Barely 48 hours after he took the general lead of the Vuelta a España, Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) faces two very several types of climbing assessments because the race heads into the mountains of Asturias for back-to-back first class summit finishes at Collau Fancuaya and Les Praeres.
Each days comprise greater than 3,00 metres of vertical climbing in northern Spain, the primary within the sierras of western Asturias, additionally dwelling to climbs just like the Angliru and Gaimoniteiru, and the second additional east, within the better-known Picos de Europa mountain vary.
In keeping with the newest climate forecast, a deluge on the dimensions of Thursday’s downpour that accompanied Evenepoel and the peloton as they squelched their approach up the Pico Jano is fortunately not going. However even with drier circumstances, as a strategy to spherical off the primary week, the 2022 Vuelta route designers have opted for something however a delicate heat down.
Whereas Pico Jano was used within the Vuelta a Besaya junior bike race earlier than making its debut within the Spanish Grand Tour, the Collau Fancuaya has by no means been used earlier than in a race, beginner or skilled.
However whereas the Fancuaya’s 10.1-kilometre slopes, averaging 8.5%, symbolize a ‘traditional’ mountain problem, Les Praeres is a ‘facet of a home’ climb of the sort the Vuelta organisers have determined to make a trademark ascent in recent times.
“Don’t neglect that Les Praeres was the place Simon Yates gained in 2018 after which he went on to win the Vuelta general that yr. So it’s clearly a end which may inform us rather a lot concerning the totally different GC contenders, even when it’s solely 4 kilometres lengthy,” 1988 Tour de France winner and long-standing TV biking commentator Pedro Delgado, who usually checks out all of the summit finishes of the Vuelta earlier than the race, instructed Cyclingnews.
“It’s very brief and really powerful, and though there are fairly a couple of climbs earlier on the stage, actually the end is so onerous it’s all that may rely. And even when it is easier, it’s an identical story with the Fancuaya stage.”
Whereas stage 8 begins with a second class ascent, the Alto de la Colladona, the 70 kilometres earlier than the Fancuaya itself accommodates solely three third class climbs, all a great distance from the end. As such, the ultimate ascent will nearly actually be the place your complete stage is determined.
“The Collau Fancuaya is a really totally different sort of climb to Les Praeres, way more of a traditional first class ascent and for much longer,” Delgado mentioned. “The final seven kilometres are what rely and though you’ve obtained some transient factors the place the slopes ease notably, there’s a few lengthy ramps that go as much as 16 or possibly 18% as nicely.
“It’s not overly uncovered to the wind other than the final kilometer, which is a really regular 10%. Coming after what’s come earlier than, that final half might show so demanding it might do some actual harm.
“I didn’t realize it in any respect earlier than going up it a couple of months again, however once I noticed it, I appreciated it rather a lot. Asturias has obtained so many legendary climbs: Lagos de Covadonga, Gaimoniteiru, Angliru and the remaining. Collau Fancuaya is possibly not as onerous as these but it surely’s up of their league for certain.”
Each Saturday and Sunday’s ultimate climbs are in good situation tarmac-wise, Delgado mentioned, “though the Praeres is possibly in a bit higher situation”. In each instances the strategy highway represent a extra essential problem.
“On stage 8, the ten kilometres that precede the Fancuaya are slim, twisting and really technical. The highway floor isn’t nice, there are some dangerous corners and even when it doesn’t rain, it will likely be harmful.”
Delgado added that given the better first a part of the stage the groups will largely nonetheless be collectively and can begin working flat out with all of them attempting to be on the entrance, which might create an issue.
“As there’s not going to be area for all of them on such slim roads, there might simply be a crash.”
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Stage 9 is barely longer than stage 8, totaling 173 kilometres, and its hardest problem previous to Les Praeres would be the first class Fito, usually used as a warmup climb for the Lagos de Covadonga, at roughly the midway level. However regardless of the 4 labeled climbs that precede Les Praeres, Delgado predicts that once more, the strategy highway to the end might turn out to be essentially the most fraught second previous to the ultimate ascent itself.
“The actual downside, once more, is the strategy highway, which is basically a kilometre lengthy descent, quick and really slim so fairly harmful,“ Delgado mentioned.
“There aren’t any two methods about it, you must be in entrance. In some ways, it’s much like the descent to Hazallanas, the primary a part of the Sierra Nevada climb the place the Vuelta goes subsequent week, which can also be slim and quick.
“However the descent to Les Praeres isn’t simply longer, at Hazallanas you’ve obtained 20 kilometres of climbing afterwards to get to the highest. Right here you’ve solely 3.5 to the summit. So the battle for positioning beforehand might be actually intense and on prime of that, there could possibly be a crash.
“Because it’s such a brief climb, in contrast to the Fancuaya in the event you’re badly positioned you gained’t have the ability to depend on your teammates to tug you again into competition. On Les Praeres, it’s each man for himself.”
As if the strategy to Les Praeres and its horrendously steep slopes do not already represent a significant problem, the climb has a big sting in its tail, Delgado warns.
“The final 1.5 kilometres of Praeres is not tarmac, it’s obtained a cement floor. As if that wasn’t dangerous sufficient, the final ramp of the climb is the toughest certainly one of all [peaking out at around 24%] and it is just 500 metres from the end. So in the event you haven’t calculated your power nicely sufficient, that could possibly be devastating.”
Predicting what’s going to occur on such powerful terrain is at all times dangerous, however Evenepoel, for one, has mentioned he’ll play a defensive recreation in Asturias. Nevertheless, for the 19 riders nonetheless at three minutes or much less behind him general and subsequently nonetheless in clear GC competition, the quickly approaching time trial subsequent Tuesday and Evenepoel’s immense expertise in opposition to the clock will possible be uppermost of their minds. And may they want to put the brand new race chief to the check, at Collado Fancuaya and Les Praeres, the terrain is actually difficult and various sufficient to no less than have a strive.