The 2010 Vuelta a España could well be decided on the penultimate stage with a new climb that’s already being compared to the fearsome Angliru and the Giro d’Italia’s Monte Zoncolan.

stage20profileRace officials said the “Bola del Mundo” climb in the mountains north of Madrid should put an exciting finishing touch in the final battle for the Vuelta crown.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the Vuelta will be decided there,” said Abraham Olano, technical director of the Vuelta. “The riders will arrive very tired and there will be collapses. Someone could lose the race there.”

The four-climb, 20th stage has race-breaker written all over it. The stage begins in San Martín de Valdeiglesias and concludes at 2,247 meters at the “Bola del Mundo,” a weather station atop the Puerto de Navacerrada.

The route tackles a third-category climb before the Cat. 1 Alto de León at 63km and the first of two climbs up the Cat. 1 Navacerrada climb at 120km, climbing from Segovia on the north side of the range. The route then loops down and climbs back up from the south face toward the Navacerrada summit, where the final run up to the finish line begins.

The stage will turn up a three-kilometer section above the main road, with ramps as steep as 22 percent with an average grade of 12.5 percent. The road is paved, but with rough cement rather than smoother asphalt and is not open to regular road traffic.

Like the Plan de Corones climb featured in the Giro d’Italia, team cars will not be allowed on the narrow, steep road. Instead, mechanics will follow with spare bikes and wheels.

“The problem won’t be punctures, because that’s difficult when you’re going 12kph, or even 10kph on the steepest ramps. The danger is if you stop,” said ex-pro Eduardo Chozas. “And if it’s wet, riders will have to race with wider tires, like they use at Paris-Roubaix, or race with less tire pressure.”