Stage 9: Orihuela — Cumbre del Sol, 174km
Rest... need rest...
What’s It About?
Looking at beaches. And yeah, since it’s the Vuelta, let’s find a really nasty hill at the end to climb once or twice. I’m pretty sure they climb this twice:
The map is incomprehensible and a googling of same produces only a different brand of confusion. But given the stats I believe they climb most of this once, head back down, cruise around to the beach for about 45 minutes, and then climb this again with an extra 800 meters tacked on, if for no other reason than to keep the team buses out of the way until the very end.
Speaking of team buses, if you haven’t seen Sky’s “Death Star” concept... it’s impressive:
Anyway, the upshot of this stage is that it ends with the climb, so it’ll be a dash to the line that results in surprisingly wide time gaps, even though we knew they were coming. This is grand tour racing now: long, slow slogs past branding opportunities culminating in ten minutes of explosive action.
Did You Know?
The most conspicuous thing about this Vuelta course is the proximity to beaches (and nasty finishing climbs but those are everywhere). If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that the uniting principle behind this course design is tourism. Sure, that’s nothing new; grand tours and other races have long been charged with getting word out about how great it would be if you would come visit our lovely country/state/city, empty your pockets, and scuttle off back home again.
But few events in cycling history have promoted tourism non-stop for three weeks, and in this respect I have to give it to the Vuelta here. The Spanish tourist economy is the world’s largest or close to it by almost any measure you can apply. It’s worth more than 10% of the nation’s economy. Some 75 million (and growing) tourists stop by each year. The World Tourism Organization has its headquarters in Madrid (because they can, obviously). And just who is it that’s coming to Spain? Here’s the ranking of top sources of tourist vi$its:
That’s more or less the cycling fanhood map, minus Australia and I suppose Scandinavia. The first three make up more than all the others put together, and the UK is #1 by far. So really, this is about selling ads on UK Eurosport to get sun-starved Englishfolk out of their mossy enclaves and to the beaches in Spain.
There are consequences for this, of course. Other countries aren’t exactly taking this lying down. Tel Aviv, most notably, upped the ante during the Giro d’Italia. The Giro d’Italia is its own tourist brochure — although, shamefully, tourist visits from the UK to Italy are less than 20% of the totals to Spain. There are plenty of other spots vying for attention. But Spain brings the total package: food, cycling, beaches, more food, history, and more beaches. So get after it you guys.
Pick to Win
Esteban Chaves. Which will lead to 48 hours of rest-day coverage of his winning smile.