The Vuelta a España 2014 in Asturias

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.

Stage 14

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

Stage 15

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

Torno summit

Torno summit

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.

DSCN0943

Summit of Los Lagos

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.

Stage 16

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

Looking Back El Cordal

Looking Back El Cordal

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.

Road to Farrapona

Road to Farrapona

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.

Route of the Alto del Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga (108 kms)

Despite my friend Mark having a bad back and me still having leg problems, at 10:00am on 6th June we met up in Cangas de Onis to ride the Alto de Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga. Also joining us was Geoff from San Francisco (who I met via my blog) who was visiting Asturias with his wife, so it was great he could ride with us.

I’d planned the route taking two main things into consideration; firstly the location was good for Geoff who was staying near-by and at the same time it wasn’t too far for Mark to get to. Secondly, it was good preparation for the Sportive Los Lagos de Covadonga that I would be riding the following weekend.

With a few well-chosen alterations by Mark – incorporating the final 50 kms of stage 15 of the 2014 Vuelta a España into the route  – we planned to climb the Alto del Torno and of course Los Lagos de Covadonga. A 108km route with 2500 metres of climbing.

Now I haven’t been riding well lately but on that particular Friday I knew I was in trouble from the very first turn of the pedal. I just had nothing in the legs and even the slightest rise in the road would see me struggling. Probably not the best sensation to have when you’re about to climb an HC mountain at the end of a ride. Still, I’m a believer in starting what you finish so I would try my best to get round.

My main concern wasn’t for me but rather that I would hold the other two up, which I certainly did. Geoff turned out to be a good cyclist and it was great to see Mark riding so well after his back problems, but it did mean they would set an impossible pace given my lack of form. Although I just said my main concern was about holding the guys up, which is true, I must admit by the time I started climbing Los Lagos, my concerns had become somewhat more selfish.

It proved to be a great route, with a great combination of very challenging climbs, really fun descents, great coastal flat sections and some stunning scenery. The weather was perfect. It was hot but bearable and for the most part sunny. Although there was a one minute rain shower atop Los Lagos which only proved to be somewhat of a relief from the sun.

tornogeoffLagos 5

The weather up Del Torno was perfect and the scenery spectacular. It’s a nice climb with a nice flat section in the middle before getting pretty tough to the top. The descent is also quite tough as there are three small climbs on the way down which will sap any energy you may have left after climbing el Torno.

Torno summit

After these three small climbs it’s all easy riding to Covadonga and the start of Los Lagos climb. After filling up the water bottles at a road side spring, I said my goodbye’s at the bottom, knowing that I would be dropped within a few pedal strokes. My legs felt terrible when I started the ride but now after 75kms of riding, they felt totally wasted. As I started the climb I began thinking of the best point to stop and turn round and wondered if Mark would check his phone if I sent him a message. I also wondered how often the buses went to the top as I could go back down and catch one of them. With all this thinking, I kind of forgot my legs and suddenly realised I had passed the Huesera, which is the toughest part of the climb (1km long and 15% all the way). It kind of seemed pointless turning round now so I just kept turning the pedals as slowly as I could. Over 1 hour and 30 minutes from the start, I reached the second lake of Los Lagos.

Mark had taken it easy due to his bad back and did great to get up there. Geoff did great, he had found the climb really tough and had suffered at several points on the way up but dug in and still made it ahead of me. It was a great feeling having made it to the top and seeing the other guys, and after a well deserved drink it was nice to head down hill for the ride back to the van.

Lagos 4

All in all a great route, a great ride and great company. I would certainly recommend it to anyone but it is a toughy. I have also  learnt a couple of things from the ride; men with bad backs can still ride damn fast; no matter how bad my legs feel, it seems I can still get up most things and finally I’ve learnt how Nibali felt always seeing the back of an American, because Geoff was quick.

Route Map and Stats: http://www.strava.com/activities/150194367

Los Lagos Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/lagos-de-covadonga

Alto del Torno Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-del-torno-from-nueva

P.S. I completed the Sportive the Clasica Los Lagos the following week. I didn’t exactly fly round but I felt much better than I did on this ride…… Post and Video of the sportive to follow shortly.