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Vuelta Stage 12: Euskadi!

A transition day through one of cycling's favourite regions.

Clasica San Sebastian Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Stage 12: Los Corrales de Buelna — Bilbao 193.2KM

What's It About?

Giving another stage to the breakaway. Over one category one climb, two category two ascents, and a single category three, the peloton goes from Cantabria's Corrales de Buelna to the biggest city in the Basque Country. There's a good chance of some fun here, but don't expect any GC timegaps.

ChrisF's Dirt and Rock Pairings

Where we never takes things for granite.

The faults and the dissolution of rocks give way to a particularly fractured topography. The stage is scattered with karst formations (sinkholes, channels, stalagmites, galleries, etc.). The Puente Viesgo Wellness Spa is another notable example of the importance of geology, because a detailed study of the region's faults and karst formations is what allows these thermal centres to flourish and make the most of the mineral and medicinal waters.

We then climb the Alisas mountain pass, passing through the Natural Park of the “Collados de Ansón”. It is a limestone massif whose most characteristic traits are the reliefs formed by the ancient glaciers that once covered this region thousands of years ago. In this area, glaciers formed at the lowest levels recorded within the Iberian Peninsula, as shown by the Bustalveinte moraine, located less than 600 metres high. A large part of this mountain pass still preserves some impressive limestone headlands dating back 100 million years.

A few kilometres north of Arredondo, is the poljé of Matienzo, included in the Spanish Inventory of Geologic Singular Sites (IELIG). It is a depression over a kilometre wide, with a flat surface, that formed a long time ago when several caves collapsed. The poljes' springs often lead to these being inundated when the underground waters rise, resulting in a flat surface that is full of sediments.

Past Gigaja (km 75 of the stage), the road passes of the Coluviones de Carranza, included in the IELIG. This is a large accumulation of materials that have broken off and fallen from the rock walls. Many accumulations such as this one form due to the ice that penetrates the rocks and breaks them, much like when you forget to take a bottle out of the freezer.

The wealth of the area's Geological Heritage is truly unique. Just as you enter the Basque Country, before reaching Karantza/Carranza, we pass right near one of the greatest concentrations of Geological Interest Locations (IELIG) in Spain. Less than a kilometre north of the road (km 78 of the stage) we have five of these unique spots. Three of them are ancient mines, the Torca del Carlista is a great karst system, and the Cueva de Pozalagua can, paradoxically, be seen from the sky.

Course Features

Your map and profile:

The repeated ascent of the Alto El Viviero should be where the stage is fought out, but all the climbing is done with thirteen kilometres to go, so we can expect some cagey fighting going on if a large breakaway splits. The climb, four and a half kilometres at over eight per cent, isn't the toughest in the region, but will do the job on a tired lead group.

Whom Does it Favor

This really does have to be the break, doesn't it? Nobody's going to be certain enough of the stage win to chase it down, even if it might be within Valverde's remit. Another large break should get away, containing a lot of these guys: Dries Devenyns, Fabio Felline, Omar Fraile, Alexandre Geniez, Pello Bilbao, Romain Sicard, Gianluca Brambilla and Moreno Moser. The strongest climber (Brambilla, I expect) will force a selection, and it'll be down to co-operation after that. I expect a sprint between four or five to decide the stage.

Pick to Win

Fabio Felline. If he can't win from the bunch, he'll win from here.