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Vuelta Stage 8: --it’s About to Get Real

Long lumpy ride to a nasty climb, and an even nastier descent

Xorret de Catí descent
Tim de Waele, Getty

Stage 8: Hellín — Xorret de Catí, 199.5km

More weird nibbling around the perimeter of Spain... will there ever be a stage that finishes out of sight of the sea? NTTAWWT.


Stage 8 map


Stage 8 Profile

What’s It About?

That last bit on the right edge of the map. Well, and the 195km of spinning before you get there, in case you were hoping to hit the Xorret de Catí climb with fresh legs.

The GC contenders may or may not completely control the stage, but regardless of whether someone else is up the road (and I suspect the answer will be in the negative), it will be time to shine for Froome and his rivals. The closing climb is kind of a horror show, as detailed in my other post about the Unacceptable Vuelta Climbs, and I’ll show you the profile one last time:

Xorret de Cati

Not cool. But then there’s what comes after:

Xorret de Cati descent

Really not cool. That’s about a 200 meter drop in one km, also known round these parts as a minus-20% gradient. Are we sure this is a good idea? Do we have any idea who benefits from this kind of madness (besides Nibali)? What does this sort of racing even look like? I guess we will find out tomorrow if nobody comes to their senses.

Did You Know?

For all the obsessing we do over cycling’s steepest climbs, there is next to nothing out there in the internet on nasty descents. Now that we have practically danger-shamed the issue out of existence, it’s no surprise that people aren’t writing posts about the awesomely horrible downhills of the Vuelta a España, or any other race.

But if you google “steep descents” you do find lots and lots of tips on how to get over your fear of them. Amateur cyclists are like cats who climb up trees without thinking of the going down part, and you have to call the fire department. To avoid calling the fire department on top of the Angliru, you can use certain tips for getting yourself out of your own mess. They basically go like this:

  1. Acknowledge the fear. There is no sense waiting around at the top of a descent posing with some nonsense like “I could go down that thing, I just don’t feel like it,” or “It’s not that I’m afraid, it’s just that OMIGOD did you guys see Game of Thrones last night?!” You are afraid. Humans are equipped with an internal sense that falling off of high places is bad for them. There’s no shame in it. Someday I’ll tell you about my experience with ladders.
  2. If an article says there are “X number of easy steps to overcome your fear” then it is written by a pro cyclist. They were born without any fear. Somehow at birth it got swapped out for a higher power-to-weight ratio, and the rest is history. They are not us. [But we love them.]
  3. Focus on cornering, put the top tube between your thighs (this is still about cycling), and feather your braking at opportune times, like heading into a corner. It doesn’t work, but you need something to do on your way down to distract yourself.
  4. Done? If yes, breathe a sigh of relief and promise never to do this again. If no, get off and walk.

Pick to Win

Chris Froome. He loves the end of the first week. It’s where he always bags a stage, pushes out a lead, and hopes for nothing bad to ever happen.