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Vuelta Stage 11: Golly, More Mountains!

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Lorca to Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto, 188km

Paco Elvira/Getty Images

The Vuelta website calls this a mid-mountain stage. It really does. The good people at ASO are kind enough to acknowledge an “uphill finish” but apparently two first category climbs in the last 40km don’t qualify a stage as mountainous.

Whilst this isn’t the toughest stage of this year’s race, the fact it is mid-mountain really does indicate what a brutal parcours these guys are enduring. Roberto Heras and Igor Anton have won on this final climb before. They were climbers, folks.

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What’s it all about?

It’s all about the last 45km. After looping South and taking in some coastline, things get serious as the field head inland, and uphill. Both the Alto de Velefique and the Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto are category one climbs, and the stage finishes atop the latter. They are very different climbs, with the AdV comparatively steep and steady at 13.2km, 8.6%, and the OAdCA a rangier 15.5km at 5.9%. However, don’t be fooled by that - this isn’t a consistent climb and there are plenty of steep stretches at the start and finish of the climb. Without much of a recovery from AdV, this’ll be a tough one.

Expect the early breakaway to be caught on the final climb as this stage is going to require a serious effort from the GC riders. Gaps may not be huge but there will be separation between the major names.

Did you know?

If your Spanish is as dreadful as mine, it is something of a relief to learn that some things can be translated correctly. This stage does indeed finish at the Calar Alto Observatory, and it is indeed an astronomical observatory (as opposed to, I dunno, a different sort of observatory. One for fish, perhaps. Or peacocks).

The observatory contains the largest telescope on the mainland of Europe, and it is pretty cool. They’ve discovered almost 100 minor planets at the site and specialise in observation of the solar system. Which, of course, makes my previous snarky comments about astronomy even more ridiculous, as there’s only one astro in the solar system. Anyway. They have a cool website and are geeky about space, and I love them for that.

Pick to win

This is a hard enough finish that someone will get dropped, and all of the bigs will have to dig deep to finish in the elite group, but I don’t think it is hard enough for the Froomes and Chaveses of the race to go on the attack. If they start riding defensively, I think it’ll leave the door open for an aggressive climber, and Fabio Aru is my pick.