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La Vuelta Stage 8: A Stick to the Face

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It's our favorite graph! But not theirs...

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Stage 8: Villalpando — La Camperona, 181.5km

A very exciting day in the saddle for the Vuelta a España, kicking off the next real phase of climbing, one that goes on for a while.

What's It About?

A long, slow approach to the Cantabrian Mountains, home to some of European cycling's steepest mountain roads.The Vuelta criss-crosses the northern mountain ranges for a while, so Saturday's stage keeps the tease going for a last 170km before finally giving in. But when it happens, it happens big time. The stage ends atop a beastly climb that will leave a mark.

ChrisF's Dirt and Rock Pairings

Where we never takes things for granite.

Cistierna the landscape changes radically because we cross the boundary between the basin of the Duero, with its sediments and plains, and the Cantabrian mountain range, with its mountains and its ports. From Cistierna rock layers they are folded and large amounts of limestone, easily dissolve and form galleries and caves through which water flows. This results in abundant springs, such as the Choir leading source being used since Roman times.

Limestone... that stuff is the worst. Anyway, then it tips up. Not too much to say about the geology here.

Terms of stage endorreica Laguna. It is a lagoon without any drain that connects to rivers or the sea. The water that reaches the lagoon can only infiltrate aquifers or evaporate. Often, evaporation of water results in the formation of salts. Meander. Any bend in a river called meander. The word is the name of a river in modern Turkey, the Meander River. The most famous of her curves which was traced around the Greek city of Magnesia.

Course Features

Map and Profile time. The profile is the real star -- one I previously called a field hockey stick graph. As I said then, I'm a big fan of hockey stick graphs, but this one is truly special.

St 8 map

stg 8

Nuts. N-V-T-S! To wit, here's a closeup:

La Camperona profile

This climb is totally inhuman. Official stats say 8.5km at 7.4% but as you can see that's bullshit. This is a climb like few others, for the simple reason that almost nobody thinks it's even a good idea to build roads like this, let alone race bikes over them. Here's an article (in Spanish) saying it's harder than El Angliru.

Whom Does it Favor

The strongest climbers. Obviously riders will mitigate the gradients with bigger cassettes, but this means a slow, hard grind, and if the real action is more like 5km, it will feel like 10km. All of the GC contenders will be heard from, for better or worse, but picking who can actually have a good day on this brute is no simple task. One thing I think you can say is that the breakaway will be doomed, because nobody will make it up this thing in OK shape without either 10 minutes in hand or the kind of climbing legs that get you reeled in from breakaways. It's the start of real GC hostilities, and it's going to produce a selection.

Pick to Win

Urm... Chris Froome. I've stopped doubting him.