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Hints that Gamoniteiro could be ‘next big thing’ in Vuelta a España

Vuelta a España officials will reveal details of the 2021 route on February 11.

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Tantalizing hints emerged this week that a new massive climb in northern Spain — the Alto del Gamoniteiro — could be part of the route of the 2021 Vuelta a España.

Images of ex-pro Pedro Delgado and Spanish pro Ángel Madrazo filming video and riding on the lower flanks of the climb in Spain’s Asturias region raised speculation that the climb could be included in this year’s Vuelta route.

The 2021 Vuelta route, with a full 21 stages, is set to be revealed next week in Burgos. Coincidence, or a solid hint of something new? The peloton will find out during the Vuelta presentation on February 11.

There was no official confirmation, but Spanish media picked up on the story. If it plays out, the Gamoniteiro would be the latest in a long line of spectacular climbs that the Spanish grand tour has unveiled over the years.

What makes the rumors even more engaging is that the Gamoniteiro is located in the same spur of mountains called the Sierra del Aramo as the famous heights of the Angliru.

Though not as steep as its nearby cousin, the Gamoniteiro still packs a punch. Topping out at 1,791 meters (5,910 feet), the 15.1km climb has an average grade of 9.69 percent, with ramps as steep as 17 percent in the final kilometer. What makes it even more painful is that there is hardly any breathing room in the 1,500 vertical meters of climbing.

Unlike the Angliru, which is a four-wheel-drive track up the side of a mountain, and in some ways is little more than a paved goat path, the road surface up the Gamoniteiro is in much better condition because there is a service road that leads to a TV transmitter tower at the top.

One reason that the Vuelta hasn’t gone there already is that it quite cramped at the top, but if 2020 taught the peloton anything, it’s to be flexible. Perhaps the Vuelta organization has found a way to reduce its footprint, and open the door for the addition of the climb. Let’s hope so.

If it does indeed end up part of the Vuelta route, or is little more than a rumor, remains to be seen. What’s true is that the Vuelta has been searching out steep climbs in Spain’s northern mountains over the past few decades.

With the climbs in the Pyrénées, Sierra Nevada, and central mountains simply not packing the same vertical or steep challenge, Vuelta officials have been tapping into Spain’s cycling community to find local, largely unknown climbs that could be incorporated into the race.

The first was the Angliru, which was debuted in 1999. The inclusion of the climb — at 12.5km with ramps as steep as 23.6 percent — helped usher in modern cycling. Some say the brutally steep climbs that require mountain bike-like gearing don’t belong in cycling. The trend has been unstoppable, and every race on the calendar has been searching out its own “Angliru.”

With the Angliru, the Vuelta helped change what a modern grand tour can and should look like. And since then, the race has been under pressure to find new climbs. Luckily, Spain is packed with these undiscovered gems. After the Angliru came the Bola del Mundo, Mirador de Ézaro, Alto de los Machucos, La Cubilla, and La Farrapona, among others.

The Gamoniteiro could be the next one in this fascinating modern tradition.