Well it’s almost time for the Vuelta 2014 and once again there will be a couple of great stages here in Asturias.
It doesn’t seem like a year ago that I watched Eddie Bosenhagen in a break away not far from where I live and had Valverde throw his water bottle at my feet.
This year there are two great stages, ones that will certainly decide who are the main GC contenders. Indeed, the final winner could well be decided on these stages. The stages in Asturias are stages 15 and 16 but first a brief look at Stage 14 which is in Cantabria/Leon.
I rode part of this stage just the other week, which included the 26km long climb of the San Glorio. Although tough (for me at least) I don’t think that this climb will split the peleton too much as the gradients never really reach more than 8%, although the sprinters could well start dropping back. The first 10km are pretty easy but the last 16km could well see a breakaway as the climb begins to ramp up.
It’s pretty much all downhill from here until the foot of the Camperona (in Leon). I don’t know this climb but it looks pretty tough with some serious ramps and could well be where we start to see who the GC contenders are going to be. Here’s some info about the climb: http://www.altimetrias.net/aspbk/verPerfilusu.asp?id=1228
We now come to Asturias and stage 15 should be a great stage. I rode the last 40km or so in a recent ride I did with friends and I certainly suffered. The professionals however, probably won’t start to suffer until the climb of Los Lagos de Covadonga. The only significant climb before Los Lagos is the Alta de Torno. This is a beautiful climb, offering great scenery. It is split in two as there is a flattish section in the middle before it begins to ramp up again until the summit. The descent is quite an interesting one as there are two tough little climbs on the way down so we may well see a break away on this section. Here is some info on the climb: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-del-torno-from-nueva
We then come to the famous Los Lagos de Covadonga (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/lagos-de-covadonga). I have climbed it twice this year, once with friends as mentioned above (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/route-of-the-alto-del-torno-and-los-lagos-de-covadonga-108-kms (with Video)) and again in the Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/clasica-los-lagos-de-covadonga-2014 . With stretches of 15% this climb will certainly start to see the GC contenders pull ahead. It is a beautiful climb but one that the sprinters dread. Indeed, Mark Cavandish was referring to the Lagos de Covadonga when he wrote that Asturias is for mountain goats not cyclists.
Los Lagos is tough virtually all the way but toward the very end there are a couple of downhill stretches so any attack will likely come before this. Attacks could well come on the stretch called the Huesera, about half way up, which is 0.9km long and 15% all the way.
Although tough, stage 15 is easy in comparison to the following days stage, which must be the Queens stage. Stage 16 is brutal almost from the very off.
After just 10km the riders will start climbing the Alto de Colladona. I have ridden virtually all the climbs in this area except this one, but if it’s like the others it will be a nice climb, although looking at the profile not too difficult. After passing nearby the L’Angliru (ridden last year but to the relief of many a rider not included this year) comes the El Cordal. This climb isn’t too tough. I rode it from the other, tougher side some months back and it offers stunning views: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/el-cordal-from-pola-de-lena-mi
Now it really starts to get hard. The next climb is the Cobertoria http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-de-la-cobertoria-desde-pola-de-lena-mi . It’s one of the hardest 10km I have ever ridden (granted I did it with a head wind). This climb is pretty unforgiving until the last km. It’s often in double figures with significant ramps of 14%. Although categorised as only a Cat 1 climb I think this climb will blow the peleton apart.
Things don’t get much better at the bottom either as the next climb is the San Lorenzo. I haven’t ridden it but went up it as a support vehicle for a friend of mine Mark, who climbed it in horrendous conditions. The climb is long and steep all the way (from both sides) and the grupetto will really be suffering on this climb.
So we come to the last climb, the Farrapona http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/la-farrapona-por-somiedo-sa . After the Cobertoria and San Lorenzo this climb will seem like a summer vacation for most of the riders. Although 18km long, it’s only the last 6 or 7km’s that are punishing. There are a few steep ramps on the way but nothing that will bother the riders. When I climbed it we were prevented from reaching the top because of the weather conditions (see video in above link) but it certainly gets tough, so should be a great finish at the top and could well decide the overall winner.
So that’s it! I hope to get to ride up the climbs to watch it myself but I’m sure the wife will have something to say about that. If you fancy watching it I’m sure it will be great from the top of most of the tougher climbs. If you need somewhere to stay check out the Bike Barn (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/accommodation/the-bike-barn) which is still available for booking at the time of the Vuelta and offers great access to the routes.