What's Cool In Road Cycling

Vuelta’15 St.9 PREVIEW: Climb To Del Sol!

Race Preview: The Vuelta a España is passing through the Valencia region this week-end, so we sent our PEZ-Man in Spain, Al Hamilton, out on his bike to reconnoiter the finalé of stage 9 to Cumbre del Sol and the summit finish on the ultra steep Alto de Puig Llorença. It is believed he cheated on most of the parcour, but there is photographic evidence that he rode to the finish line. Here’s his Vuelta stage 9 preview…

The Vuelta a España has been giving the region of Valencia a miss recently, there has been the odd stage, but since Valencia bailed the race out by sponsoring the leader’s jersey and hosting the start in 2002 (my first press accredited Vuelta), the stages have been thin on the ground. This year the Spanish Grand Tour passes through the autonomous region in two stages, stage 9 starts in Torrevieja and works its way north up the coast to the summit finish on the Alto de Puig Llorença on the Cumbre del Sol next to the small village of Benitatxell.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-last-bit-920
The last kilometer is in sight

The next day, Monday the 31st of August, the stage starts in the City of Valencia and again heads north, but on an inland route to take in two climbs on its way to a probable sprint finish in Castellón. The last climb of the day, the Cat 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas comes over 20 kilometers from the line. From there the race transfers to Andorra for Tuesday’s rest day.

vuelta15st9-profile-920

Stage 9 finishes fairly close to where I live (50K’s), but the climb of the Alto de Puig Llorença was a mystery to me. I knew roughly were it was as I had passed the road-end to the climb many times on the way to Javea for team training camp press days and to sample the carrot cake in the Café Ciclista in Denia. I’m getting ahead of myself, what about the start.

Torrevieja is on the very southern edge of the Valencia region’s most southern province of Alicante and it used to have a bad reputation. There was a lot of building there and what was a small fishing village exploded in size and population quicker than the local authority could cope with. They used to say it wasn’t a case of if or when your Torrevieja apartment would be broken into, but how often. I hear it has improved.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-benidorm-wide-920
Las Vegas, maybe not

For the preview I didn’t go there, but the course north there follows the coast, past many beach holiday destinations: Guardamar, Santa Pola, Alicante, El Campello and Villajoyosa. The altitude varies between 10 meters and 35, so nothing much to worry anyone.

vualta15pre-st9ah-benidorm-920
One of the two big beaches

I’ll pick up the course where it reaches Benidorm. What can I say about Benidorm, it’s what it is, a tourist resort with enormous beaches, multi-story buildings and 24/7 varied entertainment, a sort of Las Vegas, but not.

vuelta15st9-altea-920
Altea… much nicer

The course follows the coast through Altea with its church set high above in the old village back from the port. From there the route passes the Russian church and the very posh port of Mascarat, from the road above you can smell the expensive perfume and money! Next up is Calpe, you might remember this town from the many training camps and team launches. This year saw the usual collection of WorldTour and ProConti team, Katusha and Etixx – Quick-Step both had their presentations in Calpe, most riders will know the area, but it is unlikely they rode over the Alto de Puig Llorença, well not by choice.

vuelta15pre-st9-russian-church-920
Astana pass the Russian church a couple of years ago on their training camp

vuelta15pre-st9ah-mascarat-920
Money down there!

Round Calpe’s famous rock, the Peñón de Ifach and the road has some of the nicest sea views and expensive houses and yachts in the area on the way to Moraira. From here on the course starts to toughen up, the road heads towards Javea, but there is a sharp right turn next to a supermarket, it’s well hidden and easy to pass by, but once you make that turn you hit the climb immediately. The first time the peloton hits the foothills; they have 45 kilometers still to go and a second helping of torture at the end.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-calpe1-920
On the road to Calpe

The first ascent is a little shorter as it passes the turn off to the finish, before that the climb starts at 5.33% before hitting the 19% section, it’s a wide road, but steep, in my lowest gear it was a struggle, but in the end the car managed it. Past the turn off for the finish and the race drops down the other side for a 40 kilometer loop through Benitatxell, Teulada, Gata de Gorgos and Javea where there is an intermediate sprint with 14.5 kilometers to go.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-suffer-920

vuelta15pre-st9ah-climbx2-920
The first ascent of the Cumbre del Sol

Back to Benitatxell and the start of the climb from the opposite direction and a sharp left hand bend at the supermarket to hit the 5.33% and 19% sections for the second time. Unlike the first time, on the second ascent the course turns left after the 19% section for the final kilometer with ramps of 9% and 10.71% to the finish line just below the TV and radio transmission masts.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-descent-920
The descent

vuelta15pre-st9ah-javea-920
Javea in the distance

So who will win stage 9? There will probably be an early break on the flat roads, which should get caught as the race dynamites on the first climb. The circuit could cause more splits before the final climb, but on the last climb its should be a rider like Joaquim Rodriguez, Nairo Quintana and any of the Colombians, including the new ‘Young Gun’ Esteban Chaves, that could launch a race winning move in the last K.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-calpe2-920
The drop to the valley for the 40K lap

vuelta15pre-st9ah-lower-920
There will be trouble the second time up

It won’t be a day for the heavier riders, that is for sure and it won’t be the day the 2015 Vuelta a España is won, but it could be a day for losing time if you are not careful.

vlt15st9-cumbre-al-920
Calpe in the distance and about 1 steep kilometer to go

PEZ will be roadside on Sunday and there will be our race report as soon as the stage is over.

Many thanks to Alessandro Roberto at Elite Bikes of El Albir for the directions to the climb and to John Fagan of Train in Spain and Café Ciclista for local knowledge and carrot cake.

vuelta15pre-st9ah-near-summit-920
The last 200 meters

vuelta15pre-st9ah-summit1-920
Just after the line the road turns to gravel

Writers Rig:
In homage to Chris Selden who writes our ‘Readers Rigs’ and ‘Writers Rigs’ here is the bike that took me to the top of the Cumbre del Sol.

The trusty steed is a 12-year-old carbon Time Edge frame shod with a set of 14-year-old Campagnolo Electron wheels. The group set was bought at the same time as the frame, but a couple of years ago, the rear mech, chain and block needed replacing. The idea was to replace like with like, but when the price of Campagnolo Record was discovered; the cheaper Centaur was the best option. The overall weight would probably be frightening and yes I’m waiting for l’Eroica to allow carbon bikes.

RECORRIDOS-PDF.indd

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.