Stage 10: Lugones — Lagos de Covadonga, 188.7km
The 2016 Vuelta a España hits its first big time stage for the GC studs. This is one of three arguable queen stages. Doesn't get my vote but it's close enough.
What's It About?
Finally the race heads into the high mountains. Meandering clockwise, the race heads toward the eventual Basque rendezvous, starting north of Oviedo and dipping into the Picos de Europa National Park. There is a fair amount of transition happening in this final stage before the first rest day, but mostly there's a huge climb at the end that will get all the attention.
ChrisF's Dirt and Rock Pairings
Where we never takes things for... Ooh! Dinosaurs!
AFor the past few years, the stretch of coastline between Lastres and Ribadesella has been known as the "Costa de los Dinosaurios" ("Dinosaur Coast") due to the large amount of footprints pertaining to giant extinct reptiles that have been discovered there. The footprints belong to sauropods (long-necked) and theropods (closer to the tyrannosaurus) that walked around there around 200 million years ago. During the Jurassic Period, the area featured swamplands and a very warm climate, almost Caribbean, that the great reptiles must have loved. There are so many remains from this period, that Asturias now houses the Jurassic Museum.
Quick note on the Picos de Europa, our final destination on the day:
If the first part of the stage passes through rocks that were formed in a warm climate, the last part passes through landscapes modelled entirely by glacial ice. In the last 2 million years, ice covered the peaks of the Picos de Europa on many occasions. These glaciers are what eroded the valleys where the stage will end, and formed large accumulations of sediments that geologists refer to as moraines. In this topography, the Lagos de Covadonga formed when the ice pertaining to the last glacial phase melted around 10,000 years ago, just a moment ago if you think of it in geological terms.
Map and Profile time.
Profile -- nice to have a warm-up climb before the real one.
And here's the main event. Serious stuff.
The Lagos de Covadonga climb makes its 20th appearance in the Vuelta in 36 years, making it about as regular a destination as, oh, the Col du Galibier in the Tour... except it's usually a finishing climb. So more like Alpe d'Huez. And much like the Alpe, it is often won by guys who don't figure in the overall. Since 2000 the stage winners have been Andrey Zintchenko, Juan Miguel Mercado, Eladio Jimenez, Vlad Efimkin, Carlos Barredo, Antonio Piedra and Przemyslaw Niemiec. But don't be fooled, it's a race-rocker, if not an overall decider. One thing is that the race is far from Madrid, so logistically speaking it has happened pretty early on, before anything has been decided. Call it the place where plans start to take shape... or die.
Whom Does it Favor
Pretty obvious. Since the Vuelta is lousy with climbers, there are sure to be some big-name stage hunters out in front, chasing a day of glory. And perhaps this time they will stay away, as they have often enough here. But the action behind them will feature a pretty intense duel between all of the GC favorites, including Quintana, Froome, Contador, Valverde, Chaves, Yates, Talansky and so on.
Pick to Win
Quintana. He looked awfully strong Saturday, which is a sign not that he will win in Madrid but that he came into week 1 in scintillating form.