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Race Design Thread

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Re: Race Design Thread

15 Jun 2018 15:27

Tour de France 2 by railxmig. Part 3.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/201399
Stage 16. Die – Pipay-les-Sept-Laux, 176km, mountain, MTF.
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Climbs:
Col de Rousset – 18,1km, 4,6%, cat. 2, 1254m
Côte de Saint-Julien-en-Vercors – 4,6km, 4,3%, cat. 4, 917m
Col de Palaquit – 15,6km, 5,9%, cat. 1, 1154m
Côte du Tournoud – 8,9km, 7,4%, cat. 1, 1006m
Montée de Pipay-les-Sept-Laux – 19,3km, 6,9%, cat. HC, 1564m

The Belledonne massif is more known for Allevard and Val Pelouse. Interestingly Pipay doesn't seem to have too much love even if it's basically La Plagne but 1km shorter. Pipay is the smallest of Les-Sept-Laux stations which include Prapoutel (1980 Tour) and Pleynet (1981 Tour). It's good 35 years since the Tour visited any of said stations. As a run-up i'm using Palaquit and Tournoud (Margains) which includes the first kms of certain Col du Coq. I decided to start in Die because i like the name and i already have Condom on the previous stage. Sadly, Corps was just out of my reach. While it's technically one of the hardest climbs in this Tour it's only an inauguration to the 2nd part of the main mountain block so it's mostly to give hurt to the legs as i'm expecting the main action to ensue later.

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Profile of Palaquit.

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Profile of Tournoud.

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Profile of Pipay-les-Sept-Laux.

Places of interest: Die, Vercors massif, Gorges de la Bourne, Grenoble and its local forts.



https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/197283
Stage 17. Pontcharra – Moûtiers, 190km, mountain.
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Climbs:
Montée de la Table – 8,2km, 7%, cat. 1, 898m
Col du Grand-Cucheron – 3,4km, 6,9%, cat. 2, 1188m
Col de la Croix de Fer – 22,4km, 7%, cat. HC, 2067m
Col du Mollard – 5,7km, 6,8%, cat. 2, 1638m
Col de la Madeleine – 18,8km, 8%, cat. HC, 2000m
Côte des Emptes – 2,2km, 9,8%, cat. 2, 692m

The only 5000m gain stage but there's a bunch of over 4500m ones. Originally it started as the last stage of the mountain block. Next i've moved the finish to Valmorel but because i have more than enough MTFs i've ended up with something in between. This is my last real venture into both Croix de Fer and Madeleine which both are one of the hardest climbs France have on offer. This time i decided to combine both the hardest sides in one stage. I decided for the Montgelaffrey option for Madeleine but i think it's just as hard as the regular route. The highlight of this stage is Côte des Emptes – a very steep and narrow road to Les Emptes on the lower slopes of Valmorel. It can be used as the bottom of Valmorel to maybe ensure a higher selection of doms. If it's the last stage then Madeleine is carnage but in this instance i think it'll be a reduced GC group fightning on Emptes.

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Profile of Croix de Fer.

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Profile of Madeleine.



https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/210334
Stage 18. Albertville – Verbier, 191km, mountain, H/MTF, dirt roads.
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Climbs:
Col du Lein – 14km, 8,8%, cat. HC, 1695m
Montée de Verbier – 10,4km, 6%, cat. 2, 1468m (Chemin du Diablay – 6,1km, 9,8%)

White roads:
Col du Lein – 1,5km, **
Chemin du Diablay et Route du Soleil – 6km, ***

My 2nd and last stage featuring climbs with dirt. I'm not as psychic towards Lein as some peeps seems to be but i've included it because it features a smidge of dirt at the top. If not this i wouldn't go for Lein as it's a very hard climb and i prefered to go slightly easier on this stage to maybe encourage some racing on the previous two. There's Champex and Planches as viable alternatives so it's not a problem.

Now a bit more about this weird approach to Verbier. The route i've taken starts in Montagnier and consists mainly of Chemin du Diablay – a small and very steep road of which last 2,7km are on a quite difficult dirt. The climb ends when joining Route du Soleil (5,4km from the finish) and after 500m on tarmac it's time for an easier, but very bumpy 2,8km on Route du Soleil. After 850m the race rejoins the classic side of Verbier. For now the finish line is quite low but it is possible to put as high as ~1650m.

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Chemin du Diablay.

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Route du Soleil.

I think the showdown will be on Chemin du Diablay with a tug of war on Route du Soleil. I think Lein will also provide a fairly sizeable selection while Saisies almost always delivers a lot of racing. The time splits can be quite large.

Places of interest: Megève, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Martigny, Verbier



https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/209816
Stage 19. Martigny – La Chaux-de-Fonds, 211km, medium mountain.
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Climbs:
Col des Mosses – 18,8km, 5,5%, cat. 1, 1445m
Côte des Lignières – 4,4km, 8,1%, cat. 2, 797m
Col du Chasseral – 8km, 8,6%, cat. 1, 1502m
Col du Mont-Soleil – 4,5km, 9,5%, cat. 2, 1249m

Like in 2016 it's a stage entirely in Switzerland mainly because Genève prefers to be outside of France. It's not really bad as i have a slightly different run-in to La Chaux-de-Fonds ready as i'm sick and tired of Vue-des-Alpes. You can sort of compare Chasseral and Mont-Soleil to Menté and Portet-d'Aspet while La Chaux-de-Fonds finish can be sort of compared with Saint-Girons. The top of Chasseral is 36km while Mont-Soleil is 20km from the finish line. If it was in the middle of the race i guess it should solely be a breakaway affair but at the end of the race and an extensive mountain block there may be a chance of major GC action in the last 30-20km.

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A mock-up profile of Col du Chasseral. The false-flat is closer to 4km than 5km long.

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Profile of Mont-Soleil.

Places of interest:
Martigny, Abbaye de Saint-Maurice, Aigle, Gruyères, Bulle, Romont, Avenches, Mont-Vully, Saint-Imier, La Chaux-de-Fonds



https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/211222
Stage 20. Pontarlier - Dijon, 186km, hilly.
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It's back to France with the only stage in the non-mountainous eastern part of the country – Bourgogne. This stage is here because the Paris one won't be a parade and i prefer to have a finish in a city with decent TGV connection with Paris and whereabouts. Dijon should be more than ok for that. Of course Bourgogne is famous for its wine and this stage is sponsored by it. Rather than for a bland sprint finish i decided to feature some amount of the hills of Côte d'Or near the finish. The run-in to the finish is also technically quite complicated.

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Vineyards of Bourgogne.

Places of interest: Salins-les-Bains, Cirque du Fer a Cheval, Beaune, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte d'Or, Dijon



https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/210182
Stage 21. Fontainebleau – Paris. Champs-Elysées, 137km, flat, cobbles.
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Cobbles:
Rue de Milly – 1,3km, ***
Rue des Montils – 0,9km, ***
Place Jean-Baptiste-Clément x4 – 300m, *
Place du Tertre x4 – 400m, *

Not a parade stage feauring the cobbles of Champcueil and uphill cobbles of the Montmartre hill (Sacré-Cœur) just north of Champs-Elysées. I'm too tired to do a more detailed look but it's twisty, narrow and overally quite nasty. There may be some parts of 10% but the climbs are short and not very steep. Hope it's enough to give some life into those robotic Paris parades.

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Rue Gabrielle, part of Place Jean-Baptiste-Clément sector.

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Rue des Saules, part of Place du Tertre sector.
railxmig
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Posts: 422
Joined: 19 Oct 2015 08:38

16 Jun 2018 09:40

I'm a fan of Pipay-les-7-Laux. Definitely the most interesting of those 7-Laux climbs.

Stage 2: Getafe - San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 184km

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GPM:
Alto del León (cat.2) 8,3km @ 6,4%
Alto de Hoya de la Guija (cat.3) 4,2km @ 7,1%
Alto del Robledondo (cat.3) 4,3km @ 5,5%
Alto de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (cat.3) 3,8km @ 6,9%

While this is an experimental Vuelta in a number of ways, here we begin with something a lot more well-trodden and traditional as, given we're leaving the Comunidad de Madrid early in the race, it means no scope for traditional Vuelta staples like Navacerrada, Morcuera and Cotos. Therefore there do need to be some sops to tradition, as well as providing interesting stages on weekends when there is the maximum TV audience available (bland flat stages at the weekend are a complete waste of the potential audience benefit, especially in a country like Spain where the nation's history in the sport is indelibly tied to stage racing and mountain climbing).

The stage begins in the outskirts of the Madrid urban area, in the strong industrial city of Getafe. Although home to the Cerro de Los Ángeles, a hill which is considered the geographic centre of the Iberian peninsula, the majority of the area is flat which has led to its use as the site of a prominent Spanish Air Force base, which is the only real impediment to its expansion, meaning that the urban sprawl of Madrid has extended into and beyond the city. Despite its proximity to Leganés, hometown of Carlos Sastre, and Fuenlabrada, which used to have its own cycling team (Relax-GAM/Relax-Fuenlabrada), however, Getafe does not really have much of a heritage of cycling, and if you've heard of the location, which most people have, it's probably because of the football team, whose stadium serves as the départ for today's stage.

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With three sides of the stadium not covered, the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Pérez is one of the few grounds at this level which still exposes the crowd to inclement weather, and has a capacity of 18.000. The relatively small size of the ground is, like with "Madrid's Third Club" Rayo Vallecano, partly a legacy of the club's proximity to the downtown Madrid teams, Real and Atlético, who bogart much of the fanbase in this part of the country. Nevertheless, Getafe have a fairly proud history of their own, despite a brief recent return to La Liga 1|2|3, and this season only just missed out on European football for 2018-19. They're also known for their irreverence, perhaps bred out of their desire to be noticed under the shadow of those larger neighbours, which has led to controversies such as the season ticket campaign featuring Biblical figures sacrificing themselves for Getafe CF, and a pornographic advert campaign to try to persuade their fans to breed more than their rivals and increase their fanbase.

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The stage itself is a hilly one, but the riders will get a fairly low-key introduction to affairs in the form of a relaxed start, the rolling terrain giving an opportunity for the first escapees to form their breaks. There are more mountains points on offer today than is typical on a first road stage, so this may also incentivize a few teams in the hope of picking up a jersey they can hold for a bit. There is an uncategorized ramp into Valdemorillo but for the most part we slowly draw our way out of the urban conglomeration around Madrid and into the Sierra de Guadarrama's foothills in preparation for the more challenging obstacles to come.

It is after we pass through Collada Villalba that things start to get challenging. This town at the foot of the Navacerrada and León mountain passes was a staple of the Vuelta in the 2000s as well as, together with nearby Alcobendas, hosting its own short stage race in Critérium International format. The Vuelta has had intermediate stages finish here a number of times, with Pablo Lastras in 2002, Filippo Simeoni in 2003, Constantino Zaballa in 2004, and Samuel Sánchez in a time trial in 2007 being recent winners. The Clásica Alcobendas y Collada Villalba has run from the 80s until 2009 and was won variously by Laurent Jalabert, Abraham Olano, David Moncoutié, Iban Mayo, Joseba Beloki, Pavel Tonkov and Ezequiel Mosquera. This also, here in this stage, serves as a lead-in to the first climb of the day, one of the Vuelta's most historic, the Alto del León.

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Now, the Alto del León / Alto de los Leones / Puerto de Guadarrama (it has gone by varying nomenclature) is far from the most imposing climb in the world. It's only 8km in length, its overall gradient is not especially steep, it doesn't have any monster ramps, and it is on wide open, well-used roads given its fairly nodal nature. But what it does have is a ton of history. The Vuelta a España has passed over these roads no fewer than 42 times, dating all the way back to 1935 when it was the first ever categorized climb in the history of the Vuelta, with the Swiss rider Leo Amberg cresting it first; it was then used from its less challenging western side on the way back to Madrid on the final day, with Italian Eduardo Molinar the first to the summit that time as Gustaaf Deloor was happy to just keep his eyes on Mariano Cañardo. Similar roles, far from finishes, have been the staple of the climb, with it only coming after the 1941 reboot of the race that a Spaniard took the climb, with the rest of Europe rather busier at war, and throughout the following era many Spanish climbing greats have taken the legendary summit, especially as for much of the 40s and 50s it would wind up being one of the tougher climbs in the race, with the Asturian monoliths limited mainly to Fito and Pajáres in those days, Cantabria being restricted to Escudo and La Sía, and País Vasco featuring Urkiola, Arrate and Sollube as its go-to climbs. Jesús Loroño, Julio Jiménez, Antonio Karmany, Fernando Manzaneque, António Gómez del Moral and José Manuel Fuente were all among the riders to take maximum points on the climb in this era, before the ETA disruption led to the race's traditional finishes in Euskadi coming off the menu and the Alto del León taking on a new role, often as an introduction to a final mountain block overlooking Madrid or, as in the notorious 1985 stage where the Vuelta was 'stolen', as the end of an intermediate stage and final roll of the dice. In this time Pedro Delgado and Faustino Rúperez were the biggest names, before a resurgence of Spanish cycling in the wake of Indurain led to some routes with some very repetitious Comunidad de Madrid stages in the late 90s and early 00s, and José María Jiménez, Santi Blanco, Claus Michael Møller and Eladio Jiménez brought some escalador prestige to the climb before it settled into its role as one of the smaller cousins of the region, especially once more brutal MTFs were added - first Abantos, and then the ante was upped with the introduction of Bola del Mundo in 2010, the last time the riders crested the Alto del León but where fear of the impending monster climb led to a tame bunch and Philippe Gilbert winning the historic summit from the breakaway.

So yes, this is a sop to history, the first climb of the Vuelta is the same one as in 1935 in the very first Vuelta a España. It won't be significant here though, and the climb will therefore be restricted to a similar role to recent times when it's been a break's plaything (perhaps not like the last time I used it, in a previous Vuelta, as a lead in to a punchy finish in Los Ángeles de San Rafaél, a clone of the 1997 stage won by Chava), seeing as 100km still remain. We are now in the Provincia de Ávila, although we do not stop for long, instead after a rolling period taking on the - uncategorised - northern side of the Puerto de La Lancha, 8km at just under 3% with 2 sections of around 2km at 4,5% the nearest thing to an actual challenge. As we know, Spain is full of uncategorized bumps, but none of these ramps get close to a real challenge.

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After a short similar ramp of around 2km at 5%, we have, 49km from home, the second meta volante of the day, outside the scenic castle of Las Navas del Marqués. This is where it signals some more threatening terrain for the rest of the day, as I do like to settle a bit of GC significance early. The sprinters will have their time to shine, but today is not that time. The main leaders have to decide whether to try to do a Sky and lead from the front throughout, or if it's better to ship the jersey to a breakaway, a tactic which is seemingly out of vogue at present, so that the sprinters' teams will need to work in some of the stages to come without the assistance of the red jersey's team.

At this stage things start to resemble the 2011 Vuelta stage to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which was won in typical fashion of the time by Joaquím Rodríguez, and also the epic stage 20 of my 5th Vuelta design which had some similarities. We eschew the more well-known Cruz Verde climb in favour of two back-to-back smaller climbs, Hoya de la Guija (I have used the Vuelta's nomenclature, but the climb is also known as the Alto del Carrascal) - featuring 2km of fairly straightforward climbing, a short descent and then a steep ramp of a kilometre at 10,5% and a max of 14%, and the more consistent and straightforward Alto del Robledondo.

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In the 2011 Vuelta they descended through Cruz Verde, took the left hand fork in the road into San Lorenzo itself (rather than its sister neighbourhood, just called El Escorial, at the base of the hill) then, before they got to the finish, bore left and did the last part of the Pinar de Abantos climb that I used in my 5th Vuelta's stage here - only I went first through Abantos, then on the second time around descended to El Escorial and climbed through the finish then up to Pinar de Abantos before looping around to the north of San Lorenzo to repeat the climb up to the line. I don't quite clone that here as it's a different San Lorenzo circuit, to make it a bit less a) repetitive, and b) challenging given that this is the first road stage.

Instead, the Alto del Robledondo crests at 27,4km from the line, and we descend through Cruz Verde and take the right fork toward El Escorial, where we take our first look at the finishing climb through the city, culminating in that nasty ramp on Calle Cañada Nueva which gets up to a leg-breaking 28%.

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The first time we pass through the finishing line, there are 12,7km remaining, but we do actually continue to climb a little further - only around 250m - before turning left (in the previous stage we took a left slightly earlier then a subsequent right onto Carretera de la Presa to go up to Pinar de Abantos, however this eliminates the possibility of turning left afterward and means you can only continue to climb up to Pinar), and this is why I have categorized the first ascent of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and not the second - because the second time up we don't do the full climb, we only climb up to where the finish line is. Thanks to the APM guys (as ever), there's a bit more clarity to be explained here:

First time up the ascent - all of this profile:
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Tthat final 240m is the difference-maker as the final climb is more akin to this, which is the profile of the Pinar de Abantos climb I used before. Note the small, barely perceptible descent where the left-right is before it ramps up again - in that stage the trappings of the finish could go further up the climb, today however they will go on that section of road as it is unused:
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We have a short loop between ascents where what we do is pass the finishing line on Calle Cañada Nueva, continue ascending on Calle Cesário Pontón and Calle Cerro de Abantos, then descend on Carretera de la Presa (which we ascended on the way to Pinar de Abantos in my other stage) and onto Calle Pinar, and then we are going along towards Cruz Verde on the road which was descended in the 2011 Vuelta, passing Casa del Infante and its historic gardens with their view of the monastery for which San Lorenzo is famous, and go as far as the fork in the road where it joins the M-505, where we turn left onto the course we took earlier and repeat ourselves, descending under the watchful eye of the monastery and taking on the final climb to the finish, which is uncategorized despite its challenge as it was in 2011.

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Given that unlike on the previous occasion that I finished in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, this isn't the penultimate day, and that on that occasion there were numerous other significant climbs - Mijáres, Mediano, Abantos - in 230km, I don't envisage the fictional universe my races inhabit will see this stage produce gaps of the same kind. The péloton will still be somewhat tetchy with riders unsure of their form and trying to avoid time loss, so I think we'll get a fairly quiet bunch until the final couple of loops, unless there's a hilly World Championships and some of the puncheurs want to test their form. I do expect, however, we'll get some fairly significant secondary contenders and stagehunters attacking on the first time up Calle Cañada Nueva, and then a grand finale among the primary contenders as they contest time in the closing stages.

The stage will show off one of Spain's cultural monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it visits some traditional spots for the sport of cycling, it's mostly very accessible to fans from a major conurbation, it continues to delay the point at which I will have to wrestle over whether to include Valle de los Caídos (there's a very, very good reason that while the Vuelta continues to seek out hills and mountains to finish on in the Madrid area, this one has never come up for consideration, perhaps helped by the fact José Joaquín Rojas has yet to join Unipublic's route design committee), and it will provide a grandstand finish with the riders crawling by on extremely steep gradients with periodic stretches of cobbles - what's not to like?

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Posts: 19,736
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Location: Land of Saíz

16 Jun 2018 14:14

I love your Alpine stages, railxmig.
Pipay Sept Laux <3
The Moutiers stage is excellent as well with Madeleine in a meaningful place.
Lein-Verbier combo is very good and climbing Verbier from a different side with gravel is just excellent.
And I love your La Chaux de Fonds stage too with Chasseral-Mont Soleil combo. I think I did a similar stage with 3 climbs after Chasseral which was +50 km from the line that I also posted here.
I think it's the sign of a clean rider and a real sportsman to be attracted to the bigger challenge over the ultimate result. Good luck with the Giro/Tour double, Chris Froome. -Phil Gaimon
Forever The Best
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Re: Race Design Thread

18 Jun 2018 22:37

Stage 3: Aranjuez - Albacete, 183km

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After a heavy GC weekend to begin the race, with the main contenders having to be on guard in the hilly stage to San Lorenzo de El Escorial and a short time trial, there is, to a great extent, some respite here as we leave Comunidad de Madrid once and for all shortly after the start, and charge headlong for the plains of La Mancha.

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Sometimes with its name extended to "Real Sitio y Villa de Aranjuez", this city of 55.000 inhabitants lies at the southern extremity of Comunidad de Madrid, a little peninsula of the capital territory jutting into terrain that remains part of Castile. It was of course always going to be part of the Comunidad de Madrid, owing to its royal significance, having been one of the royal estates of the Spanish crown since the 16th century - and for almost 200 years the only people allowed to live in the town were the royal family and selected prominent nobles. For that reason, it is full of regal splendour, with palaces, villas, gardens and a cultural landscape that was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2001. As a result, the stage start is listed in true Vuelta style as "Aranjuez-Palácio Real" as we will be starting from the iconic royal palace. Its iconic status also led to it being the host city for multiple treaties in the Age of Empires, from securing Spain's participation in the American War of Independence to ceding the Louisiana territory to France.

Outside of Spain, however, it is perhaps most famous as the inspiration behind the most famous piece of classical music to have come out of the Iberian peninsula, Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, inspired by the palatial gardens and for many people the only piece for classical guitar that they can name - indeed the lead instrument is often appended in Anglophone sources as "Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto" (with or without appending the city's name) much as Samuel Barber's Adagio is often listed as "Barber's Adagio for Strings". You can view a performance featuring flamenco virtuoso Paco de Lucía here. Composed in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Rodrigo worked within strict ideological confines of ensuring that the work was seen as neutral, so as not to rile the newly-instated head of state; by celebrating an earlier history of Spain and reducing the work's inspiration to the cool inspiration of beautiful nature and architecture Rodrigo was able to produce a work that was able to transcend the politically-charged motifs of the time; sections of the work have been lifted, amended, interpreted or paid homage to numerous times across a variety of musical styles, by legendary artists including Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Demis Roussos and Carlos Santana.

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There's a fair bit of rambling necessary here, as I need to prepare commentators, seeing as it's quite likely that little will happen early on in the stage at least - there is likely to be a GC ceasefire for much of it, and seeing as there are absolutely no categorized climbs, there's not even any intrigue for secondary jerseys as most sprinters will be keen to bring this to a bunch gallop and take advantage of their first opportunity of the race. The stage does have a note of interest for cycling fans, though, in that it passes through two cities which both share their names with cycling heroes of years gone by. Very early in the stage the riders pass through the city of Ocaña, which formerly held great importance as a final overnighting spot for commuters to Madrid from the south, until 1752 when Aranjuez was opened up to non-nobles, reducing the value of an overnight stay in Ocaña; its historical significance was further eroded by the damage caused in the 1809 Battle of Ocaña during the Peninsular War, a heavy defeat for the Spanish forces. Now, it is restoring some of that significance as a transport hub as multiple nodal routes intersect here or near here, but its importance remains minor compared to its neighbours that have expanded somewhat in the last 200 years.

The other city that shares its name with a prominent ex-cyclist is Pedro Muñoz, a city of just under 10.000 which lies on the Meseta Central. In stark contrast to Ocaña, it is a city which had historically been relatively insignificant but has grown in importance due to its strength as a business centre in the last 200 years along with the development of viticulture in the nearby area. The city is a bastion of classical Spanish architecture, but is otherwise not a site of great cultural or historical importance, although it is the hometown of former cyclist José Luís Laguía, an early star for the Reynolds team which has continued in the péloton to this day (as Movistar presently), and winner of a record five Vuelta GPM titles (José María Jiménez and David Moncoutié are both one short). He did have a few years as a DS at Kelme and a brief cup of tea at Movistar ten years after that, but that did not become a long term deal.

The Pedro Muñoz that is why the stage references two former cyclists, however, was a rival of Laguía back in the 80s, riding for Zor, Teka and Fagor, famous names of the era in Spanish cycling all. Pedro Muñoz Machín Rodríguez, to give him his full name, is perhaps best known for winning the polka dots and a mountain stage to Foppolo at the 1986 Giro d'Italia, but he managed four GT top tens (two at the Vuelta, one at the Tour and one at the Giro) as well as taking GC wins at a number of smaller Spanish stage races - the Vuelta a Valencia, Vuelta a Asturias and Vuelta a Castilla (precursor to today's Vuelta a Castilla y León) - and stage wins at major races like País Vasco, Catalunya and Paris-Nice. His greatest GC placement in a Grand Tour was 2nd, in the 1981 Vuelta, finishing 2'09 behind eventual winner Giovanni Battaglin, and winning a stage in the third week.

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This one is basically a flat stage through the Meseta with the hope of there being wind to create action. Though far less common now than when the race was in April, there is still a history of "trial by echelon" in Albacete in La Vuelta, so it's not guaranteed to be a sprint. I've written about the tradition of Albacete stages before, so I'll copy that here and save us both the time and effort.

Albacete has a very notorious reputation in the history of the Vuelta; it has hosted stages on no fewer than 42 occasions, and developed a tradition in the race's formative years for providing riders with trial by crosswind - it was introduced to the race in 1942 when Julián Berrendero surprised everybody with an attack on the first flat stage, thought not to favour him, taking the stage win and becoming the first man to go coast to coast with the leader's jersey. A copy of this stage was the first of Délio Rodríguez' record breaking number of stage wins in 1947, which stood for 30 years until Freddy Maertens set his absurd record of 13. Other winners in the city include Miguel Poblet, José Pérez Francés, Sean Kelly, Uwe Raab, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert, Óscar Freire and Alessandro Petacchi. For many years, a stage to Albacete was something to be feared by the Spanish péloton with its focus on featherweight grimpeurs and its leaders mainly laying low until the race arrived in the mountains; for many years the Spanish teams suffered as the riders from northern Europe taught them lesson upon lesson in waaijer racing, a lesson that the national péloton struggled to learn, since the majority of the national calendar was based in mountainous regions like País Vasco, Navarra, Cantabria, Asturias, Catalunya and Burgos, and with the top climbers from Spanish teams often only going abroad for races in similar terrain like the Giro and the Tour de Suisse in those days, they simply didn't get enough experience racing in the crosswinds to be able to deal with the specialists when it blew across these vast, exposed flatlands.

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Since the Vuelta moved to September, the weather has been less volatile and that has meant that the stages have been less selective, although there is still the underlying threat as, as soon as the wind blows in this region, it will have an impact; in 2003, when Ale-Jet won, the group contesting the victory was under 30, and a further group of 60 was a minute down. The rest lost over ten minutes. In 2001 it was trimmed to 39, and in 2000 42 riders contested the final sprint. The most recent trip to Albacete came in the 2014 Vuelta, in a typically pan-flat stage which Nacer Bouhanni won in the sprint, but not before the group had been trimmed to just 50. So the biggest guns in the race are going to have to be vigilant, for this is not going to be easy to stay at the front here. The city was also the venue for the 2010 national championships, in which Caisse d'Epargne forced a split in the crosswinds where they had five riders present, then José Iván Gutiérrez was able to escape and take the win solo with the group of 12 behind being anchored by his teammates. So there's possibilities here.

So yes, it's a pure flat stage, but it's a flat stage that could be surprisingly important. In 2003, Valverde lost over a minute of his 2'25 deficit in the wind in Albacete, along with defending champion THE AITORMINATOR© and Unai Osa (whose time loss was the difference between 6th and 9th on GC); in 2001, David Plaza, Abraham Olano, Unai Osa (again) and Santiago Blanco were among those who lost 1'17, while in 2000 Heras, Escartín and Sastre lost a minute, Óscar Sevilla lost 3, Aitor Osa 4 and his brother Unai (are you sensing a pattern here) over 5. So no chance for riders to take it easy, because after the rest day the big climbers should be at the top of the leaderboard, but they have to be attentive because it's not the harmless sprint stage they might want it to be...

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re: Race Design Thread

20 Jun 2018 22:45

Stage 4: Hellín - Las Canteras de Cocentaina, 169km

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GPM:
Port de Biar (cat.3) 3,8km @ 4,1%
Alt de Tibi (cat.3) 4,9km @ 5,6%
Puerto de Carrasqueta (cat.2) 12,0km @ 4,8%
Alto de Las Canteras (cat.2) 5,0km @ 7,8%

The difficult start to the Vuelta continues as we move from Castilla-La Mancha and into Comunidad Valenciana with the first summit finish of the race, and allow the climbers to test each others' legs for real for the first time for real, after the initial salvos of San Lorenzo de El Escorial on Sunday.

Before we get there, however, we're setting off from the very south of the province of Albacete, in the city of Hellín. With its population of 30.000 it is one of the largest settlements in this corner of La Mancha outside of the provincial capital itself, with one of the more famous Semana Santa celebrations in Spain - the tamborada, one of many processions and celebrations undertaken during the holy week, a cacophonous procession featuring upward of 20.000 drummers while floats representing the events of Easter are carried through the city, while the percussion builds to a crescendo and fills the streets. Hellín has hosted the Vuelta a couple of times before, in 2007 when it hosted the finish of stage 12, a sprint won as so many were at that stage by Alessandro Petacchi, and the subsequent stage start in stage 13, which resulted in a two-up sprint won by Andreas Klier ahead of Tom Stamsnijder in Torrepacheco. More recently, last year Hellín hosted the start of Stage 8, which finished in Xorret del Catí and though it headed through several of the same towns as me, the start isn't quite the same.

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The riders leave La Mancha early on and pass into Murcia - however there are no stage hosts in the home region of Alejandro Valverde and Luís León Sánchez this time, instead we travel through rolling terrain still relatively high up the meseta plateau and through two cities hosting Denominación de Origén status, Jumilla and Yecla. Terrain is rolling - there's a significant increase in altitude between the two, though gradients are something of a nonsense from the GPM point of view - and dotted, as you might expect, with vineyards, however for the most part the first half of this stage is such that you would be forgiven for expecting one of 'those' Vuelta stages, in baking heat through the parched countryside of the south while a lone breakaway, historically for Andalucía-Caja Sur, but nowadays perhaps most likely from Burgos-BH, has the thankless task of animating the race, while the bunch ambles languidly along behind them. It is for reasons like this that I can recall riders like José António López Gil and Javier Chacón to this day, as it would often be them that got the call to go out up the road, and then curse aloud that nobody wanted to go with them, thus dooming them to four hours of lonely suffering.

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Luckily, however, after Yecla, we cross into the Comunidad Valenciana, and the geography gets a bit more interesting from a racing point of view. After Villena, which like Hellín has also served as the depart for a stage ending with the Xorret del Catí climb, this time a serious medium mountain stage in 2010 which was won by David Moncoutié from the breakaway, setting him up to take his third of four consecutive GPMs at the Vuelta, the climbs begin.

Interestingly, our first categorized climb featured in both of those Xorret del Catí stages mentioned above. In 2010, it was not a categorized climb, but in 2017 it was, so I have bowed to recency and awarded cat.3 status to the rather unthreatening Port de Biar. I mean, seriously, it's not going to cause any significant splits. As I'm not, however, bowing to recency by putting the finish at Xorret del Catí - that's off the menu after I used it in my very first Vuelta in this thread, one which had a number of flaws that subsequent editions have ironed out but that has meant that that particular wall has not been available to me - there's no continuation of the loops and copying the 2017 stage by going over the Puerto de Onil; instead we head past the region's most famous mid-length steep assassin, keeping it to our right as the péloton heads on a downhill saunter past Castalla and to the small town of Tibi, where two back to back ascents await.

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(last 12,5km only of the second of those)

La Carrasqueta is a long-established Vuelta climb, but it's only since 1998 that it has seen the lead-in via the Alt de Tibi. As a result, the latter has only ever been taken by the break - Juan Carlos Vicário, José Miguel Elias and David de la Fuente being the three to crest it in the lead - whereas Carrasqueta, which here features just under 25km from the finish, a more decisive position in the race than it usually occupies, has a Vuelta history dating all the way back to 1941, and as a result has been the site of some much more significant racing. The first three times the race took on the climb, the same man, one of the legendary founding fathers of Spanish cycling - Julián Berrendero. Known as El Negro de los Ojos Azules (a nickname that surely would not fly in today's world), he won the Vuelta twice, in 1941 and 1942, and won the GPM in 1941 and 1945 (taking a further GPM at the Tour de France in 1936 for good measure) and was first to the Carrasqueta summit in 1947 as well as using it to supplement his GPM totals in both of his victories in that classification.

The climb has been a periodic en vogue climb in the Vuelta though, and after the 1940s, it became a rarity until the 1970s, where it became a staple, appearing regularly until 1984, after which it fell off the agenda again for another decade. A combination of strong climbers (Felipe Yáñez, José Luís Laguía, Gonzalo Aja) and break specialists tend to trade the climb, which was seen twice in 2009 in consecutive stages (stage 8 to Aitana, and stage 9 to... you guessed it - Xorret del Catí) and once in 2010, before being consigned to the scrap heap. Here, I expect it to serve as an appetizer, a chance for the riders to get their engines up to speed for the finale, seeing as it's close enough to the finish to allow for moves, but too consistent and tempo-suited a climb for any of these to stick unless the bunch miscalculates.

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However, there is an incentive to make it hard, to get rid of threats to any GC candidate who likes the idea of some bonus seconds as there's only a gradual descent into Alcoy - some more durable sprinter types may make it over Tibi and Carrasqueta and consider this a good chance to pick up some extra points for that classification since they won't get anything for the stage finish, thus taking bonus seconds off the agenda.

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I have used La Carrasqueta twice in my races - once in the very first Vuelta, in the aforementioned Xorret del Catí stage, and once in I believe my 7th Vuelta, in an intermediate stage to Alcoy here. It's never been in as decisive a spot as this, however, as it's really a direct lead-in, albeit via the intermediate at Alcoy and the final loop to Cocentaina, to today's finish. Cocentaina is in vogue with cycling - it hosted the national championships road race in 2016, which were won by José Joaquín Rojas, and earlier this year the climb which I am using as a finish was introduced to cycling for the first time. This may be inspired by one of the city's more famous sons, Rafael Valls, an established climbing hand who has on occasion turned his hand to extremely strong form and picked up some wins in early season races, but now has become a recognized mountain domestique at Movistar.

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Now, the stage of the 2018 Volta a Comunitat Valenciana which introduced the climb looked like this - as you can see, using Carrasqueta and Tibi, but including two laps of a somewhat unnecessary loop based on the 2016 national championship route that is surplus to requirements in this route. Climbs of this kind - middling in length but with some seriously tough gradients - are the meat and drink of the Vuelta, as they've turned steep but less than lengthy climbs like Arrate, Urkiola and, more recently, the likes of Peña Cabarga into household names. Though perhaps the climb that this one best resembles is the Alto del Cordal, famous as the lead-in climb par excellence for Angliru.

With the final climb being frustratingly inconsistent for the riders, the benefit of drafting will hopefully be limited, and though we appear to have come out of the gate hot, riders with a fuller knowledge of the parcours will know that this is a somewhat backloaded route, so they need to take advantage of any good form early in the race as there are limited such opportunities and they don't want to enable a rider to ride themselves back into form and not have been sufficiently weakened and removed from contention while under-strength, a bit like Hesjedal in 2012 or Froome in 2018. This sinuous piece of tarmac stretched over the connective route between a number of mines on the fringes of the Serra de Mariola national park has - as with many Spanish climbs of comparable size and characteristics - numerous inconsistencies that make tempo climbing nigh on impossible; the dusty roads and the varying form in February meant we got an interesting finale which split the leaders and resulted in a gap of just over a minute splitting the top 20 - time gaps were still fairly marked and following a short TT and a short hill finish in the first two stages, this should create some good action. Alejandro Valverde won that day, and he is precisely the kind of rider I would expect to see looking to profit here - along with the likes of the Yates brothers (Adam was 2nd on the stage), Froome, Dani Moreno, Ulissi, Urán, Vuillermoz, Izagirre, Albasini, Woods, Dan Martin - it is perhaps too long for the puncheurs, but still requires great explosivity. However, some more forceful riders like Luís León Sánchez were strong that day, so perhaps that type of rider comes back into contention too. It's full of intrigue and as we haven't reached saturation point with the climb, riders are still uncertain on where to dose their efforts, so we can still get some interesting racing going on.

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Re: Race Design Thread

24 Jun 2018 12:55

Stage 5: Xàtiva - La Vall d'Uixò, 202km

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GPM:
Alto de Montmayor (cat.2) 33,5km @ 2,3%
Puerto de Almedijar (cat.2) 6,6km @ 6,2%
Puerto de Eslida (cat.3) 5,0km @ 6,0%

Still in Comunidad Valenciana, the péloton now has a transitional stage heading northwards into the Provincia de Castellón. The stage start is a short transfer - just a few kilometres - north from Cocentaina to Xàtiva. Originating in a Roman-era settlement by the name of Saetabis, the city has a long history including the birth of two popes and importance in the field of paper manufacture after the technology was introduced to them via the Moors. During the Wars of the Spanish Succession the city was ransacked and destroyed by Felipe V's men, with the monarch instructing the city to be renamed San Felipe. Its most famous landmark is the Castillo de Xàtiva, which lies on the ancient Via Augusta which runs from the Pyrenees down the coast to other ancient ports, Cartagena and Cadíz. It has featured a couple of times in the Vuelta in recent memory, firstly in 2004 when it was the départ for a week 1 mountain stage to the Alto de Aitana, won by Leonardo Piepoli, and then in 2009 when it hosted the start AND finish of a week 1 stage, a fairly tepid affair in that conservatively raced edition to counteract the logistical problem of the rest day coming after stage 4, as basically the entirety of the rest of week 1 took place in Comunidad Valenciana and saw the maillot oro being traded between sprinters until Cancellara took it back in the ITT. Borut Božič won the stage for surprise wildcard entry Vacansoleil, however Daniele Bennati couldn't manage to acquire the bonus seconds he needed to take the leader's jersey off of André Greipel.

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Early on we pass through another city which has hosted plenty of bike racing recently, though mainly only the regional tour - Alzira. The city was the départ for the 2009 stage to Aitana that came two days after the Xàtiva stage (the Valencia ITT on stage 7 sandwiching them). Cadel Evans got a day in the maillot oro before losing it on the bonus seconds the following day in Xorret del Catí, trying to headbutt Robert Gesink in the process after the Australian had not recognized a narrowing in the road, and then accusing David de la Fuente of sitting up to allow Valverde to pass him simply for the purpose of putting El Imbatido in the lead of the race. Following the subsequent inelegant neutral service wheel change on Sierra Nevada, Evans went into sulk mode and didn't even try to depose Valverde from then on; this was the last hurrah of the old excuse-making, race-losing Evans before he got on with the business of going out there and grabbing the bull by the horns, and started putting together the palmarès that his performance level deserved.

The first half of the stage is very flat as we head through the terrain inland of the coastal cities, mainly to avoid disruption in the city of Valencia itself; since we're not stopping there, it would be farcical to block off the centre of a major city like that. Instead we trace the inland roads, stopping by Cheste at the site of the Circuit de Valencia, a motor racing venue not to be confused with the short-lived "street circuit" around the bay that hosted Formula 1 for a brief period in the early 2000s as the sport attempted to capitalise on the Fernando Alonso effect and which hosted the ITT in that 2009 Vuelta (and also in one of my previous Vueltas hosted a sprint); also known as the Circuito Ricardo Tormo after a legendary former champion who died in 1998, this circuit is around three quarters of an hour inland from Valencia itself and is a permanent racing facility which hosts Spain's main motorsport love (and indeed why the Formula 1 authorities felt the need to capitalise on Alonso, because Spain has never truly been a well-tapped market for the sport), motorbike racing. Spain hosts no fewer than four rounds of the current MotoGP calendar, at Jeréz, Montmeló, Motorland Aragón and here at Cheste, and supplies 9 of the 27 riders currently plying their trade in the most illustrious series in the sport; while the European Le Mans Series (precursor to the World Endurance Championship) has also raced here, it is predominantly known for motorcycle racing.

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Motor racing circuits have been a fairly common stop-off for bike racing over the years, owing to their ability to provide fairly safe sprinting situations and minimise disruption, as they always have ample space for the trappings of races. I've used them a fair amount, but here the Circuito Ricardo Tormo hosts a meta volante only.

Instead we continue along our northward trajectory towards Llíria, which hosted a transitional stage in the 2017 Vuelta to Cuenca, won by Matej Mohoric. This is a similar type of stage to that, something of a Worlds tune-up as it's not an uphill finish and sprinters could make it but it's a test of durability with some tricky enough climbing to challenge. However, none of it is especially steep; climbs in the Comunidad de Valencia region and the Sistema Ibérico inland from here in Castilla-La Mancha and southern Aragón tend to fall into three categories:
- long but uncomplicated, low gradients, such as the Alto del Pino and Javalambre
- medium mountains of varying kinds, like Tudons, Torremanzanas and Carrasqueta
- a little shorter than medium length but severe, like Cumbre del Sol, Xorret del Catí or Más de la Costa.

Climbs that are either of high enough gradients at sustained enough length to challenge, such as Aitana, are few, but besides, we aren't looking at that kind of stage here, so it's not a problem that we take on the lengthy but not especially challenging (other than by distance) Alt de Montmayor. It's a pretty area, around the Puntal de Navarrete, relatively unspoiled as there are few sizable urban areas nearby, and at decent enough altitude close enough to the coast to be lush and verdant thanks to rainfall; it has only been seen once in the Vuelta, in 2004, when José Miguel Elías took the climb from the breakaway. I expect the same outcome (not Elías, but the breakaway) here, given the climb is, although long, not super selective and over 60km from the line.

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The descent is a bit more complex but takes us down to Segorbe for the second intermediate sprint before the last climbs that will test the endurance of the sprinters. We're not far from the Alt del Garbí, but that's been done recently and also the stage isn't supposed to totally kill off the sprinters, more be an ideal Worlds prep with plenty of opportunity for stagehunters as well as not being too hard for the more durable sprinters. The second of these climbs has been used in the Vuelta a few times, but the first, the Port d'Almedixer if you're Catalanophone and the Puerto de Almedíjar otherwise, is brand new to the national tour, although it has been used in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana a few times. It's a reasonable cat.2 climb with a number of ramps of 9%, but none of those monster gradients that so often characterise the Vuelta; most of the 9-10% gradient sections are near the top though, which falls just over 30km from the line. Here we're moving through the Sierra de Espadán, one of the less known natural parks in the area, and relatively untapped by racing so it gives us some interesting imagery for the helicams as I would expect this to be where stagehunting breakaways fall apart.

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The Puerto de Almedíjar does have some cycling connection, however. But not a pleasant one; it was on a descent of this pass (in the opposite direction to that which the péloton is riding in this projectef stage, so on the side that we are climbing) that in September 2012, the young Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Victor Cabedo, one of very few riders in the pre-2013 era to don the iconic orange but not be from the Basque country, was hit by a car on a training ride and sent flying into a ravine, dying from his injuries at the age of just 23. There are pictures of the fire service recovering the body from the valley, but nobody needs to see those. It was a cruel blow to end a difficult season for the marchers in orange; Cabedo had come to the team via racing for the Seguros Bilbao amateur team and regularly commuting from Comunidad Valenciana to participate in the esteemed Basque-Navarrese amateur scene as well as maintaining his relationship with Dorleta Zorrilla, a young Basque prospect on the women's side of the sport who rode for the long-standing Bizkaia-Durango team but retired from racing in the wake of her partner's death. Joining Orbea, the feeder team for Euskaltel, he impressed with a 5th place in the Klasika Primavera and a top 10 in the tricky national championship road race in Castellón de la Plana, capped with a solo victory in the Vuelta a Asturias which capped his season and secured him a neo-pro contract with the Basques, seen as one of the most promising young riders they had and a potential stagehunter or man for medium mountain races; he had a fairly quiet first pro season, riding the Giro and serving an apprenticeship doing some northern races like the Eneco and the Tour of Britain, the latter of which he crashed out of on September 10th; one week later he went out for a ride back home in Onda, and never returned. There is now a short stage race in the region of Onda and Segorbe dedicated to the young rider, the Trófeo Victor Cabedo, featuring climbs like the Alto de Vistabella and Salto del Caballo, while Victor's younger brother Óscar turned professional this season with Burgos-BH.

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The descent into Eslida is very technical featuring a number of twists and turns, often very close to one another, so it's a very good opportunity to get out of sight and out of mind for a fugitive, depending on how keen the sprinters' and GC leaders' teams are to chase at this stage of the race. I see this stage as akin to the 2011 stage Pablo Lastras won, in Totana, or while the stage is somewhat harder, a similar kind of expectation for the outcome as the classic Córdoba stages with San Jerónimo or the Murcía stages with Cresta del Gallo. After descending into Eslida, the last climb of the day is the Port d'Eslida, which was in fact featured as recently as 2017, as an early climb in the Sagunt stage, and amounts to the last 5km of this profile - mostly consistent at 6,5% but easing off slightly toward the top, which comes around 20km from the finish. It was first introduced to the Vuelta in 1971, when Txomin Perurena won the climb, before being among the many summits taken by Eddy Merckx in his foray into Spain in 1973. It has only featured twice since, however, in 1987 and 2017, where it wasn't in the position to be decisive, so riders likely won't have too much experience dealing with the run-in under racing conditions. For the most part this opens up with some genuine descending which gradually gets easier, though there is a brief kick up again as we hit the Puerto del Marianet 9km from the line - though the climb from this side really isn't much of a challenge - it's the last 2km of this so a kilometre at 3,5% followed by another at 4% - hardly Xorret del Catí.

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However, part of this run-in may be familiar to a few riders, having been on the route of the 2011 Spanish national championships in the time trial, of which 5 of the top 10 are still active riders at a high enough level to potentially enter the Vuelta (though do bear in mind this is my 10th Vuelta so in the parallel universe these races inhabit, we're some way from that) - Lluís Mas in 9th, Gorka Izagirre in 6th, Jesús Herrada in 4th, Jonathan Castroviejo in 2nd and eventual winner Luís León Sánchez. The aforementioned Victor Cabedo, riding on his local roads, was 10th. Alejandro Marque was 5th and is still active but is unlikely to reach a level where riding the Vuelta is a possibility given that he had that controversial AAF that led to a premature termination of his Movistar contract (possibly unfairly, as it appeared Movistar publicised the firing just in time to free up the funds to sign the much more well-known Igor Antón), he's only ever raced on Portuguese continental teams and he's now 36 years old.

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I've used La Vall d'Uixó in my Vueltas before, but only as a stage start; it featured in my "best medium mountain Vuelta ever!" 5th edition, featuring brutal sawtoothed medium mountains in stages to Bilbao, Oviedo, A Pontenova and San Lorenzo de El Escorial, while the most difficult mountaintop finish was indeed in the stage beginning in Vall d'Uixó - Valdelinares. As a result here the cameras can perhaps pick up a bit more of the city's charm; sitting at the foot of the Sierra de Espadán it lies between the coastal beaches of Castellón province and the mountains, and with nearly 35.000 inhabitants is one of the largest urban areas of the province. Like other cities such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria or Amorebieta-Etxano in the Basque country, La Vall d'Uixó has two confluent city centres as two adjacent towns merged into it; unlike them, however, those names do not survive on. Its most famous cycling son is Eduardo Castelló, who won the national championships and the Vuelta a Asturias in 1971, but is perhaps best known for winning a dramatic Vuelta stage in 1968 where Felice Gimondi took the race lead off of fan favourite José Pérez-Francés, escaping on the descent of the Puerto de Orduña, and taking advantage of Ferrys' lack of numbers once the notoriously temperamental Catalan had dropped his teammates on the climb while contesting the climb with the Italian.

The city is also well-known for cave paintings and one of the most spectacular cave networks in Europe, including the largest subterranean navigable river in the continent; we pass the Cueva de Sant Josep on the way into the town for the run-in so this will look pretty scenic; the town is in the process of trying to establish itself as a tourist destination so this will be an ideal way to show some of the sights with the mountains, the caves, the Roman aqueduct remains and of course the views down to the Mediterranean - the scenery of the last 40-50km here should be nice but also relatively unknown to much of the international audience of the race.

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If the péloton is active and wants to contest this one in the bunch (with not too many chances for sprinters yet, a few may want to pick this one up for the points competition), this stage is likely to go to the likes of Michael Matthews, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Nacer Bouhanni, Matteo Trentin and so on - not so much Peter Sagan, but only because he has stayed away from the Vuelta after his run-in with a race motorbike in the 2015 edition. If he were to turn up, he'd instantly be one of the favourites for a stage like this. Spain's tendency to produce durable sprinters given the lack of real flat stages in the national calendar means there may be some home interest depending on who makes it into the race - Lobato if he gets back to the top level, Carlos Barbero, Eduard Prades for example now that the Spaniards have multiple wildcard teams now.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re: Race Design Thread

01 Jul 2018 18:21

Sorry for the delay, but i think i finally have a modified version of the tour i sort of posted month ago ready. It's a 3 mountain block variant. I had Genève as my grand départ but i found it plasticky and souless. Hence i decided to move back to a much nicer place - Évian-les-Bains. That does make it quite clunky as the first stage features a fair bit of Switzerland and not that much of Haute-Savoie. The main theme of this Tour is "reanimation" - trying to find some life in what seems dead areas. I hope i will manage to do this relatively quickly but i don't know how much time the Tour will take off me. For now i guess i'll tune in for the cobbled stage, La Rosiere, Portet with maybe the Laruns one to at least laugh at Aubisque east being HC.

If you follow me then you may saw a fair number of recent Italian stages as i'm working with my last ever Giro that i'm planning on posting here. It starts in Malta which is a beautiful set of islands and mostly features stages that i would like to see (no catch or gimmick). Of course this Giro is in very early stage so there may be some changes in the future.
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Re: Race Design Thread

03 Jul 2018 21:56

Libertine Seguros wrote:Stage 5: Xàtiva - La Vall d'Uixò, 202km



The first half of the stage is very flat as we head through the terrain inland of the coastal cities, mainly to avoid disruption in the city of Valencia itself; since we're not stopping there, it would be farcical to block off the centre of a major city like that. Instead we trace the inland roads, stopping by Cheste at the site of the Circuit de Valencia, a motor racing venue not to be confused with the short-lived "street circuit" around the bay that hosted Formula 1 for a brief period in the early 2000s as the sport attempted to capitalise on the Fernando Alonso effect and which hosted the ITT in that 2009 Vuelta (and also in one of my previous Vueltas hosted a sprint); also known as the Circuito Ricardo Tormo after a legendary former champion who died in 1998, this circuit is around three quarters of an hour inland from Valencia itself and is a permanent racing facility which hosts Spain's main motorsport love (and indeed why the Formula 1 authorities felt the need to capitalise on Alonso, because Spain has never truly been a well-tapped market for the sport), motorbike racing. Spain hosts no fewer than four rounds of the current MotoGP calendar, at Jeréz, Montmeló, Motorland Aragón and here at Cheste, and supplies 9 of the 27 riders currently plying their trade in the most illustrious series in the sport; while the European Le Mans Series (precursor to the World Endurance Championship) has also raced here, it is predominantly known for motorcycle racing.

Ah, a mention of the Valencia street circuit. Alonso's fantastic win in '12. It was great to watch for an Alonso fan like me.
I think it's the sign of a clean rider and a real sportsman to be attracted to the bigger challenge over the ultimate result. Good luck with the Giro/Tour double, Chris Froome. -Phil Gaimon
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04 Jul 2018 21:55

Stage 6: Teruel - Zaragoza, 175km

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Yes, with the news not filling me with joy in the real world of cycling, it's time to take solace in the make-believe fantasy world in which my Vueltas take place. Ironically enough, given the woeful start to the Tour, this is the second out of six stages thus far in Vuelta number 10 which has had absolutely zero categorized climbs.

That's not to say it will be an easy day, mind - though it may be, depending on whether the weather wants to play ball or not. We begin in the city of Teruel, Spain's smallest provincial capital with just 35.000 inhabitants to Soria's 40.000. Aragón is not a region of large cities; Huesca is also one of the country's smallest provincial capitals, though we are headed toward the more significantly-sized regional capital, Zaragoza. There are a few unusual features about Teruel due to its comparatively isolated location; it is the only mainland provincial capital that is not directly linked to Madrid by rail (the Canarias capitals can be reached by plane, which Teruel can't, but Ceuta and Melilla do not have direct links to Madrid either), and the sparse population of this corner of the peninsula, isolated from the coastal affluence in Comunidad Valenciana and southern Catalunya by the Sistema Ibérico, coupled with the rugged terrain in that area and the difficult transport links to central Spain, led to the Tourist board of the region launching a desperate bid to boost tourism in the area under the slogan ¡Teruel existe! ("Teruel exists").

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But that's not to say that Teruel does not have plenty to offer the tourist; after all, it's a leading part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón. As a result there is all manner of spectacular moorish scenery, with buildings and stairways in that style preserved perfectly because it's higher up in the mountains than many of the other Islamic architecture of the al-Andalus era down in the Andalucian pueblos blancos. Even the Catholic architecture of the city is built in the Mudéjar style, so it remains a relatively uniform city aesthetically which helps in keeping with the beauty of it, with towers and church spires of the late middle ages all perfectly thematically aligned with the 12th Century old town. Much of it was damaged in the Civil War, with a year-long battle around the city taking place which saw casualties totalling four times the city's current population. And in those nearby mountains there are some impressive dinosaur bones.

Not that we'll be seeing much of them, as we're staying on the meseta, on a stage that gradually tilts its way down toward sea level, so may well be a chance to challenge the stage speed record, what with the stage featuring no climbs at all and with a stage finish some 800m lower than the start. If the weather doesn't play ball, however, this is going to be one of "those" Vuelta stages. Teruel typically hosts stages of that kind, on those rare occasions that the Vuelta remembers that, like the slogan, Teruel exists. The race hasn't been back since it was the start town of a flat stage in 2005 won by Max van Heeswijk, and the last time it hosted a stage finish was 1999, when an intermediate stage headed over small climbs inland from Valencia, and saw Frank Vandenbroucke outdo Jon Odriozola in a two-up sprint from the breakaway, four minutes ahead of the remainder of their break group and 12 minutes ahead of the péloton.

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With the recent rejuvenation of the Vuelta a Aragón, however, Teruel has returned to cycling for the first time in over a decade this season, with the start of the Caspe stage of the reborn race, a stage which was won by Jon Aberasturi for the Euskadi-Murias team. In my fictitious Vueltas, it has appeared twice - in the very first Vuelta as a start for a transitional stage inland to Cuenca, and in the 8th as both the finish of an intermediate stage along the lines of that 1999 stage but somewhat tougher, featuring the Collado de las Matanzas 35km from the line, and the start of a subsequent flat stage, albeit slightly different (more difficult) than this one.

This stage traces a fair bit of that subsequent stage, running parallel to the new motorway which links Zaragoza to Sagunto, and which will serve as the main means for the transfer of 100km or so to get here. I've put an early meta volante in Monreal del Campo in the hope of incentivizing a hard beginning to the stage, possibly in the quest for the points jersey, and to make a good fight to get into the break. In fact, apart from a brief rolling stretch from Daroca to Pañiza, this one is almost entirely along one plateau that gradually saunters downhill, being as it is on the Meseta where it drops away to the lowland plains of Zaragoza. The early part of the stage will be classic Vuelta terrain; scorched countryside and villages reduced to skeleton populations, as rapid depopulation in favour of more successful industrial areas has rendered many of them only seasonally occupied.

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I would expect to see a small breakaway riding away several minutes up on the bunch in this one, but there's always the possibility that there could be somewhat more action, as the plains once we pass through the foothills around Daroca and the vineyards around Cariñena, which is a Denominación de Origén certification, can be susceptible to wind; fields are often not bounded by fencing or shrubbery, leaving very open and potentially windswept areas. It isn't as volatile an area as Albacete, which of course has its legendary reputation in Vuelta history, but there are still possibilities en route to the provincial capital which will prove our stage finish as it has done so many times in the history of the third Grand Tour.

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Aragón's regional capital hasn't seen the Vuelta since 2008, when Sébastien Hinault won a sprint, but it has seen the Vuelta a Aragón this year, with a similar outcome won by Matteo Malucelli of Androni Giocattoli. Before this layoff though, it was a relatively in-vogue city for the national race; Sergei Outschakov won a stage around the city in 1999, Petacchi won a sprint in an similar but shorter stage a year later, Igor González de Galdeano won a reduced sprint the following year, Petacchi returned to the top of the table in 2003 and continued his domination in the city a year later, while the city went German in 2007, Erik Zabel winning a sprint and Bert Grabsch a time trial.

It was in fact a host all the way back in the first Vuelta, in 1935, as Mariano Cañardo, one of Spain's first cycling heroes, took his first Vuelta stage in a 264km from the Basque coast here that year; other winners over the years in Zaragoza include Bernardo Ruíz, Rik van Steenbergen, Jan Janssen, Roger Pingeon, Régis Clère, José Luís Laguía, Roger de Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Íñaki Gastón, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Laurent Jalabert, but the undisputed king in the city is Delio Rodríguez, who took three separate Vuelta stages in to Zaragoza in the race's formative years. With a population of over 700.000, the city is 20 times the size of its fellow provincial capital earlier in the stage, and is the fifth largest in Spain, concentrating a huge amount of the population of Aragón (over half, in fact) into the one conurbation - it is also the country's largest city without a La Liga football team, since Real Zaragoza are going through some serious doldrums at present; they've long been also-rans at the top level, save for a shocking win in the 1995 European Cup Winners' Cup, a defunct competition that has been rather swallowed whole by the Champions' League, which they won over the English team Arsenal, thanks to a spectacular desperation shot from distance from Nayim, one of the most famous Ceutanos of modern times, and who they had signed from Arsenal's deadly rivals two years earlier, in the dying seconds of the match, which seemed otherwise destined for a penalty shoot-out. They had qualified for the competition following one of their many successes in the Copa del Rey, most recently winning the competition in 2004, but in recent years the days of plenty seem fairly distant for them as they bounce between the top two divisions at present.

I've included Zaragoza three times previously in my Vueltas - mostly as transitional flat stages, either as a finish or a start. The first time was back in the second Vuelta, the most innovative and experimental of them, so there's some nice symmetry with the use here; then it was used in the fourth Vuelta as the final flat stage - that one started in Morocco and finished in Barcelona - and finally in the eighth as the stage start for a stage which deliberately cloned in its entirety the legendary 1972 Formigal stage over Monrepós that birthed the legend of El Tarangú. Here it's just a flat stage, but a potentially tough one, as if the wind does blow, that slight downhill nature of the stage means the pace should be ferocious...

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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07 Jul 2018 11:18

Stage 7: Calahorra - Estación de Esquí Valle del Sol, 186km

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GPM:
Alto del Pontón (Lagunas de Neila)(cat.1) 7,0km @ 8,4%
Puerto del Manquillo (cat.3) 4,6km @ 5,4%
Estación de Esquí Valle del Sol (cat.3) 3,8km @ 7,1%

After a motorway transfer from the Aragonese capital to the eastern edges of La Rioja, we have another medium mountain stage that introduces us to the northwest corner of the Sistema Ibérico, and onto comparatively familiar terrain for the riders in that the Vuelta's main warmup race at present is of course the Vuelta a Burgos, and we will be finishing in the province today, on the kind of short uphill finish that the Vuelta a Burgos loves. Calahorra, which serves as today's start town, has no tradition as a finish in the Vuelta, but it has served as a start town three times in recent memory, usually resulting in sprints - my stage here will probably end up being a much more significant stage than Calahorra usually gets to see; in 2007 a stage from Calahorra to Zaragoza served as a transitional stage before the first 'real' mountains other than the absurdly early stage 4 Lagos de Covadonga finish, and was won by Erik Zabel; a year later the direction was different but the characteristics were the same, with Óscar Freire triumphing, while the slightly tougher version used in the 2013 Vuelta reduced the group fighting the finish out to 35, although most major contenders made the selection and Bauke Mollema was triumphant.

Calahorra itself is an ancient settlement, having been settled long before the Romans arrived in 187 BC, renamed it Calagurris Fibularia, and made it their administrative centre for the surrounding regions, including places such as Clunia which has featured in earlier Vueltas of mine and the real-life Vuelta a Burgos. It was during Roman times that the city gained its patron saints, too, as San Emeterio and San Celedonio were both martyred in the city (San Emeterio may also have been born there, records are poor). It also has a rare distinction of having a twin town in Western Sahara, having entered an arrangement with the town of Haussa.

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The first half of the stage winds its way along the vineyards of Rioja Baja, over rolling terrain that is susceptible to baking heat. We pass the Museo Würth, a treasure trove of modern art sponsored by the German manufacturing concern that also sponsored the controversial Liberty Seguros cycling team prior to Operación Puerto, as part of their ongoing cultural ties (the museum, not the cycling sponsorship, though they also sponsored the Tour de Suisse for a couple of years at the same time), and then have an early intermediate sprint which will come possibly even less than an hour into the stage, in the capital of La Rioja, Logroño.

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As we know well now, Logroño loves to host the Vuelta in recent years, with stages in the city in three of the last six editions. Two of these (2012 and 2014) were characterless circuit races, unfortunately, which made for painfully dull viewing, especially in 2012 when not one single, solitary rider was willing to help Andalucía-Caja Granada's Javier Chacón try to foil the inevitable sprint, which was won by John Degenkolb. The German duplicated his success two years later, but when the race returned to Logroño in 2017 it was as the finish town of the race's key ITT, which was of course won in the red jersey by Chris Froome to underscore his now spectacularly controversial triumph. It also has a sometimes uneasy relationship with the selective policies of the Basques in sports given its proximity; while the region is undeniably Spanish, there do remain Basque remnants in place names such as Ezcaray, and of course the southern face of the Montes Vascos cascade down to Rioja Alavesa, a Basque wine region which runs almost into Logroño itself, so there is an element of cultural cross-pollination with the neighbouring Basques, even if Araba is easily the least vocal Basque province in terms of separatism and protectionism. For example, Logroño is one of the strongest bastions of pelota vasca, with a number of elite players in the regionally-popular sport coming from La Rioja - most notably the legendary Augusto Ibáñez Sacristán, better known by his pelota name "Titin III" (many pelotariak adopt names referencing their 'dynasties' where they belong to a family line of competitors especially where nicknames or family names are especially common), a veteran former champion who was still competing at the top level well into his 40s and whose likeness emblazons the rear wall of Logroño's frontón. Further uneasy cross-pollination concerns the footballer David López Moreno, who was signed by Athletic Bilbao in 2007 causing great debate throughout the Basque region as to whether the Riojano was really suitable for the squad and whether he could meet the stringent cantera policy of the team.

We do not cross into País Vasco here, however, and instead continue through Navarrete and Nájera, two towns famous for a battle in the 14th century as part of a Castilian Civil war, before turning southwards to enter the Sistema Ibérico. This mountain range is only sporadically seen in the Vuelta owing to its comparative isolation, the fact that there are only a small handful of mountain stations with the space and money available to pay for it, and that many of the climbs are very gradual in nature which makes them less selective. Through the formative years of the race, they were often bypassed, and almost never featured during the El Correo-El Pueblo Vasco era, on the basis that the race would usually need some flatter stages at that point to transition from either the Asturian mountains or the Pyrenees before the traditional finishes in Euskadi. The region did, however, see a period of activity from their local Grand Tour, beginning in 1988 when the Valdezcaray ski station paid up for the first time to host a finish, which was won by Séan Kelly. The nature of the climb - a few decent gradient kilometres followed by several of false flat - meant that it wasn't ideally suited to road stages, so the following year a MTT followed, won by Périco Delgado, then the reigning Tour de France champion, underpinning his GC triumph that year (though he had to wait another day to wrest the jersey off the shoulders of Martin Farfán). The cronoescalada was duplicated the following years, won by Jeff Bernard in 1990 and Fabio Parrá in 1991, before in 1993, its more sinister sibling, the Alto Cruz de la Demanda, was discovered and took on the role as MTF par excellence in the region, becoming the Swiss mountain, with Tony Rominger winning twice in its first two appearances, then followed by Alex Zülle in 1996. Home favourite José María Jiménez won in 2001 in one of his last ever victories, then the region was dead to the Vuelta until the 2012 race brought back the Valdezcaray climb as part of a road stage, to similarly uneventful conclusions as back in the 80s - the only real things of note about the stage were Sky proving their hypocrisy by attacking Valverde when the race leader crashed in exactly the same fashion that they had been upset by Movistar doing in Paris-Nice, and Marcos García of Caja Rural not realising the break had been up the road and celebrating a fairly anonymous placement.

For that reason, therefore, no big Riojan mountains... we're crossing over to Burgos for a climb much more familiar to the modern cycling fan. Even though it has only featured once in the Vuelta (in 1998, won once more by Chava like, well, most mountain stages that year), the name of Lagunas de Neila resonates pretty strongly among fans of Spanish cycling. For as long as most of us can remember it has been the keynote climb of the Vuelta's pre-eminent warmup race, and has produced some spectacular fireworks over the years. There are multiple ways to the summit, with the Vuelta a Burgos typically coming to an arrangement such as this, where they climb from Quintanar de la Sierra up to the Puerto del Collado, descend into Neila then climb from the north as far as the El Pontón or Pasil de Rozavientos junctions, descend the more gradual 'old road' back down to Quintanar de la Sierra and then repeat only going to the summit this time. It's time honoured and difficult, but it does neglect to note that there is an even harder road, that directly connects the Puerto del Collado to the summit. It was this road that was taken in the 1998 stage, which you can see here. Obviously they climbed from Quintanar de la Sierra, but you can see the all important section between the Puerto del Collado and the summit there.

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What we are in effect doing is climbing all of that, as far as the sign for El Pontón, although I have only categorised it from km 10,8 to 17,8, which averages nearly 8,5% and features 2km averaging 11,5% toward the end. It's a hard and inconsistent climb with numerous ramps that can create suffering, so I have given it a tenuous cat.1 classification, to try to incentivise some action given it's just 46km from the line. I don't suspect it will be the platform for any really relevant attacks other than for the stage, but it will certainly rid riders of a lot of helpers.

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The descent is on the road that we typically see climbed in the Vuelta a Burgos, so there is an uncategorized climb in the middle of the difficult descent - around 2km at 5,5% so nothing too difficult but enough to break up the rhythm. The earlier moves and high pace is further incentivized by the bonus seconds available at the sprint in Huerta de Arriba at the base of the descent. There's then a fairly simple run-in; the riders first take on the fairly gradual Puerto del Manquillo, a somewhat benign ascent cresting 11km from the finish, but where apart from an early 400m ramp of around 8% nothing should really challenge the riders, and then after a brief and mostly straight descent towards Pineda de la Sierra, we have the final climb, a short but potentially selective grind up to the small Valle del Sol ski station.

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This small ski station has only hosted professional racing once before, in the 2015 Vuelta a Burgos, when Miguel Ángel López won with a narrow margin over Daniel Moreno and Pierre Latour in a stage that climbed into the valley from the opposite side, turning the final few kilometres into an ascent on the end of an everlasting false flat. The actual climb itself is not that difficult, but it's long enough that it can be selective if needed. Especially seeing as Neila ought to have got rid of a lot of helpers or at least exhausted them enough to limit their usefulness on a short sharp finish like this.

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With its steepest ramps at the bottom, this should hopefully become mano a mano before too long, but I do believe that it's more likely the gaps will only be of a few seconds here. It's certainly not as difficult a finish as Las Canteras de Cocentaína, and with the weekend coming up riders will also be wary of working too hard here. But it's a potential banana skin of a stage in a relatively uncharted section of eastern Burgos.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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13 Jul 2018 20:14

I've decided to bring back the Bayern Rundfahrt, it's gonna be a hard race with 5 stages, but not a single MTF, so the climbers will be forced to attack after the mid length opening ITT. I've tried to create a race that is similar to Itzulia/Pais Vasco, so mostly shorter, but steep climbs.
I'll keep the stage descriptions rather short, I'm working on an important paper, so I'm already doing more than enough writing on a day to day basis. :D

Stage 1: Bayreuth ITT; 27.5km
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The race starts with an opening ITT in Bayreuth that features an gentle uphill section, 2.5km at 3.5% and a descent in the central part, but it should still be an ITT for the specialists.
It starts in front of the Markgräflichen Opernhaus/Margravial Opera House and end on the Parking lot of the Festspielhaus, so we have an opera themed ITT that is clearly a tribute to Richard Wagner and his work as a composer, I don't want to talk about him as a human being and his believes, everybody knows about that, so I won't open that can of worms.
Markgräfliches Opernhaus:
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The Festspielhaus:
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User avatar Mayomaniac
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13 Jul 2018 20:21

Stage 2: Bayreuth – Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz; 159km
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The first road stage of my Bayern Rundfahrt is a shorter stage that features a hilly finishing circuit after an easy first half. That should give attackers a decent shoot and favour the sprinters that do well in hard one day races over the pure sprinters, guys like Sagan, Colbrelli and Matthews vs. One day racers with a good sprint like Gilbert and GvA.
The riders will ride 4 laps on the short finishing circuit, the central part of the circuit is the Höhenberg, 2.7km at 5.5%, the climb tops with only 5.5km to go and that's mostly downhill, even if it's a rather shallow gradient, that should favour attackers.

Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz:
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User avatar Mayomaniac
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14 Jul 2018 09:48

Stage 8: Villarcayo - Sotres-Cabrales (Jito d'Escarandí), 190km

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GPM:
Puerto de Palombera (cat.3) 6,1km @ 5,4%
Collada de Carmona (cat.3) 4,9km @ 7,2%
Collada Ozalba (cat.3) 6,0km @ 6,7%
Collada de Hoz (cat.2) 7,7km @ 5,8%
Jito d'Escarandí (cat.ESP) 14,4km @ 7,6%

The second weekend starts with what you could argue is the first 'real' mountain stage, though it's mainly about the MTF, with the final climb of the day clearly dwarfing all of those that precede it. The stage moves from Burgos to Asturias via Cantabria, and begins in Villarcayo, or, to give it its full name, Villarcayo de Merindad de Castilla la Vieja. This small town of 4.000 inhabitants is nestled in the north of the Provincia de Burgos, close to the Monumento Nacional de Ojo Guareña, and is a common stopping-off point for the Vuelta a Burgos, normally to allow some flatter stages in that puncheur-favouring warmup race. Most recent winners in the town are Lloyd Mondory in 2014 and Danny van Poppel in 2016.

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It was close between Villarcayo and neighbouring Medina de Pomar which I would choose to be the stage host, but one thing tipped it in the favour of Villarcayo - it is the hometown of Íñigo Cuesta, who currently holds the records for most consecutive Vueltas contested, with an unbroken streak from 1994, when he turned pro with the Euskadi-Petronor team, through to 2010 when at the age of 41 he had his last Grand Tour, with the Cervélo team. He retired in 2011 after his Caja Rural team did not achieve wildcard selection for the race in their first year as a ProContinental outfit. Our final memory of the 1998 País Vasco winner as an active cyclist, therefore, is his appearance in the first Marxa 100% Xavi Tondó, alongside Josep Jufre, Joaquím Rodríguez and a number of other pros. During his time as a pro, however, as well as Euskadi (before Euskaltel took over) he rode for ONCE, Cofidis, Saunier Duval, Team CSC and Cervélo (quite a hitlist in retrospect, hey?) with very few actual wins - a stage in the Dauphiné here, a stage of Catalunya there - and at the end of his career his streak of unbroken Vueltas was perhaps the most famous thing about him, but he was a very respected helper at his peak, with a best Vuelta finish of 13th in 2001.

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After an initial uncategorised ascent of the Alto del Repetidor (hey, I've got to have some fun, and this should mean a strong break) - km 0 is basically at the start of the steep section! - the main next role is to ride across from Burgos into Cantabria and skirt the shores of the Embalse de Ebro. This is fairly common to the Vuelta owing to the historic stages into Reinosa over the Puerto del Escudo, but we're not approaching from the north so no sign of that legendary ascent today. Instead it's a rolling ride into Reinosa, with a scenic backdro, to allow the breakaway to consolidate its advantage.

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After heading through Reinosa, where an early intermediate sprint takes place, we turn northwards and head out of the meseta via the Puerto de Palombera, by its much shorter, more straightforward southern face. At 6,1km @ 5,4% it's far from devastating, the final 4km are at 7% but it's pretty reasonable as a first test. It has never been seen from this side in the Vuelta; the three occasions it has been used - in 1976 and 2007 stages to Reinosa, and as a stopping point on the way to the Alto Campoo in 1985, the same way as the first time I have used the climb in a Vuelta, in my very first design way back when - have been from the much longer northern side. In the fantasy world these designs inhabit, however, we have seen the southern face of Palombera - once, in my 6th Vuelta, in a similar but easier stage to Cueva el Soplao.

Instead, we descend through these lengthy, undulating roads towards Cabezón de la Sal, before turning left into a succession of smaller climbs through an area of western Cantabria in which dialect is much stronger, possibly under influence from neighbouring Asturianu. The first of these three back to back ascents is the Collada Carmona (locally the Collá), a fairly straightforward ascent of just under 5km at 7% with a steepest kilometre just over 8%. It's a very old climb in the Vuelta, first crested by Julián Berrendero in 1942, and also led by some other legends, such as Luís Ocaña in 1976, one of the great champions' last attempts to recapture former glories, Emilio Rodríguez in 1947, and Joaquím Rodríguez in 2005, long before the legend of Purito's Muritos was born and he was a stagehunting KOM. It was included - as part of this chain of three - in the 2017 Santo Toribio de Liébana stage, which was ostensibly an attempt to recapture the magic of the 2012 Fuente Dé stage, with a punchier climb, but wound up being possibly the most controversial single stage since Val Martello - and possibly all the way back to Morzine '06 - as it was here that Chris Froome, despite a malfunctioning kidney and breathing difficulties, was able to somehow completely innocently take back all the time he'd lost the previous day on a much harder stage, thanks to his body's unique salbutamol-processing tempo.

As you will see from the 2017 stage, this next set of climbs chain together almost perfectly, so after a bit of food in Puentenansa the riders are ready to head uphill again, on the Colláu Jozalba (better known as Collada Ozalba). A relatively consistent climb, this one was only introduced to the race in the mid 1980s despite how perfectly it links to the much older Collada Carmona. And after that, it's the unexpected icon of Alberto Contador.

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7,7km @ 5,8% really isn't a beast. Introduced to the race in 1976, it was first won by later Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Sepp Fuchs, and he remained the biggest name to take the climb until Rodríguez in 2005; since then David Moncoutié and Luís León Sánchez have been first over it, with Marc Soler the one to crest it most recently thanks to a somewhat speculative attack in that 2017 stage. But while Moncoutié may have been first over the summit in 2012, it was what happened behind that is why the Hoz is an unexpected legend.

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With Joaquím Rodríguez' Катюша domestiques having had to control the race all the way since stage 5, the benign stage to Fuente Dé was something of an unnecessary 'bonus' MTF, on a shallow slope, expected to have a similarly 'bleh' effect to the similarly placed Peio Terme stage in the 2010 Giro. But how wrong we were, as Alberto Contador took out his history book and manufactured a Roberto Heras 2005 triumph, sending three teammates into the break (Movistar also had two plus a third rider in the counter attack, which helped it work), before launching an attack 55km from the line, with his teammates to ride across to, along with an ex-teammate, Paolo Tiralongo, whose help he could count on thanks to long term deal-brokering after he gifted the veteran his first career win, on Macugnaga in the 2011 Giro. Purito's troops were caught on the hop and suddenly the race was turned upside down. And somehow this great climber, who has won multiple times on the Angliru, who has won 5 official and 7 unofficial Grand Tours, has his legacy hewn not on Angliru, not on Zoncolan, on Stelvio, the Mortirolo, Alpe d'Huez, Mont Ventoux or Lagos de Covadonga, not even on Bola del Mundo, which was introduced to cycling in his honour, but instead on this relatively unassuming, unthreatening cat.2 ascent in western Cantabria. It's rather like Federico Bahamontes, who has countless legendary exploits on the most famous climbs that France has to offer, but will forever be remembered for something that happened not on the Tourmalet, the Galibier or the Iseran, but on the Col de Romeyère.

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Being as this is the first serious mountain stage of the race and the Hoz is 65km from the line - further than that day in fact - I don't expect that we would see any Contador-esque riding just yet. Instead, we have a descent and then a lengthy period of flat as we cross from Cantabria into Asturias and the base of the Picos de Europa national park.

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Supposedly named because they were the first things that sailors from the New World would see of Europe when returning, it remains to be seen what direction they would supposedly have been arriving from for Asturias to be the first thing they see but the folk etymology is all we have so let's go with it. The Picos are one of Spain's natural wonders and renowned for their incredible hiking potential and comparatively unspoilt nature. Of course, they are most known to cycling fans for the notorious ascent to Lagos de Covadonga, but there's much else that is on offer - perhaps not of comparable difficulty, but the Puertos de Pandetrave and Panderruedas are completely unused, the long and gradual Puerto del Pontón has only been used in transitional stages away from the north coast in the 1980s, and the classically-styled Puerto de San Glorio was only introduced to the race in 2014. There was of course one other super-sized Picos de Europa climb that, for years, had gone completely unknown to racing, and that fans were crying out for, and that's the Jito d'Escarandí.

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Located in the scenic Cabrales valley, famous for its iconic blue cheese, a strong and intense variety which is matured in the abundant caves of the region and a protected designation of origin in the EU. The scenery is remarkable and the climb is difficult, featuring not one but two sections where multiple kilometres get up above the 9% mark consecutively.

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I wrote about Jito d'Escarandí back in April 2014 in the "21 ESP climbs the Vuelta should use" thread, and that post is here. Key points include its similarity to Isola 2000 but less consistent - however with a very similar beginning - and with more steep ramps, the scenic nature of the gorge that leads to it, and the monstrous section up and through Sotres which includes maximum ramps of 19% and 3km at around 10%.

Of course, in the time since I wrote that, the Vuelta has used the climb, in the 2015 race, where for reasons unknown it was only given cat.1 status whereas the significantly easier Fuente del Chivo was rated cat.ESP.

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Now, as you can see, this was very much a one-climb stage as there's not much of comparable size that you could put close enough to Jito d'Escarandí to make it anything but, if anything it's even worse than Lagos de Covadonga in that respect, but if you want to relive it you can watch here. Warning, though: the racing was slightly disappointing as everybody waited for the steep section through the village of Sotres itself, which led to a victory for Purito, ahead of Rafał Majka and his loyal helper Daniel Moreno; race leader Fabio Aru followed in with Quintana and Landa, while Tom Dumoulin lost 36" in the closing kilometres as the opposition failed to put him in sufficient difficulty to prevent him taking the leader's jersey back in the ensuing ITT.

However, it doesn't have to be a tame stage, and with this being the only really serious MTF until pretty late in the race, they will have to be incentivised to make more of a race of this. The Alto de las Canteras should give an idea for who has the explosivity on steep gradients, but this one will tell you who has the climbing nous and endurance to make it happen. This is the ideal role for a climb like this, which was somewhat wasted as stage 15, neutralising some of the racing on preceding stages but not producing the goods itself, rather akin to Sierra de La Pandera in 2009. Here, there's little precedent and it should allow the GC contenders to test each other out for the first time properly, rather than the jockeying for smaller time gaps that there will have been to date.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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14 Jul 2018 18:02

Very good place to put Jito.
I think it's the sign of a clean rider and a real sportsman to be attracted to the bigger challenge over the ultimate result. Good luck with the Giro/Tour double, Chris Froome. -Phil Gaimon
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14 Jul 2018 18:18

Stage 3:Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz – Munich; 180km
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A sprint stage that features a single small climb, other than that it's all flat and should end with a big sprint in Munich, near the University clinic (the TU clinic to be exact), the final 500m are around 2.5% steep.
This one is the calm before the storm, after a mid lenght ITT and a hillier stage we have one for the pure sprinters before entering the mountains on the last 2 stages.
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16 Jul 2018 20:54

Stage 4: Garching – Berchtesgaden; 187km
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This one is the longest stage of my Bayern Rundfahrt and the first real climbing test.
The stage starts in Garching near Munich, and for the first 136km the riders will ride southeastwards, no proper climbs, but a decent amount of rolling terrain.
After that we have the first clim of the day, Pass Hallthurn, 7km at 3.4%, nothing but a somewhat decent warm-up for the other 2 climbs.
The following descent isn't too technical and more of a false flat, but right after it the next climb starts, Hochschwarzeck, 6.2km at 6.5%. Apparently Cronoescalade thinks that it should be a cat. 1 climb, I disagree with that, cat. 2 would probably be a better fit for this climb. Yes, the first 2.3km of the climb are at 11.6% with over 20% steep ramps, but after that you have a short false flat section and the 2nd half of the climb is easier.
After the descent you have 8km of slightly downhill false flat, then the final climb of the day starts, Hinterbrand, 5km at 11.2% with ramps up to 20%, a nasty shorter climb.
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On top of the climb you have 6km that are more of a false flat than an actual descent, then the steep part of the descent starts, it's not very technical, but you shouldn't underestimate it.
The stage ends in Berchtesgaden right after the descent.
The false flat section and the descent from right to left:
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This is the first real test for the climbers, the final climb is steep enough to create gaps, but the false flat section on top of the climb and the steep descent add another element, so maybe the TT specialists not named Dumoulin or Roglic will be able to limit their losses.
Still, we should get action on the final climb and it should be an interesting final.
Berchtesgaden:
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User avatar Mayomaniac
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17 Jul 2018 11:23

Very nice stage.
I think it's the sign of a clean rider and a real sportsman to be attracted to the bigger challenge over the ultimate result. Good luck with the Giro/Tour double, Chris Froome. -Phil Gaimon
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17 Jul 2018 19:56

Stage 5: Berchtesgaden – Bischofswiesen; 124km
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This short stage is the final stage of the race and it's filled with steep ramps. Right at the start we have the hardest climb of the whole race, the only HC climbs, the Rossfeld Panoramastraße, 12.5km at 8.%, a hard climb and with something like that you can pretty much bet your house on the fact that many strong climbers will try to enter the breakaway, it should be a proper fight and the start of the stage could be pretty hard.
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After a 10km long, steep descent we have 8km of false flat before crossing the Austrian Border for the first time, then 7km of false flat before the start of the next climb, Hackwald. 2.5km at 7.2%, but the climb features a section at 22%, it shouldn't be underestimated.
The next 34km mainly feature rolling Terrain, after 4km we're back in Germany, 16km afterwards the riders will cross the Austrian border once again.
Now things get interesting, the rather unknown Hirschbichl Pass starts, 7.4km at 8.5%, but irregular with many steep ramps and durning the 2nd half of the climb you have a section at 30%, that's just nasty.
Overall the following descent isn't as steep, but the German side of the climb (we're crossing the border one last time) also features two 30% steep ramps, this climb is rather unknown because it's closed to private motorized veicles (only public busses), but among the local cyclists it's known for it's ungodly steep ramps.
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After 7.5km of false flat downhill we have the next climb, Hochschwarzeck, 5.2km az 7.1% with a few sections at 10%, a decent cat. 2 climb. The following descent is the side of the climb that was used as an ascent on the previous day, that means a really steep 2nd part of the descent that could cause some problems.
After that the riders will cross the finish line in Bischofswiesen for the first time, then we have km of false flat.
After that we have the final climb of the day up to Loipl, overall it's 3.3km at 6.2%, but the 2nd part of the climb is mainly false flat, the first km of the climb is 15% steep with ramps up to 21%, a real legbreaker that will do some damage after a hard stage that's filled with steep ramps.
The following descent is short and steep, it's the steep 2nd part of the Hochschwarzeck descent, and will bring the riders down to Bischofswiesen for the 2nd time.
The stage ends in Bischofswiesen, a municipality in the district of Berchtesgadener Land
We could get a pretty awesome final stage, with a HC climb at the start we'll have a strong breakaway and a hard fight at the start. Many of the climbs feature really steep ramps that could wear the riders down and we could already have a really small gc group on top of the Hirschbichl Pass.
Bischofswiesen:
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18 Jul 2018 09:37

Very good race. Enjoyed it.
I think it's the sign of a clean rider and a real sportsman to be attracted to the bigger challenge over the ultimate result. Good luck with the Giro/Tour double, Chris Froome. -Phil Gaimon
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