La Cobertoria and Ermita de Alba stand between the riders and the finish of stage 16 of the Vuelta a España - and they're incredibly tough
They don’t mess around with the mountains at the Vuelta a España. Unlike France, where there are only really two mountain ranges to choose from, Spain has hundreds of monstrous climbs and the riders take in a fair few during the three-week tour.
The final stages of this year’s Vuelta are surprisingly mild on the whole, but with the rest day coming after stage 16, the organisers seem keen to send them into the mini break with painful legs.
With seven categorised climbs spread along the 184km route between Luarca and the summit finish up Ermita de Alba this stage could even be harder than the Andorra stage last Wednesday.
The Vuelta may not take in the infamous Angliru this year, but Monday’s stage does travel close to the beastly climb, instead finishing atop what the locals call ‘the little Angliru’.
At 6.8km in length, the mountain averages 11 per cent with a ramp at kilometre four hitting 22 per cent – not too dissimilar to the real Angliru.
While that climb could be the final straw for some riders, the one that preceeds it by about 20km is just as tough, with La Cobertoria averaging 10 per cent over the course of the 9km ascent.
The Vuelta took in this climb on stage 16 last year as well, with Etixx-Quick Step rider Carlos Verona the quickest rider on Strava up it that day in 33:28, two minutes off the KoM of 31:34.
With just one second between leader Fabio Aru and main challenger Joaquim Rodriguez in the general classification, and with a potentially decisive time trial on Wednesday, don’t expect to see any let up in pace on these challenging climbs – there’s a lot on the line.