Stage 20: Aviles to Alto de L’Angliru, 142.2km, high mountain
This has been one tough Vuelta. And the penultimate stage is one of the toughest of the entire race. With just three seconds between Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali and less than two minutes separating the top four, there should be fireworks atop the Angliru today.
Cat 3, cat 2, cat 1 then the HC Angliru is the menu for the day – a gradual crescendo to a fitting finale. It’s a shortish stage at 142km but it could be the longest day for riders who have nothing more to give this race. With an average gradient of 10.2%, the final 12.2km of climbing up the Angliru will seem like an eternity for those who can’t shut their legs up – especially the last 3km where the gradients get into crazy numbers like 19.7% and 23.5%.
But for someone on a good day, this could be the greatest stage of their career, with both the red jersey and the final step on the podium very much up for grabs. If someone blows on the climb, they could lose not seconds but minutes.
And how’s this for a dream scenario? Horner and Nibali locked together inside the final kilometre contesting the stage win, knowing that the four-second time bonus difference between first and second will make the difference between being champion or runner-up. We can dream, can’t we?
Not to be missed. Under any circumstances. The outcome of the 2013 Vuelta will be decided today.
Bit of trivia: It was on the Angliru in 2011 that Bradley Wiggins, then in the red jersey, started riding backwards off the top step of the podium. Will the red jersey change hands on this climb again this year?
Link: Official site
Header image: Niemeyer Centre, Aviles