With the Tour de France done and dusted it’s less than a month now until the start of the Vuelta a España – and I don’t know about you but I have a feeling the Vuelta is going to be far more exciting than the Tour. One of the main reasons for this will no doubt be the stages in Asturias which, no matter who is in contention beforehand, could really reshuffle the GC positions.
We are in for a real treat this year with the inclusion of the L’Angliru on the penultimate stage of the tour. This summit finish could well be a podium changing moment and should be a real humdinger. Remember it was this climb that thwarted Bradley Wiggins chance of winning the Vuelta and we could well see a shift in overall positions in GC after this stage.
The climb of the L’Angliru is on stage 20 but first let’s have a look at stage 19. On paper it doesn’t seem much of a game changer. Indeed the Cat one (Colladona: http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/alto-de-la-colladona-mi ) and first two 3 Cat climbs (St Emiliano and Faya de Los Lobos http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/alta-de-la-faya-los-lobos ) shouldn’t challenge anyone. However, don’t be fooled by the 3 Cat status of the last climb – San Martin de Huerces (http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/san-martin-de-huerces-ca ). This little climb is a real brute with double figure gradients all the way up and with parts reaching up to 17%. Its 2.3 km’s average 11% so we could well see an attack or two from the GC contenders who need to claw back some seconds, although the long downhill to the finish might put pay to that idea. It will also be interesting to see if the local rider Ivan Cortina (Bahrain Merida) will go for glory in his home town.
I’m really looking forward to Stage 19 as it is mainly set on roads and climbs I ride on every week and is in fact passing through my home town of Pola de Siero and through my clubs town of Nava. It’s always nice riding on roads that you know the wheels of the likes of Contador, Froome and Valverde have rolled over.
So, stage 20 and the final showdown – Putting the L’Angliru as the summit finish on the penultimate day is quite a crafty move and pretty cruel. The stages in Asturias are normally mid tour but the organisers or obviously after creating a spectacle with a dramatic final showdown. I’ve climbed the L’Angliru (and I don’t want to climb it again) and I can assure you that if there is any weakness in those contending for the GC, it will be found out here. It’s so steep that it’s one of those climbs that just splits the peleton to pieces. Just to get an idea of what it’s like check out the video here: http://bikeasturias.net/alto-de-langliru-climb
The riders will have some pretty tough climbing to do before they even reach the L’Angliru. The peleton should stay together up until the base of the Cobertoria but I’d imagine the peleton will start to splinter once they start climbing. La Cobertoria is a tough climb but they are climbing it from the slightly easier side and I’m sure the GC contenders and their team’s will all stay together to conserve energy for the L’Angliru. However, with a quite undemanding first 70km I would imagine there will be a breakaway hitting La Cobertoria first.
El Cordal ( http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/el-cordal-from-pola-de-lena-mi ) from the Pola de Lena side is pretty steep, especially the last 2 km’s, but it’s quite short so I believe nothing significant will happen here – but it’s a lovely climb and should make good TV viewing.
Indeed, whether you’re watching on TV or lucky enough to be there in person, the two stages should make for spectacular viewing.
Best Places to watch from:
Stage 19: Pola de Siero should also be a good place to watch for the sprint. The main climb to watch the race would be San Martin de Huerces as it is the steepest climb. You may have to park up a little distance away if driving but not too far. It’s near Gijon so easily accessible but is likely to be crowded.
La Faya and Colladona are also nice climbs and won’t be crowded.
Stage 20: Anywhere on the last 6 km’s of the L’Angliru but go early and make sure you are fit. It’s tough by bike or on foot. It will be crowded.
El Cordal is really nice with parking space at the top and it shouldn’t be too crowded. La Cobertoria also has plenty of open space at the top and crowds shouldn’t be too heavy.