UNQUERA, Spain (VN) — Two brutal days awaited the peloton as the riders pedaled into sign-in Wednesday morning in this Asturian town at the Vuelta a España.
The first was Wednesday’s Lagos de Covadonga summit, one of the emblematic summit finishes in the Vuelta. a climb introduced in the 1980s, with such winners as Nairo Quintana, Laurent Jalabert, and Pedro Delgado.
Looming Thursday is the Vuelta’s latest discovery, the especial summit-finish at Gamoniteiru.
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Dubbed the “Cousin of the Angliru,” the hulking climb par of the same jangle of limestone ridges that stack up across Asturias with brutal steepness. The stats — 14.6km at 9.8 percent average grade — do not tell the full story. There are ramps that exceed 20 percent, with long, sustained sectors at 12 to 15 percent.
As the Vuelta’s final summit finale, it will prove decisive in the overall shape of the podium.
Yet do these new, “undiscovered” climbs really prove as decisive as they’re hyped? Are climbs like Angliru and the Los Machucos so steep and brutal that they’re more novelty than delivering GC-defining moments?
We asked the pros:
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers)
“In the end, it’s quite spectacular, even for the riders. It’s nice to do the traditional climbs, so when they throw something in like this, it’s special for us, too. Sometimes they are so steep, you have to go mano-a-mano with your rivals, it’s a real test. You don’t get that much protection from the wind because there’s no sitting on the wheel, so in the end, it’s all about your legs and how you are feeling. We will see how much impact it has.”
Now, that the ascent of the Gamoniteiru in La Vuelta a España is coming, we leave here a glimpse of the history and description of this climb that promises to become another mythical pass in the future.https://t.co/S0W1hXw3LK
— En Fuga por Asturies (@EnFugaAsturies) August 27, 2021
Joe Dombrowski (UAE Emirates)
“These climbs are the trademark of the Vuelta. Some of these roads aren’t really roads. I have the feeling sometimes that they are just paving a gravel goat track so that there’s something interesting. I don’t know if that’s because there is less road infrastructure in the mountains compared to Italy. Or if they just feel they need to carve out their own niche. Even the other day, in the middle of the stage, we did a concrete, 20-percent climb. I am biased because these steep, explosive climbs don’t really favor me, so I don’t like it. To each their own.
“I don’t know that the steeper climbs make a bigger difference. For example, if you have a ‘pitchy’ climb, you can see bigger differences. Picón Blanco, the stage that Taaramae won, in the end, it was a race between me and him, and I tried to make the difference on the steep part, but the differences that stage were made on the flatter part of the climbs, when you can get a gap and you can sustain it. I don’t know that the steeper climbs make more of a difference.”
— Eduardo Chozas (@eduardochozas) August 31, 2021
Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious)
“There differences on those super steep climbs are made if you have the legs or not. It doesn’t matter if you have a strong team, or what the tactics are. It’s just either you go or you don’t. On these shallower climbs, that’s when the team tactics and strategy can really play a part. I think on Thursday you will see the strongest riders come to the top on those climbs. It makes for a good spectator viewing, but it’s not that pleasant to race. I haven’t done this climb Thursday, but I know some of the Movistar boys have, and they say it’s miserable.”
Chad Haga (DSM)
“You can see on the 20km climb a few days, the level here is so high, even a 6 percent does nothing to these top climbers. It’s everyone following the wheel to save 75 watts. It really does take these novelty climbs to get some real separation between them. As much as I do not enjoy them, it certainly does open up the race more. It forces everyone to do the effort. There’s no holding the wheel on gradients that steep. It makes the race that much harder. We are limited by our gearing at a certain point, but we are getting close to how steep we can go.”