for the Vuelta) to climb above the town to the finish line.
The Contenders: it’s a difficult course for a breakaway to go clear and stay away. The opening part of the stage is flat and exposed to the wind so a route for Flandriens only there’s a big summit finish at the end to deal with, a rout for Flandriens. Katusha and Astana are likely to drive the pace to the final climb and the uphill sloping approach will make things even harder for a breakaway.
With repeat mountain stages tend to come repeat results, if not identical then similar. The presence of time bonuses ensures that a rider like Fabio Aru cannot gift a stage to a rival in exchange for a late non-aggression pact. So we should see the same names in the mix but in a different order.
Fabio Aru is again the top pick. He lost ground yesterday thanks to an over obvious attack and this should mean more caution today and he can save his energy for the tough last slopes.
Nairo Quintana‘s shaken off his illness and it’ll have done his mind a power of good too but what now, a consolatory stage win or a bold bid to climb up the GC? Rafał Majka is climbing strongly too and if stage wins could be rotated around it feels like it’s his turn. If not Joaquim Rodriguez is looking sharp too.
|Fabio Aru, Nairo Quintana
|Joaquim Rodriguez, Rafał Majka
|Chaves, Valverde, Moreno
Weather: sunshine but cool temperatures of 18°C. No sea breeze but an 15-20km/h wind from the east.
TV: the approach to the final climb comes just before 5.00pm Euro time and the finish is expected at 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.
Daily Díaz: Say “Cabrales” and a Spaniard will probably think of the blue cheese featured in the picture below. Spanish cheeses may not be as famous as the French, but we have our own variety. Idiazábal and Roncal come from the Basque-Navarrese area, as do many Spanish professional cyclists (Landa, Izagirre, Txurruka, Intxausti and so on). They are made of milk from a certain race of sheep. Mató,from Catalonia, is sweet and usually served with honey as a dessert. Tetilla, from Galicia resembles a female breast, and its name could be translated as “tit” . Manchego, from La Mancha, is one of the most famous. Finally, from the archipelagos come Maó (Balearic Islands) and almogrote (Canary Islands) cheeses. Enjoy yourselves!
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel