What's Cool In Road Cycling

Sunday’s Vuelta “Crack” House

– By Charles Manantan –
Just a Reminder not to go to far from a cable (or satellite) equipped TV this Sunday if you are a fan of the tiny guys with the big Lungs. Sunday’s 176K Gijon – Angliru Mountain stage will be a massacre for those not in the absolute best shape.

** Click the “Vuelta 2002” icon to see the route profile.**

Given that it follows a few fairly simple stages (shame Cipo is gone…) and is followed by a rest day, this stage will be run off at an ugly pace and will be as decisive this year as it was when Roberto Heras used it as a
spring board to leave Casero gasping for breath while handing over the Golden Jersey the last time he won.

The run up is no joke with the first test taking the shape of the Puerto Maribo, a 10 K climb that averages 7.1% but has a nasty 11 – 12% pitch near the top. The next test is the Cordal which at 5 k is no great distance, but
the average gradient if 9% is misleading, as the last kilmoeter and a half kick up at 12% plus.

The Angliru itself is much worse than the already frightfull 9.7% average gradient that you see on paper. Throughout its 13 Kilometers, this bastard of a climb hits pitches of between 12 and over 20%. The most difficult stretches start at the half way point and the worst of it (23+ %) doesn’t hit you until you are almost at the top. This entire climb has absolutely no resting or recoupe spot, going from bad to horrible to downright
psychological and physiological murder, so every attack must be made with complete controle. It is in the last few Kilometers that a few great climbers and genuine contenders can and will loose more than 3 minutes and the race outright, as they go just a little to hard and have no way of recovering.

In the past, the pro’s have used Triples, and the more macho (“I don’t need no stinking triple”) types have fit the odd mountainbike cassette and XTR or Long armed rear mech. Personally I shiver at the thought of a seasoned pro struggling up a climb in a 39-36, and what’s worse is that even then, some have climbed off to try the two footed approach. In the past, during a rainy stretch, almost the entire peloton has had to climb off and walk…

We should see a breakaway on the first two climbs (like Simoni did on the way winning the stage in the year that Heras won the race on this climb) and then watch as Kelme, Postal and maybe a few Once (given Beloki’s TT effort) hit the front at speed for a short lead out (lasting maybe half way up the mountain). It will be interesting to watch Sevilla work to stay with Heras
and the two of them try and put the scerws to Beloki and Sevilla’s team mate Aitor Gonzalez (given that Gonzalez is a free agent next year, he won’t be much of a helper to Sevilla).

Once this race has somewhere around 6 – 8k left, you’ll get to watch as the best riders in the race crack like glass in an opera house, as the fat lady sings as loud as she can. It will be beautiful music to the ears of the best on the day, but sound a lot like death to the rest…

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