If you thought the Pico Jano summit caused GC havoc on stage 6 of the Vuelta a España on Thursday, wait until you see what’s coming this weekend.
An eighth stage Saturday studded with six categorized climbs – including the unprecedented cat.1 Colláu Fancuaya summit finish – is set to shred the legs of those hunting red.
The road to the Fancuaya is the first in an Asturian double-header that could crush or confirm GC ambition.
“We will have more information this weekend about really where everyone stands,” Ineos Grenadiers director Matteo Tosatto told VeloNews.
Stage 8 sees 3,400 meters packed into 153km of racing. It’s by far the hardest day of the Vuelta so far and a stage that could usher an all-new kingmaker into the Vuelta’s cruel repertoire of climbs.
At 10km long and averaging 8.5 percent in grade, the Colláu Fancuaya finale reads like just another of the Asturias’ deep armory of leg-bothering ascents. But a closer look reveals ramps of 19, 17, and again 17 percent in a severely stepped upper section.
“It is an intense climb, not as difficult as Angliru, but very demanding. It has the perfect hardness for there to be a show,” Movistar rider Alicia González told AS after she was sent to recon the route.
Remco Evenepoel rides into the Asturian weekend safe in the maillot rojo after his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team surfed through a straightforward breakaway day Friday.
“It was the perfect scenario for us, we didn’t have to do anything so everybody could try to recover from yesterday [stage 6 to Pico Jano],” Evenepoel said after the stage. “Everybody was doing well, we were controlled and relaxed.”
Evenepoel and his “wolves” won’t have it so easy Saturday.
Teams will be straight out of busses and onto turbo trainers in the La Pola Llaviana start paddock in preparation for a race that will pile pressure on Quick-Step and its ability to control.
A cat.2 climb with 7 percent slopes bites straight after race officials wave the start flag in an opening that will see the sprinters in cold sweats and provide a launchpad for ambush and attack.
It doesn’t get easier from there. A menu of mid-category climbs pepper a stage snaking through the Asturian range that seems certain for a GC showdown in what will be an all-new amphitheater.
Colláu Fancuaya ‘cattle track’ brings fierce final
The Vuelta a España long made finding unprecedented new climbs its “thing.”
The Asturian horrorshow that is the Angliru was complemented with a debut from its tearjerker cousin the Alto del Gamoniteiro in 2021. The Fancuaya is the next wild beast to be unleashed from Spain’s northern summits.
“It is a new climb almost even for those of us from Asturias, because in this area the Marabio is more frequented. When I saw that it would be in La Vuelta, I looked for information, and it was above all a cattle track,” González said.
The stepped profile bucks between 2 and almost 20 percent with wild abandon.
Diesel climbers like Evenepoel won’t be able to rely on power-meter pacing and consistent steady revving on an ascent for the purest climbers.
“The first 3.5km are easier, until the left turn of the bridge towards Yernes. Then, the difficulty increases, with slopes of 7 percent and 8 percent, with a hard section until reaching the town. Later, the road narrows and ramps arrive, alternating with small landings. The final section has several switchbacks,” González said.
Evenepoel on mountain weekend: ‘If there’s an opportunity I will not let it go’
A second summit finish Sunday is unlikely to put a stopper on the Asturian fireworks on stage 8 on Saturday.
Evenepoel holds a 28- and 61-second gap over top rivals Enric Mas and Primož Roglič respectively, and the two chasers won’t want to see their deficit expand before a crucial 31km TT on Tuesday.
“I have a nice advantage now so I’d be happy if I can just keep this time gap on the rest,” Evenepoel said of the coming weekend.
“Of course if there’s an opportunity I will not let it go. It’s a three-week race and going into the time trial with an advantage would be better than being behind.”
Go stock up on popcorn now, the weekend will be a thriller.