This is it. It’s after the rest day. It’s a short stage with climbs almost from the get-go – four cat 1s, one cat 2 and an HC – and it is being touted as the hardest Vuelta stage in the last 30 years. It quite simply is going to be a monster.
Wednesday 2nd September: Stage 11 – Andorra la Vella to Cortals d’Encamp, 138km, high mountains
The second climb, the Coll de Ordino, is longer but not as steep, with no sections over 8.5%.
It’s on to the Col de la Rabassa, which is a long climb with gradient variants a go-go. It’s going to be a sapping climb, it’ll be hard to get a rhythm going and we’re only halfway through the stage.
This is the hardest climb of the stage, the HC Collada de la Gallina. It’s another long climb but it’s steeper and, again, the gradients are all up and down. If anyone has been just hanging on, they’ll go looking for the gruppetto on this one. Any weakness is going to be exploited by the others and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a team the GC contenders have around them at the top of this climb. The descent looks just as steep.
After a fast descent, the peloton goes over the cat 2 Alto de la Comella. After what they’ve been through, this should be a pleasure to ride. Well, unless they decide to ride this at pace and you’re out the back (so, um, no, it won’t be a pleasure). After a short descent, it’s the final climb to the finish on the Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp. It’s 9km, it’s at a higher altitude than the other climbs and no gradient is under 7%. The first half of this climb is the toughest but after such a balls-to-the-wall stage, it’s all going to feel hideous.
The temperatures have been hotter than hot of late, but looking at the weather report for Andorra this week, it looks like there’s violent weather in the first part of the week, with much cooler temperatures and chance of thunderstorms on Wednesday. As if they didn’t have enough to contend with.
Will we see the top step decided on this stage, like we did on the Tour after the first rest day? Whatever happens, the GC contenders will not be able to ride safely in the peloton today. They have to take the Vuelta by the horns and make it their own on this stage. (By the way, this route has been designed by none other than Joaquim Rodriguez – proof that he’s sadistic.)
If you can’t watch this stage live, make sure you watch every highlight show you can find.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Andorra la Vella (via Wikipedia)