Remember last year’s penultimate stage? The drama? The heartbreak? The edge-of-your-seat last-ditch battle for the top spot? With its finish atop HC Puerto de Ancares and the GC tight, we might just have that again.
Saturday 13 September: Stage 20, Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil to Puerto de Ancares, 185.7km, high mountains
Five climbs, starting with the Cat 3 Alto Cima da Vila right from the get-go, means that today is going to be a real leg-sapper – as if the legs are not sapped already. They do have time to recover a bit, get into the rhythm, after that climb as the other four climbs – two Cat 1s, a Cat 2 and the aforementioned HC finish – are concertinaed into the final half of the stage.
Although not as tough as Monday’s Farrapona stage, it’s still going to test everyone, not least because the final climb of Ancares is from its most difficult side, Pan do Zarco. The gradients go up and down the whole length of the climb, including a jump from 8.4% to 18% between the third and fourth kilometre of the ascent. The final two kilometres of climbing in this year’s Vuelta will go from 3% to 12% to a final 7.5%.
Will those behind Alberto Contador give him a run for his money today? Froome is 1.19 behind him and he’s getting stronger by the day so expect attack after attack on the red jersey. There will also be drama around Valverde and Rodriguez, who will be battling it out for themselves for the remaining two podium spots. The final climb normally would suit Purito but he’s not had the best of form in the past week so it might be a long shot.
Personally, I would love Warren Barguil to win this stage – he’s been frisky this past week and has been trying over and over again to win a stage – but whatever happens, it should be an exciting final mountain stage to a gripping Vuelta.
Link: Official website
Header image: Monastery at Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil