Stage 8: Villena — Xorret de Catí
What is it? Mountainous.
Got Climbs? I'm not sure there's any flat road anywhere on this stage. The final climb hits 22%.
Red Jersey Battle: So on. Bring your climbing legs, boys!
Ideal Rider: Joaquím Rodríguez. It's a climber's party.
@Gavia: Carlos Sastre will win. He's not too old. He's not! He's not!
With this stage, the riders face the first real mountain stage of this year's Vuelta. The profile comprises five categorized climbs, and the finale includes gradients tilting up to 22%. No, that's not a typo. Scarcely any flat ground appears to ease the pain of this all up and down stage. The course maps looks like a road runner, several rounded bits with two legs attached. The riders roll out from Villena and finish in Xorret de Catí which sits just southeast of where the stage begins. Yes, the Vuelta delights in loopy stage traces. The climbs come at relatively regular intervals along the road. Allow me to direct to you the stage information sheet for details. Because really, you don't need me to retype that thing, do you? No, you didn't.
The Vuelta raced up the Alto Xorret de Catí last year, and Gustavo César Veloso of Xacobeo-Galicia won the stage. Alejandro Valverde led a group of favorites that included Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans, and Robert Gesink. Joaquím Rodríguez finished around 30 seconds behind them. This final climb, it isn't so easy. The steepest section, that 22% bit, comes with around 1.5 kilometers to the summit, then it's an easy 13% to the top of the climb. No problems, eh? The Alto Xorret de Catí summits with 3 kilometers left to race and it's a downhill run to the finish. The descent offers a slim chance of shutting down the gaps opened on the climb, but it'll be over before you know it. Last year, Fränk Schleck and Samuel Sánchez dropped 50 seconds to Valverde on this stage. It's certainly a finish to take seriously.
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