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Vuelta a Espana Week Two Preview: The Road To the Alto de l’Angrilu

Alto de l’Angrilu

Week One Recap

You can look back at the first week and remember a fantastic start leading to a low level meh ending in a surprising sneaky Sunday stage with a change in GC. Overall though with the Cancellation of Tourmalet the chance for a real separation in GC didn’t (probably) happen. That will be next week. Stage one was the fantastic: the Arrate climb out of Eibar never ever fails and it didn’t this time. Some riders and teams were not ready to go full out and they paid for it. The rest were ready for battle and that last climb is just long enough and steep enough to pose real questions to them. Then the fun winding finale which is great. That Roglic won was not surprising but we loved to see him do it.

Stage two was sort of a confirmation/make-up stage with another good climb and a descent that Marc Soler redeemed himself on. I swear I think he has ADD.

Stage three, another climb- this was getting repetitious since it was basically the same as the prior stages. Stage four and a sprint showing a) Ackerman is having a really weird year, b) Sam Bennett is Mr Consistency. Stage five, a break wins. Then the Tourmalet-less stage 6, also a very easy climb that I’m not sure why always surprises. Carapaz takes red, Jumbo was jour sans and we got ourselves a race. One thing this stage might have done was possibly-possibly, not probably-extend the race beyond next Sunday until at least the ITT stage. We’ll see in a week’s time if that is true.

But on to week two!

Stage 7- Vitoria-Gasteiz - Villanueva de Valdegovia, 159.7 km

Just a pain in the ass stage for all involved. Most of the stage is relatively easy, even sprinter easy, but that cat 1 climb- the Puerto de Orduña- oof! Just looking at the profile it almost looks like dwarves made it what with the way it dives down into the earth then climbs out onto the plateau again. Moria. That sucker averages 7.7% over 7.8 km but that includes the last km which is just 3.4%. Take that end out and it averages 8-9% with some ramps up to 14%. Obviously no sprinters allowed. Probably a break takes it all the way. Possibly some GC guy thinks this is a day to attack what with only 19km of road left after the second time up that beasty. In fact given the wide open nature of this race at the moment you have to figure some GC guy/team will try to pull something. Looking at you Movistar.

Stage 8- Logroño - Alto de Moncalvillo, 164.0 km

If stage 7 is tricky, stage 8 is very serious.

A fun thing about the Vuelta is that we get to see new climbs on a regular basis. That’s what we got today. Good chance we find some separation amongst the GC boys here. It is also one hell of a foreshadowing.

I mean come on- this is the Vuelta people, not some doofus French race! We are gonna climb to the finish line, we are gonna climb hard, and we are gonna like it! ! The Alto de Moncalvillo is about 8.3km long and averages 9.2%. In France this climb would have so much publicity and be scheduled for a weekend. In Spain they call climbs like this “Tuesdays.” And of course this climb is uneven. Starts for a km at 6% then 4kms @ 9%, and another km @ 15%. The climb tapers back to a paltry 7% for some meters then gets up to 12% then tapers down slowly to the finish line where there’s barely an increase. Easy! This stage sets up the weekend beautifully.

Stage 9- BM Cid Campeador. Castrillo del Val - Aguilar de Campoo, 157.7 km

But first a day for, wait for it! Sprinters! At least it’s not one of those 280km slogs like other races have and sometimes cancel half of. Me, I’d like to have a sprinter stage that’s 100 meters long. Good for Usain Bolt, so it is good for Bennett, Ackers, Phillipsen, and even Mareczko. Okay, we could have a 500 meter course with riders going off five at a time. Have it end in a stadium and charge money! They would be grouped first by their role on the team so we get all the sprinters together and then all the GC guys together etc. The riders are riding against the other four riders in their heat plus against all the other riders’ times. That way we get not only head to head matchups of sprinters who don’t need to have their spint trains working right but also with the GC guys too with small time gaps very much in play. Maybe some of the time we might get track stands but it is doubtful that that happens with the GC riders since there will be more than one heat of them. Everyone with me? YES!

Stage 10- Castro Urdiales - Suances, 185.0 km

WHAT??? ANOTHER sprinter stage??? Actually this one is tricky with a good chance that a puncheur takes it. You can’t see it but there’s a hill at the end. Not a wall but enough to make it hard for a pure sprinter. Case in point: this ending was featured in 2008 where Bettini won over Tin Tin, Ballan, and Cunego. So...tricky.

Stage 11- Vallaviciosa - Alto de La Farrapona. Lagos de Somiedo, 170.0 km

We have come to the second weekend; this weekend probably decides the GC.

First, Saturday’s stage with its 5000+ meters of climbing in just 170km. Riders immediately have a cat 3 climb at the start then go onto four cat 1’s. The first cat 1, Alto de la Colladona, 7.0 km, 6.5%, max. 10.8%, is relatively easy for us couch bound puncheurs. The second, Alto de la Cobertoria is not so nice, 9.8 km with the first three km pretty easy and the last six hard hard hard- between 11-13%. That’s just the second cat 1.

The third cat 1, Puerto de San Lorenzo, averages 8.6% over 10.0 km with steeper ramps towards the last five km. Finally we finish atop the last cat 1, Alto de La Farrapona, overall fairly easy at 6.2% over 16.5 km, But this alto has a sting in the last 5km of 9-12% on average with no let up.

I almost think of this stage as a set up for the next day: by the end of today the climbers will be tired as this was the second longest stage so far besides all the climbs. Good chance for a break to win though since there’s hell to pay tomorrow.

Stage 12- La Pola Llaviana / Pola de Laviana - Alto de l’Angliru, 109.4 km

Oh damn- and I mean that in the literal sense. Now to be fair this is 2020. We were all excited about the Tourmalet and look how that turned out. Please let us have stage 12 intact!

Monte Zoncolan, Passo del Mortirolo, Alto de l’Angrilu: the modern hell mountains for the 21st century. At least we get one of them this year as it seems fitting. Did you realize that of the five previous times up the l’Angrilu the winner was from the break twice? Ellisonde in 2013 and Contador with his walk off win in 2017 becoming one of the very few cyclists to go out on top besides being the only cyclist to win this climb twice. But regardless of a breakaway winner, the GC is always either confirmed or outright decided here and it should be this year. If there is a stage you need to watch it is this one.

Talking about the break: how is it done? By attacking the previous climb, the cat 1 Alto del Cordal- and especially attacking the descent where one can steal some real time (like Contador did in 2017) or lose the race (like Igor Anton did by crashing in 2008). Thank god Zakarin isn’t here. In fact I seem to remember a real crash on the descent every time, rain or shine. Tricky when every rider is thinking of the climb to come.

And that’s week two. Spoiler alert for week three: for the GC the next stage after the break is the TT whiole the next to the last stage of the race is the final and only real MTF in week three. Also there’s been stroing rumors since pre-race that the last stage wil be diverted from Madrid. Stay tuned. And after that stage we have on paper only like two months before the TDU gets underway. But will it really happen? Enjoy the racing while we got it.