Race Design Thread

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Of course there must be a deadline right now. I could wait untill there would be more space, but i'll have a rather crazy next week (lots of work). New Zeland... afair you can find a bunch of tough muros there, while rarely being explored (Australia is more popular). It seems there are allready the likes of "6.1 Km at 10.2%". Good luck.

Maybe it's just me, as for me presenting a course is by far the worst part of stage/race design. Also, sorry in advance if i'm copying someone's idea. I prefered not to check it up. I'll do it after i'll post this one. BTW, this is not a realistic option, it's just me having fun.

I did check out the Basque country outside of nice, punchy climbs with sometimes >20% slopes. I guess for cycling the country is very good, but... i guess it's one of the european office and transport centers, hence the heavy traffic and large amount of truck depos. The road system also could be better, as there are some instances, where i almost was (while Clasica San Sebastian is) forced to use a motorway, but managed to find some smaller bypasses.

Outside of cycling i didn't find anything interesting. It's one of the blandest and most boring regions of Spain. Everything is heavily forested, so there's lack of interesting visuals. The towns are relatively modern and heavily industrialized. It's just not for me. I definitely prefer the likes of La Serena or Serranía de Cuenca in central Spain or Las Alpujarras south of Sierra Nevada. The only place i really had fun is the coast. Donostia is a really picturesque place and the roads on the coast can be very beautiful.

Basque coast near Bermeo.

Gaztelugatxe Islet near Bermeo.

I wonder, what if Vuelta País Vasco was just a one-day race, monument status, competing with the likes of Liege-Bastogne-Liege or Flanders. Also, it could be an alternative to Clasica San Sebastian, as it partialy uses it's route. I think i failed the challenge, as this race seems to be more comparable with Giro di Lombardia. I've managed to pack roughly 5000m of climbing in roughly 210km. That's high mountain status, even if the highest point of the race is 789m.

Placing of this classic should be vital, as April-May tends to be quite rainy, while August (Clasica San Sebastian) seems to be more dry. Many section in this race are quite narrow and twisty, and in rain in some places they can be borderline unusable. I guess Nibalis, Sagans and Bardets of peloton would be happy.

Because the main interest i have with the country is in cycling department, i tried to commemorate as many Basque cyclists as i could remember – mainly birth places. I'm a young lad, so guys like Joseba Beloki or Igor González de Galdeano are a bit out of my range. Libertine would definitely do a better job of it.

Sorry in advance for my poor basque, i'm absolutely alien to this language.

País Vasco Klasika, Donostia-San Sebastián – Vitoria-Gasteiz, 247,7km, ~5300m uphill.

Start: Donostia, Hernani Kalea, Alderdi Eder
Km 0: Donostia, Oriamendi Pasealekua, 5,1km from the start
Finish: Gasteiz, Gasteiz Hiribidea, 500m straight
Feed zone: Etxeberria, BI-2636

Start – km 0:
Hernani Kalea – Andia Kalea – Urbieta Kalea – San Bartolome Kalea – Aldapeta Galtzada – Aiete Pasealekua – Oriamendi Pasealekua

Alkiza Gaina – 4km, 6,5%, 2 cat.
Elosua Mendatea – 7km, 7,7%, 1 cat.
Azurki Mendatea (Izarraitz) – 5,4km, 8,2%, max 20%, 1 cat.
San Migeleko Mendatea – 5km, 6%, 3 cat.
Gauntzegarai Gaina – 3,7km, 5,6%, 3 cat.
Oiz Gaina – 6,1km, 9,7%, max 25%, 1 cat.
Arrate Gaina – 5km, 9,6%, max 22%, 1 cat.
Karabieta Mendatea – 6,7km, 6,5%, 2 cat.
Untzilla Gaina – 2,4km, 8,5%, 3 cat.
Gatzaga Gaina – 2,8km, 9,4%, max 20%, 2 cat.

Bekoetxeberri – 800m
Izarraitz (Azurki Mendatea) – 2km
Garai – 10,7km
(Arrate – 2,6km)?

País Vasco Klasika (i hope the spelling is okay) uses mainly the Gipuzkoa region and only partly Bizkaia (116-157km) and partly Araba (last 20km). It combines the ideas of Clasica San Sebastian and stage 20 from Vuelta 2011.

Vuelta 2011 Stage 20.

The design is similar to that particular stage, but the last flat portion in the vast plateau of Arabako Lautada (Llanada Alavesa) is much shorter and slightly trickier. Also, the stage is much tougher with some hormigón and 20% features. I guess such design could work as a last mountain/medium-mountain GT stage, but i think it's mainly created for one-day racing, where nobody holds down and the last flat 20km have lesser impact. It should also force longer range attacks, as the toughest part ends 55km from the finish line.

The start is in Donostia (Spanish: San Sebastián) on Hernani Kalea near Alderdi Eder park and Donostiako Udala, former casino from 1887. Riders will then go close to 1897's Artzain Onaren Katedrala and then on an isolated Aiete Pasealekua and Oriamendi Pasealekua to km 0 near Hernani, 5,1km from the start. Who is from Donostia? José Luis Arrieta is a well known name. I also recognize Pello Ruiz-Cabestany, who was a fine rider in the 80's.

Start in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Overview of Donostia-San Sebastián.

Donostiako Udala.

The voyage in the Oria valley is very tricky, mainly because of a dodgy road system, which forces to use the A-1 motorway, but i've managed to find some alternatives. The race passes through Hernani, Andoain and Villabona before the first categorised climb of the day – Alkiza Gaina.

This race has also a secondary climbing competition similar to Tour de France and Vuelta. Here used are cat. from 3 to 1. The first climb – Alkiza Gaina (Alto de Alkiza) is a borderline cat. 3/2. It's 4km at a stable 6,5%. The climb (in reverse) is known from Clasica San Sebastian. Some of the roads on this race can be narrow and twisty. This climb is not that bad as the road up and down is roughly 1,5-lane wide.

Profile of Alkiza Gaina.

Roughly 10km before Alkiza is a small hormigón section, just to get used to it and to limit the usage of the A-1 motorway. The road is obviously narrow and at some parts very steep with 400m at 10% and a 100m short and straight, but very steep descent on Lugar Barrio Sorabilla to Bekoetxeberri.

Hormigón section in Bekoetxeberri, near Andoain.

From the top of Alkiza the descent goes to Anoeta, home of Abraham Olano. The race then goes alongside in the Oria valley to nearby Tolosa, home to a well known football player Xabi Alonso.


From Tolosa the race one again leaves Oria valley just to bypass another use of the said motorway. It will result in a small climb to Sasiain (Amategi Aldea, GI-3620) from GI-2135 in the Araxes valley (tributary of Oria). It's a slightly narrower, but fine quality road in the woods. It's short but quite steep with 1,3km at roughly 7,7%. The descent to Alegia is on a similar road.

From Alegia there's finally a parallel road to the motorway. The next roughly 25km are flat as the race continues in the Oria valley passing through the communities of Lazkao (Joseba Beloki), Ordizia – home to completely unknown to me but very rich and historic Ordiziako Klasika (Vandenbroucke, Jalabert, Lefevre, Otxoa, Olano, Lejarreta, Vicente López Carril, Valverde, Purito, Cardenas, Karpets, Gorka Izagirre, Madrazo, Miguel María Lasa, Teklehaymanot and even Simon Yates) before reaching the town of Beasain.


In Beasain the race leaves Oria for GI-2632 to Zumarraga going through Ormaiztegi – home to the Izagirre bros. The road also starts to go uphill, but it's nothing serious. Zumárraga is home to Aitor González – winner of 2002 Vuelta. It was the same edition, which saw the kaboom of Oscar Sevilla and Heras ripping apart Angliru.


From Zumarraga the road continues to go slightly uphill to Deskarga Mendatea (Puerto de Deskarga) on GI-632. The descent to Bergara is quite steep, but on a wide road with some nice views of the more rural side of the Basque country. Bergara is one of the older settlements in basque interior, being founded in XIII c. It was a trade centre controlling one of the trade routes between the Bay of Biscay and Castilla. It was also a science centre. Here Fausto de Elhuyar in 1780 discovered wolfram (tungsten).


From Bergara, 76km from the start and over 170km from the finish line starts the first tough part of the race. The first cat. 1 climb of the day is Elosua (Elosu) Mendatea (Puerto de Elosua), the 2nd highest peak of the day at 682m. It's quite serious with 7km at a regular 7,7% (max 11%). It was featured in Vuelta 2011 as the 2nd climb of the day (after Karabieta). The road (GI-3750) is wide and in good condition. The road is mostly forested, but there is some open space near the top. The descent to Azkoitia is wide, but quite tricky. Azkoitia is where Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Ignazio Loiolakoa) comes from. He's the founder of Jesuits.

Profile of Elosua Mendatea.

Loiolako Santutegia (Santuario de Loyola), Azkoitia.

From Azkoitia there's no catching breath as the next cat. 1 climb starts right away. It's up to Azurki Mendatea (Puerto de Azurki) over Azkarate Mendatea (Puerto de Azkarate), or more exact, a place called Izarraitz near the puerto. After a short section on wide and nice GI-2634 to Elgoibar riders will turn into a smaller road to the village of Olaso. The first part is on a ridge with some fine views, but soon the road disappears in the neverending forest. The road to the village, while narrower, is in fine condition. The interesting bit starts after the village, where the surface changes into hormigón and the climb toughens up significantly.

Azurki Mendatea. The climb ends on the Elgoibar sign.

The first roughly 4km to Olaso are already quite steep with roughly 6,5% (max 10%). The last 2km from the village are much more menacing with roughly 9,5%, plenty of over 10% sections and small parts of 19-20%. As you can see below, the hormigón is also not in the best of conditions, which can add up to the challenge. The summit is over 145km from the finish line, so i don't expect any attacks, but the peloton may heavily diminish and if someone big is caught up behind (the road is narrow), then the pace could be picked up on the long and technical (but this time much wider) descent to Elgoibar. I assume there will be only motos with spare wheels on the climb as the road is too narrow for cars.

Hormigón on Azurki Mendatea.


I guess the combination of Elosua and Azurki could create a fine Pais Vasco stage finishing in Elgoibar, as the town should be big enough to maybe even host a Vuelta finish. From Elgoibar, which lies in the 2nd of the big basque valleys – Deba valley, the race calmes down a bit, as the next climb – San Migeleko Mendatea (Puerto de San Miguel) on GI-2636 from Elgoibar to Markina-Xemein is not that hard – 5km at 6% is just cat. 3. The top is 130km from the finish line.

Profile of San Migeleko Mendatea.

The descent leads to Etxebarria, home of Amets Txurruka. In Etxebarria is the feed zone. Roughly 3km from Etxebarria is the town of Markina-Xemein in the Artibai valley, which is on the border of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia provinces. After a small flat section in the valley another climb – Gauntzegarai (Gontzegarai) Gaina (Alto de Gauntzegarai) starts. It's easy with 3,7km at 5,6% on a nice, wide road. The pace however should be quite high, as just after the descent to Gerrikaitz one of the crucial parts of the race starts.


In Gerrikaitz riders turn into BI-3231 to Bizkaiko Begiratokia (Balcón de Bizkaia), home to a rally event. It's 3,3km at roughly 6,5%, nothing special. Before the mirador however riders leave the nice and wide road for another narrow section on hormigón entering the toughest part of the entire race.

The last 3km to Oiz from Bizkaiko Begiratokia are at roughly 12,5% with many, many places over 15% and some section reaching as far as 25%. The road at first is in a forest, but soon it opens up to finally some breathtaking views. I think these 3km should be hard enough to break the peloton, and considering there was a lot of climbing allready, maybe someone will try to push for luck and go for a testing attack – RVV style, but there's still 105km to the finish.

Oiz Gaina. The last part from the Durango/San Kristobal sign is not ridden.

Alternative profile of Oiz.

Surface on Oiz Gaina.

At the top of Oiz Gaina (Alto de Oiz) there are a small chapel Ermita San Kristobal, a mirador Astoagana and a major wind power station with 9-10 wind turbines and a large antenna. It's one of the higher summits in the area standing at 1026 m. In the middle ages it was an important administrative place, where the Bizkaiko Jaurerria (Lordship of Biscay) was gathering. It's also home to some religious myths (a pagan summit?).

Views from the top.

Wind power plant on top of Oiz.

The descent from Oiz is very interesting, as the majority of it continues on hormigón. It's however much flatter with 8km at 5% (max 11%) and not really that technical. The turns also seems to have a buffer zone for wider lanes. The descent leads to a small hamlet of Goierri, where riders will take left into a wide BI-3341 to Garai and then Gerediaga on the eastern edge of Durango.

Descent from Oiz.

Durango, in the Ibaizabal valley between Oiz and Urkiola is one of the older cities in the Basque interior, being founded in XI c. It's the capital of Durangaldea comarca. In the middle ages it was the capital of Bizkaia province. Because of cholera epidemics and various wars with France in XVIII c. the town was heavily damaged. In 1937 it was the first place in the world to be attacked by the Luftwaffe. It should be big enough to host a Pais Vasco (Vuelta?) finish, potentially after Oiz.


From Durango the race goes first via BI-633 to Berriz (birthplace of Marino Lejarreta) and then on N-634 through Zaldibar (Rubén Pérez) and Ermua (Igor Astarloa) to Eibar... or rather underneath the city taking a bunch of tunnels to an Azitain truck depo, where the race will leave the main N-634 for a smaller Azitaingo Industrialdea road through various offices to start the next climb of the day. From the bottom of Oiz to Azitain are roughly 17km of a relatively flat road.

From Azitain riders will start a rather familiar ascent known from Vuelta Pais Vasco. After going through some offices riders will take a hidden, hormigón (?) backroad. I need to admit, that in 2016 i didn't saw any concrete, so maybe the road was recently resurfaced. Even, if the road is on a fresh surface, it doesn't change the 5km at 9,6%, with 2,5km at over 13% and max 22%. It's also a quite irregular ascent, as the hard parts are mixed up with much easier ones. The time diffs in 2016 looked quite ok with top 10 inside 1:30 mark. I guess it should be a good time for a major selection with a 10-20 man group contesting for the overall win even, if the summit is 70km from the finish. The descent to Eibar, while on a wide road, is steep and quite technical.

Profile of Arrate.

Road to Arrate in 2013.

Sanctuary on Arrate.


There's also an alternative variant to the climb, but it doesn't reach the top. It's this climb via Matsaria (Mandiola Balle Aldea). It's shorter than the side i've used (2km at roughly 15%) and has a similar max slope (22%) but overally it's much more constant compared to rather irregular option i've decided on. It also seems to have a smaller portion of hormigón, which maybe exists to this day. It should be a fine alternative.

On the descent riders will go over the tunnels on N-634 and reach the town of Eibar, roughly 60km from the finish. Arrate will be accentuated by Karabieta Mendatea (Puerto de Karabieta) on GI-2639 between Eibar and Mondragoe, which featured in 2011 Vuelta as the first climb of stage 20. it's a much more humble ascent with 6,7km at a regular 6,5%, making it cat. 2. The road is also much wider.

Profile of Karabieta.

After a short plateau the descent leads to Mondragoe (Mondragón) in the Bolibar valley (where riders will basically stay for the rest of the stage), at the border of Gipuzkoa and Araba provinces.


Rather than staying in Bolibar valley riders will take a short detour via A-2620 and then A-3920 via Gesalibar to reach next to last climb of the day – Untzilla Gaina (Alto de Untzilla). It's 20km from the top of Karabieta and 35km from the finish. It's quite steep with 2,4km at 8,5%, which is cat. 3. The descent has a very steep (max 15%) first km, but then is flattens out. The road is wide, but quite technical. The descent leads to Aretxabaleta, back to Bolibar valley. Next 7km in the valley, from Aretxabaleta to Leintz-Gatzaga (Salinas de Léniz) are flat.

Profile of Untzilla Gaina.

Leintz-Gatzaga was a major ancient salt mine closed in XIX c. It was also an important trade centre located on the "royal road" from the Bay of Biscay to Castille (Vitoria-Gasteiz road). The village still has a well preserved historical centre from XVI-XVII c.


Just before the town, road (GI-3310) starts to rise significantly. First going around the village and then up to Gatzaga Gaina (Alto de Gatzaga) near Arlaban Mendatea (Puerto de Arlaban, GI-627). While the parallel ascent to Arlaban is much flatter with 7,5km at 4%, the Gatzaga side is 2,8km at 9,4% (max 20%), which is not far away from Arrate or Oiz. There are also some fine views on the ascent, as the road is thankfully not that forested. The top is just over 20km from the finish line.

Profile of Gatzaga Gaina.

Views on the ascent to Gatzaga Gaina.

There's hardly any descent from Gatzaga, as the race enters very flat Arabako Lautada (Llanada Alavesa) plateau. Rather than use 11km straight N-240 like in 2011 Vuelta i've decided to use the parallel A-3002 road via Arroiabe – it's shorter and has only 7km of straight. The first roughly 9km from Landa (interesting name) to Arroiabe twist around the coast of Uribarri Ganboako Urtegia (Embalse de Ullíbarri-Gamboa).

Uribarri Ganboako Urtegia.

The vllage of Uribarri Ganboa.

With the first 9km of flat being technical i hope any potential attacks from Gatzaga or earlier will have a higher chance of surviving. From Arroiabe the road however straigthens out. 7km later riders will enter Vitoria-Gasteiz – capital of basque country, historical centre and 2nd biggest city in the region after Bilbao. The city is home to Koldo Fernández (a basque sprinter), Victor de la Parte and once major rider Igor González de Galdeano (overshadowed, like most of that generation, by Armstrong and Ullrich). The finish line is almost at the same place as in 2011, but the run-in is from the other side, so there's no need to go around the city, limiting potentialy more flat from Gatzaga.

Finish in Vitoria-Gasteiz.


I've changed the run-in from 2011 hoping a longer range try would have a better chance of succeding. The hardest part ends with Karabieta 55km from the finish. The last 22km are on flat, but i hope the first twisty 9km around the lake and the last summit (Gatzaga) much closer than Urkiola in 2011 will give a better chance for an attack to stay to the finish. Of course Urkiola is much closer to Oiz than Arrate (only 5km around Durango), but the flat run-in would be over 30km long, which isn't thrilling.

Because this post is already way too long, i'll stop here. Cheers.
If you really wanted to get the Grand Cathedral in, though, you could always climb Arrate (or Ixua) after Azurki and skip San Miguel, then go from Urkiola to Otxandiano (home of Dalmacio Langarica, the first Basque Vuelta winner), climb the shorter side of Krutzeta and then descend to the valley and rejoin your route at the Untzilla climb.
I think this can be one of the best stages I've ever designed. Alto de la Bobia <3
La Vuelta a Espana Stage 10 Lugo-Vegadeo 188,0 Km Mountain

Cruz de Meira (2nd Category, 790 m, 2.9 Km at 9.7%, Km 39.2)
A Barranca (1st Category, 832 m, 5.2 Km at 10.7%, Km 57.0)
Cruz de Barreiros (1st Category, 885 m, 11.5 Km at 6.4%, Km 80.1)
Loujedo (3rd Category, 852 m, 4.1 Km at 5.0%, Km 105.3)
Alto de la Bobia (Hors Catégorie, 1088 m, 10.5 Km at 7.8%, Km 123.3)
Pozo de la Nieve (Hors Catégorie, 1039 m, 12.7 Km at 7.2%, Km 161.6)

The first climb of the day is Cruz de Meira, a 2nd category climb with 2,9 km at %9,7 with maximum of %14.
Cruz de Meira (we only climb to the LU-751 road intersection, the previous parts are all ridden though I didn't categorized the start because it is more of a false flat) :

After a descent and a short false flat part, we start the first 1C of the day, A Barranca. It is only 5,2 km long but the average gradient is %10,7 with sections of around %19-20!
A Barranca (we only join in the Chao de Pousadoiro section so ignore the first 1-1,5 kms, but the steep part is all there) :

The 3rd climb of the day is even harder, Cruz de Barreiros. 11,5 km at %6,4 might not sound that hard firstly, but there are some descending parts and there is a 3,2 km at %12,84 with a km at %15,3 and the gradients constantly going above %15, even as high as %24.
Cruz de Barreiros (we join at the A Pontenova intersection at around km 0,8; not at the A Barranca one) :

After the lumpy part after Cruz de Barreiros, the next climb is Loujedo, with 4,1 km at %5 a 3rd category climb. No profile though.

After the descent, we immediately hit the 5th climb of the day, and more importantly, the first Cat. ESP climb of this Vuelta (and there are only 3 ESP climbs in this Vuelta), Alto de la Bobia! The complete stats for the climb is 10,5 km at %7,8 but this doesn't tell the whole story since the first 7 km avergae %10,9! An absolute beast of a climb, and this climb can create carnage with the top being crested 64,7 km from the line.

After a long descent, the riders arrive to the last climb of the day, and the second ESP Cat. climb of Vuelta, Pozo de la Nieve. The complete stats for this climb is 12,75 km at %7,21 but this doesn't tell the whole story since there is a descent part.
Pozo de la Nieve: (this isn't the right profile for my first 4,3 km is different (It has a 2,9 km at %8,4 then a 1,4 km descent) but this is the right profile from km 3,5 to 11,5 or so (Yes, we don't go to the top, because the top is Alto de la Bobia, we finish climbing at km 12 (but the last 300-400 m or so aren't on profile) which is Pozo de la Nieve)

The top of Pozo de la Nieve is crested with 26,4 km to go. A long descent which almost flattens in the last 5 km will bring riders to the finish in Vegadeo.

EDIT: Made an edit to fix the problem in the descent of La Bobia (part between Castromouran and Pontedo was on grass.) so the stage is 2 km longer.
It really is a shame how few real population centres there are to use as stage hosts in northeast Galicia/northwest Asturias around those undiscovered beasts, since unless Vegadeo, Tapia de Casariego or A Pontenova want to host, they're destined to stay that way. A Barranca is usable, Cruz de Barreiros is on the borderline but even if you couldn't use it due to conditions of the road you could go around after A Barranca, from A Pontenova to climb Arredondas (around 5km at 10% itself) and then one of the other sides to Coto de Frades to rejoin your stage. I think I know the cut-through road you've used that avoids going all the way down to Meredo before starting the Pozo de la Nieve, because it's similar to the route I used in a stage a while back, although I had it leading into some other mountain stages so the stage wasn't as brutal as yours (but also had a couple of smaller climbs in the run-in after Pozo de la Nieve).

Stage 3: Almelo - Arnhem, 199km

Monnikensteeg (cat.3) 1,5km @ 3,9% (x3)
Hullekeberg (cat.3) 2,4km @ 3,0% (x2)
Zijpenberg (cat.3) 2,4km @ 3,6% (x2)
Emmapiramide (cat.3) 0,65km @ 6,3% (x2)

The third stage sees us moving down through the Netherlands to an area where climbs are, if not necessarily all that much more challenging, then at least more plentiful. The stage start town of Almelo is one of the main towns of the region of Twente, and home of a small race, the Profronde van Almelo. It is now an amateur race but in its pro days it could be confusing; not often do you see Mark Cavendish and Samuel Sánchez win the same race on the same course in consecutive years! Similarly in past years, specialist sprinters like Max van Heeswijk, Tom Steels and Robbie McEwen rub shoulders on the winners list with all-rounder legends of the sport like Laurent Fignon, Séan Kelly and Hennie Kuiper.

The town is also home to a couple of established cyclists. First, Sunweb's veteran rouleur Tom Stamsnijder, a former Junior Ronde winner who has spent the majority of his pro career as a domestique or breakaway artist, his crowning glory being the TV sprint classification of the legendary 2010 Giro d'Italia. The other is a highly decorated rider on track and road and one of the most feared sprinters in the péloton along with being the queen of the echelon, Kirsten Wild. As a pre-eminent sprinter, her palmarès is enviable in terms of sheer number of victories, but she's also more versatile than many specialist sprinters of her type would be in the men's péloton, also having been 2nd in the Ronde van Vlaanderen back in 2009, winning Omloop, Gent-Wevelgem and also stages of the Giro (although she doesn't typically ride the only remaining Grand Tour); however four overall victories in the Tour of Qatar show her power and ability to sniff out the right move. She's won two World Cup races (Vårgårda in 2010 and Chongming Island in 2014) and one World Championship on the track, to go with countless medals especially in points and scratch races and her favourite track event, the omnium. This goes well with her silver medal from the World Championships Road Race in Doha, of course.

The actual stage may well be won by a sprinter like Kirsten is, of course, but once more we're making sure they have to work for that opportunity, as here as we move towards Gelderland - the province which hosted such a garbage introduction to the 2016 Giro d'Italia - Arnhem and Nijmegen are two of the only places in the Netherlands you could make a course that would make it tricky for the sprinters outside of Limburg, and so it was a travesty that such a poor course was produced. So today, we show what the race could have done. Will it likely still favour sprinters? Yes. Will it give much more opportunities for attacking cycling? Of course. Just as with the Ronde van Gelderland, a women's race in the region which has typically favoured sprinters (Kirsten Wild and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg combine for six wins in the race) yet has still been won from the escape by the occasional wispy grimpeuse type, such as Kasia Niewiadoma's surprise 2016 victory.

Before we get there, however, there's some travelling through Overijssel, and then onto flattish Gelderland terrain, the kind they did use in the Giro. We pass through Rijssen, Deventer, and onto Apeldoorn, where the first intermediate sprint takes place, famed for the Paleis Het Loo, the family home of the House of Orange-Nassau until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962, and now a rijksmonument and museum.

We do not pass the palace directly, however, although we pass relatively close to both it and the new sporting complex which was used when Apeldoorn hosted the 2011 World Track Cycling Championships. The city also has another less, well, regal connection to the royal family, after a 2009 vehicular attack on the royal entourage and assembled crowds, killing eight people in a precursor to a form of attack that has become terrifyingly commonplace in the intervening period. Leaving Apeldoorn, we have the first rise in terrain of the stage; I elected, however, not to categorize Ugchelse Berg, mainly as while low total average gradients are not uncommon around the Netherlands, a max gradient of 4% really makes it an irrelevance. This does take us towards Otterlo and its prized tourist attraction, the Kröller-Müller Museum, a fabulous collection of art and sculpture including countless masterpieces from the likes of Rodin, Picasso, Seurat, Mondrian, Moore and of course the stars of the show are the vast archives of Vincent van Gogh's work, one of the largest collections of the tragic painter's output in the world.

We then head through Ede to the feedzone in Wageningen, another town with famous cycling offspring; former Tour de France and Vuelta a España stage winner Bart Voskamp is notable, but the most famous is the city's current favourite daughter, and a popular rider with fans across the world, Annemiek van Vleuten. Having broken out comparatively late due, ironically, to the reduction in funding as DSB pulled out of the sport, leaving Marianne Vos' backup at Nederland Bloeit relatively sparse, Annemiek broke out at the age of 27 thanks to her TT skills; shorn of her domestique duties, she regularly was able to use her ability to put down the power alone to get away from a group, before their unwillingness to drag a fresh Marianne Vos to the finishing line would mean a lack of cohesion in the chase enabled van Vleuten to stay away. Annemiek's forthright, no-nonsense comments, her comical photo-essays such as that over the poor quality catering at the Tour de Languedoc-Roussillon, and her never-say-die riding had already made her a firm favourite of the fans before she won more hearts with her Olympic heartbreak; having already become the queen of the prologue, Annemiek developed her already strong climbing skills ahead of Rio, but having skipped the Giro and with the Dutch team so strong, her role was expected to be as a sidekick to Vos or van der Breggen; instead Annemiek was the strongest climber out there, matching Mara Abbott, before dropping her on the descent until, on the way to a sure gold, a horror crash left her motionless and face down on the tarmac with a fractured spine.

However, because Annemiek is made mostly of titanium and awesomeness, she was back winning races (on the Muur van Geraardsbergen no less) in barely a month, and, now 34, she has been at her climbing best this season, podiuming the Giro d'Italia for the first time and winning the ASO hillclimb competition on the Col d'Izoard, to add to her formidable collection of World Cup and World Tour wins, which includes the Ronde van Vlaanderen, GP de Plouay and Ronde van Drenthe.

From here it's a bit of rolling terrain that takes us past Papendal and the National Sportcentrum, which since its inauguration with the 1980 Paralympics has become ingrained as a centre for Dutch sports development, especially in the field of athletics, although it also integrates cycling facilities and acts as the training ground for the Vitesse Arnhem football team. Scores of Dutch athletes have got their start through these facilities, and these represent our last significant checkpoint before we enter Arnhem and our closing circuits.

We actually enter the final 34km-long circuit just before its final climb, so there are four climbs on the circuit which is done twice for a total of nine categorized climbs, none of which are especially strenuous but should hopefully help us make this into a less than predictable finale. The riders first arrive in the city of Arnhem from the north, looping around to the west and heading for the centre from its northeast, climbing the ramp of Monnikensteeg before a flowing final run-in to the finish outside the Nederlands Wijnmuseum Arnhem.

The circuit opens up with its flattest part, around 12km flat and mostly straightish roads through Rheden to der Steeg, before we start to take on the climbs in the Veluwezoom national park. The first is the shadowy forest road of the Hullekesberg, which consists of around 700m of climbing, then a period of flat, then a final stretch of false flat leading to 300m at 6%. The overall climb profile yields 2,4km at 3%, but really there's two legitimate small bergs within that. We descend the Posbank road which includes a short steep section near the start, before turning back uphill for what's often thought to be the hardest climb in the region, the Zijpenberg.

Coming at 12,5km from the line the final time, this inconsistent ascent mixes false flats with some more serious gradients - some up to 10% - to allow a springboard to attack from. The descent is slightly wide and has a couple of technical turns before yielding to the steepest of the day's climbs, the short eastern side of Emmapiramide. It also represents the best opportunity to make a decisive move, with 300m at 8% in the middle of its 650m length and without false flat sections, coming with a little over 10km to the line. I see this as being a bit like an easier version of the short final climb in the Firenze World Championships course - a short dig of a climb off the back of a more sustained climbing effort, although obviously the kind of climbs you get in the Netherlands don't really compare with Fiesole.

The descent is more gradual than the climb and takes us down Rosendaalseweg into the city before a final time up the fairly benign final obstacle of Monnikensteeg, with ramps of 8% early in the ascent the only place where a new attack, or a counter to one that is already away from Zijpenberg or Emmapiramide, is likely to gain purchase, but with the summit of this final climb just 4km from the line, getting everything back together for the sprint might be a challenge and it's for this reason that riders like, say, Jonas van Genechten, Luka Mezgec and, yes, Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and Bryan Coquard are more likely to be the ones contesting a sprint here than Marcel Kittel or Matteo Pelucchi. Unfortunately that also means that one of the city's favourite cycling sons wouldn't have been able to contend were he still racing; while the city is also home to former women's pro Mirjam Melchers, who married fellow rider Jean-Paul van Poppel and is the mother to sprinters Boy and Danny van Poppel, in recent years its biggest cycling legacy came in the form of cult hero Kenny Robert van Hummel, whose wildcard exploits in the 2009 Tour de France as the Dutch sprinter in the iconic amateurish Skil jersey, lanterne rouge by hours, waged a solo battle against the time cut day after day, led to the formerly affectionately-dubbed "Kamikaze Kenny" becoming derided as "the worst climber the Tour de France has ever seen". Not only was this comment from organizers swimming against the tide of public opinion as, served a dire racing spectacle in the 2009 Tour, Kenny's perseverance had won him cult status, but it was also highly disrespectful since other riders such as Danilo Napolitano and Angelo Furlan had already been sent home for failing to make the time cuts that Kenny was battling against.

Nevertheless, Kenny was a woeful climber, at the Quaranta level in fact, and so nine categorized climbs here ought to be enough for him. The VAM-berg yesterday would probably not be, he would have the chance to get back on, but from here on in, the sprinters will have a hard time earning their chances to win in my Tour of the Benelux.

Libertine Seguros said:
It really is a shame how few real population centres there are to use as stage hosts in northeast Galicia/northwest Asturias around those undiscovered beasts, since unless Vegadeo, Tapia de Casariego or A Pontenova want to host, they're destined to stay that way. A Barranca is usable, Cruz de Barreiros is on the borderline but even if you couldn't use it due to conditions of the road you could go around after A Barranca, from A Pontenova to climb Arredondas (around 5km at 10% itself) and then one of the other sides to Coto de Frades to rejoin your stage. I think I know the cut-through road you've used that avoids going all the way down to Meredo before starting the Pozo de la Nieve, because it's similar to the route I used in a stage a while back, although I had it leading into some other mountain stages so the stage wasn't as brutal as yours (but also had a couple of smaller climbs in the run-in after Pozo de la Nieve).
Cruz de Barreiros seems fine

The only bad image is this and I think it is definitely doable to climb for a short time:

A Barranca looks fine to me as well, since state of the asphalt looks good.

With the stage after being the rest day and with those hellish ramps I think we can get a GC aciton (2 of 3 ESP climbs of this Vuelta are on stage 10) ough even though stage 11 is a MT stage as well. (not an uphill finish btw.)
Also I've just realized that part between Castromouran and Pontedo in the of the descent of La Bobia is on grass. :redface: :eek:
Though I now fixed it. Now the stage is 2 km or so longer because of that. (In the new route, they go next to a church instead of via El Foxo village to not make the distance extra 2 km longer in addition to the fix, are you talking about that short-cut?)
And yeah, it is a shame indeed that Vuelta doesn't visit those climbs.

Third stage looks of your race looks interesting. They could have climbed those hills in Giro '16 to at least eliminate the likes of Kittel.
Tour of New Zealand Stage 4: Queenstown - The Remarkables 193km

Crown Range Road: 18.6 Km at 3.2% (max 11.8%)
The Remarkables: 13.7 Km at 9.3%

This is the first of the mountaintop finishes of this race, and what a climb this is. We start with a small loop on the roads east of Queenstown before tackling the highest paved mountain pass on South Island, the Crown Range Road.

This whole area is full of mountains and ski stations, and the finish of the stage is one such place. What makes this so special though is that the last 9km of the climb is on sterrato. Some images:


Great asphalt on the first 4km:

Heading into fine gravel:

Climb profile:

A fairly regular climb anyway, and there will probably not be any attacks before the last climb anyway, but hey, we need a MTF.
Tour of New Zealand Stage 5: Franz Josef - Greymouth 216km

Lake Rotokino: 3.8 Km at 4.1%
Maori Creek: 5.3 Km at 4.6%

We now move to the West Coast of South Island. There's pretty much just one road along the coast so that's the one we'll be using. Unfortunately, there's few paved roads over the Southern Alps, given the relatively sparse population it's not really feasible to pave all those roads. Anyway, there's bound to be plenty of nice aerial shots of mountains from the helicopters.

The start is in the small town of Franz Josef, its name taken from the Franz Josef Glacier that's in the area.

The start town:

The stage is a fairly flat one and will be one for the sprinters given that they don't completely drop the ball on that small climb.

The finish will be in the biggest West Coast city of Greymouth.

Pretty straight forward too, no major twists and turns in the last 5km.

Edit: another twist to this tale, crosswinds are very probable along the coast. Carnage please.
Tour of New Zealand Stage 6: Westport - Nelson 216km

Kohatu Kawatiri: 6.9 Km at 3.3% (max 12,4%)
Kohatu SH6: 7.9 Km at 3.1% (max 9,4%)
Moana Avenue: 1.8km at 5.2%

This stage starts in the other only bigger town on the western shores of New Zealand, Westport. From here we take State Highway 6 most of the way through the valleys of the Southern Alps until we get to the Tasman Bay.


The Tasman Bay is home to one of the bigger metropolitan areas with the twin cities of Richmond and Nelson, and we finish in the bigger town of Nelson, also home of the biggest fishing port in all of Australasia. This will probably be a stage for a slightly more versatile sprinter who can get over that hill in the end though, or a solo attack. The last few kms look like this:

Tour of New Zealand Stage 7: Wellington - Wellington 15.45km ITT

3.43 Km al 4.1%
2.40 Km al 5.3%

We're in the capital Wellington now for the only TT of the race, and it's fairly technical and demanding with the climbs. We are also coming off of a rest day to avoid any logistical impossibilities, trying to keep it pretty realistic because we are now on North Island for the remaining four stages. The car ferry usually takes about four hours from Picton to Wellington and the drive to Picton from Nelson is probably a bit more than two hours.

Because if its technicality, I can't see many racing on TT bikes here. We're going to see road bikes with TT handlebars most likely, and it's actually the best logistically anyway.

The start location, The Beehive:

Finish at the Waterfront:


Come to think of it, would make a pretty decent WC course if it were less technical. May be a future project, lots of these cities are extremely good candidates actually.
Thanks fauneria :)

Tour of New Zealand Stage 8: Lower Hutt - Palmerston North 184km

Kaitoke: 3.0 Km at 6.4%
Rimutaka Hill: 6.4 Km at 5.4%
Mount Bruce: 8.4 Km at 1.8%
Pahiatua Track: 10.1 Km at 2.7% (max 7.8%)

We move a bit north of Wellington for the start of this stage and it's mostly about moving the race further north towards Auckland. Not too much to say about this.

The finishing 10km:

If you're wondering about that small bump in the end, it's 0.7km @ 6.7%. Probably not enough for anyone to sneak away given the non-technical run in. This will be a mass sprint, well maybe a few sprinters would fall off, like Kittel could potentially fail but the sprint field in this race probably wouldn't be very deep anyway. If anyone falls off it's because of the climb before and not the small bump anyway. Someone might try, hopefully, just praying for some action.

Palmerston North:

This city is actually quite significant in terms of population. Home to more than 80,000 it's now mostly a university town and a military town but has a significant agricultural importance as well.
DACH Rundfahrt stage 19: Luzern - Bern (208 km)
category: flat stage

Since I don't want to scare potential attackers for stage 18 I decided to put an easier stage after it.
The stage starts in Bern and first heads northwards towards the cities Zug and later Zürich where the first intermediate sprint takes place. After two uncategorized ascents there are 4 categorized climbs in a row, one of them even 3rd category. After this pretty hard section there is a 2nd intermediate sprint, this time in Aarau.
Although the last kilometers have been very hard these climbs will probably not be that impactful since there are still over 80 kilometers to go at this point. On a small bump less than 20 km from the finish the riders pass the golden kilometer which will this time mostly be interesting for sprinters fighting for the points jersey.

The finish is in Bern and the final kilometers will be exactly like in the tour 2016 or the tds this year, which means that this will most likely be a tricky sprint. First the riders ride through the historic centre which means there are some sharp turns and cobble sections. GC contenders will have to be alert due to possible splits in the peloton. After the bunch rides over the river Aare they face a short ascent which can be used for a late attack by a guy like Cancellara. It will most likely also eliminate pure sprinters which means that the stage will most likely end in a reduced bunch sprints around one kilometer after the little bump.
I still have to finish my Tour of Germany.

Deutschlandrundfahrt, 9. Etappe: Heidelberg - Frankfurt am Main: 131km, flat

A transfer brings the peloton to one of the culturally most important cities of Germany: Heidelberg.

This town will be the start of a short final stage to one of the economically most important cities of Germany: Frankfurt am Main.

Flat for most of it, the only difficulty of this stage will be the Mammolshainer berg, well known from the Rund um den Henninger Turm (or wathever it's called nowadays). Still, since it tops out with 24km to go, only the worst climbers of the pack will be shelled from the back. We can expect a (slightly) reduced bunch sprint.

Tour of New Zealand Stage 9: Hastings - Ohakune Mountain Road 196km

Waiwhare Climb: 723 m, 8.2 Km at 5.0%
Kuripango: 2.6 Km at 9.1%
Manawatu Road: 3.4 Km at 4.5%
Altura Gardens: 4.5 Km at 7.9%
Erewhon Road: 5.5 Km at 5.7%
Ohakune Mountain Road: 15.3 Km at 6.2%

We move a bit northwest and start in the town of Hastings, close to the town of Napier. These two cities form an urban area home to more than 130,000 people. Napier is right by the coast and Hastings a bit more inland, and both these cities are a treat. Hastings:

This stage will be the final mountain test and it will all probably end up being contested on the final climb, but if some team wants to make it really difficult beforehand they have some opportunities to thin the field before that long flat. Maybe a break goes there and the peloton waits until the final climb to bring them back.

The finish is actually the highest paved road in all of New Zealand too (so no gravel this time) and is on the slopes of the active volcano Ruapehu. Let's hope there won't be an eruption or something.

The final climb:

Tongariro National Park, where the finish is at:
Tour of New Zealand Stage 10: Hamilton - Auckland 179km

Mangatawhiri Climb: 2.4 Km at 5.5%
Clevedon Climb: 1.3 Km at 9.5%

It's time for the final stage of this race and we will finish in the biggest city of New Zealand, Auckland. It's the only city with a population that exceeds a million in New Zealand. But first of all we start in another large town, Hamilton. It's home to more than 160,000 too and is the fourth largest city in New Zealand:

We go a bit off just to try avoid the Stage Highway 1 and take a little detour than the quickest way into town, so we also get a few small climbs. Coming into Auckland we hit a circuit that's 17km long, after passing through the finish once. It looks like this:

Parnell Rise: 1000m @ 5.5%, summit at 14.2km to go
Portland Road: 850m @ 7.8%, summit at 10.6km to go
Kepa Road: 500m @ 5.7%, summit at 6.4km to go


Portland Rd:

Kepa Rd:

Finish right at Ferry Terminal:

Could be a good WC course too, a sprinter who can get over some bumps will win.

Great Tour of Zealand. The Remarkables can be a very nice addition to 'Gravel climbs' thread.
La Vuelta a Espana Stage 11 Luarca-Villablino 197,6 km Mountain

Alto de Bustellan (1st Category, 1005 m, 13.3 Km at 7.0%, Km 35.5)
Collado del Muro/Las Estacas (2nd Category, 735 m, 6.1 Km at 6.5%, Km 73.2)
La Corredoria (1st Category, 884 m, 7.4 Km at 8.4%, Km 95.0)
Puertos del Marabio (1st Category, 1080 m, 11.8 Km at 6.8%, Km 123.3)
Puerto de San Lorenzo (Hors Catégorie, 1346 m, 11.2 Km at 8.0%, Km 145.4)
Puerto de Somiedo (1st Category, 1487 m, 13.4 Km at 6.2%, Km 175.3)

A very hard mountain stage with 5700+m desnivel and 1 ESP, 4 1C, 1 2C climbs.

The first climb of the day is Alto de Bustellan. With 13,3 km at %7, it is a very tough 1st category climb. A good breakaway can be established here.
Alto de Bustellan (the part between Ayones and Los Corros is different than this profile though, but the road is still asphalt (I looked at both Google Earth and Google Streetview)) :

Then comes Collado del Muro. With 6,1 km at %6,5 it is a 2nd category climb. Couldn't find a profile though.

The third climb of the day is La Corredoira. With 7,4 km at %8,4 and gradients of %17-18 it is a very difficult 1C climb.
La Corredoira:

The next climb of the day is Puerto del Maravio. With 11,8 km at %6,8 it is another difficult 1C climb with 2 kms of %11,1 with max gradient at %17.
Puerto del Maravio (from km 8,5 or so) :

The penultimate climb of the day is Puerto de San Lorenzo. With 11,2 km at %8, it is the only Cat. ESP climb of the day and the last Cat. ESP climb of the Vuelta. Also, the kms between 6-11 are %11,2 with parts of %14-15.
Puerto de San Lorenzo:

After the descent of San Lorenzo, the last climb of the day to Puerto de Somiedo starts. With 13,4 km at %6,2 it is another difficult 1st climb.
Puerto de Somiedo (all of it is ridden (or maybe just after the first intersection before km 1) but only the last 13,4 km categorized) :

After the summit of Somiedo there is a mixture of descent/false flat of 22,6 km to Villablino. And the great thing about this stage is it is probably the queen stage of the race and even though the next mountain stages will be very hard as well, some of those have the last climb pretty easy, have the hard climb of the day quite far from the finish (mind you, none of those climbs later in the race are as hard as San Lorenzo) so that the riders need to attack today.


Time for a day of rest for GC riders.
La Vuelta a Espana Stage 12 Villablino-Oviedo 201 Km Flat

Murias de Paredes (3rd Category, 1436 m, 13.9 Km at 3.2%, Km 16.9)
Collada de Valdeteja (3rd Category, 1380 m, 8.8 Km at 3.3%, Km 109.4)
Collada de Carmenes (3rd Category, 1337 m, 3.9 Km at 5.1%, Km 123.3)
El Padrun (4th Category, 380 m, 4.0 Km at 4.4%, Km 185.2)
Alto de la Manzaneda (3rd Category, 378 m, 3.7 Km at 6.3%, Km 194.2)

A flat stage with some difficulties in the final. A great stage for stagehunters-sprinters-puncheurs who prepare for WC.
Collada de Valdeteja (I started to categorize the climb 2 km earlier than this profile) :

Collada de Carmenes (I started to categorize the climb 400 m earlier than this profile) :

El Padrun (I didn't categorize the last 500m) :

Alto de Manzaneda (first 200m not categorized) :

There are only 7 kms left after Manzaneda, some of it false flat, some of it descent and some of it flat. The last
400m of the stage looks to be %5 or so.

EDIT: I put the profile of Carmenes twice instead of putting the profile of Padrun. :redface: Fixed now.


Stage 4: Venray - Kerkrade, 215km

Slingerberg (cat.3) 1,3km @ 4,8%
Raarberg (cat.3) 1,8km @ 3,9%
Cauberg (cat.3) 850m @ 7,5%
Keutenberg (cat.3) 1,6km @ 5,3%
Schweiberg (cat.3) 2,4km @ 4,5%
Camerig (cat.2) 3,2km @ 4,8%
Kruisberg (Botterweck)(cat.3) 700m @ 8,3%
Eyserbosweg (cat.3) 1,1km @ 7,4%
Keutenberg (cat.3) 1,6km @ 5,3%
Kruisberg (Botterweck)(cat.3) 700m @ 8,3%
Eyserbosweg (cat.3) 1,1km @ 7,4%
Keutenberg (cat.3) 1,6km @ 5,3%
Kruisberg (Botterweck)(cat.3) 700m @ 8,3%
Eyserbosweg (cat.3) 1,1km @ 7,4%
Oude Hulsberg (cat.3) 1,0km @ 8,0%
Duivels Bosch (cat.3) 800m @ 4,2%
Duivels Bosch (cat.3) 800m @ 4,2%

Most Eneco/Binck Bank Tours... and in fact the majority of sizable stage races that incorporate Dutch territory in general will include a stage through the Limburg region, utilising the many small hills and rises that the region has to offer, especially bearing in mind that lumpy terrain comes at a high premium in the Netherlands and so it is by far the most convenient place to set a race in order to provide selective racing. Most stages through the region will inevitably be given the slightly derogatory designation of a "mini-Amstel Gold Race" after by far the most famous race to pass through the Limburg hills, but that remains the race par excellence for the region, so inevitably the races that use the region will be compared. Also, none of Amstel Gold's key note climbs have the same sense of an event that the Ronde van Vlaanderen has when they arrive at the Koppenberg, since other races are pushed away from using it, and Flanders Classics have been able to safeguard a bit of magic there. Not so much with the climbs of Amstel Gold, which are in frequent use, but that still remains a more important race than to win, say, a stage of the Ster ZLM Toer through the region, and similarly the victory in an actual Amstel Gold Race is more revered on the palmarès of Anna van der Breggen than the Cauberg stage of the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour on Kasia Niewiadoma's, even though apart from the final few hundred metres the races were identical.

Anyway, more on that when we get to it. We've moved out of Gelderland and will be spending the whole day in Limburg, but it's worth noting that not all of Limburg is hilly, so before we can start piling on the obstacles, the riders have a chance to ease themselves into the day as they take on a flat first hour as they leave the scenic town of Venray. This particular town has been chosen as it is the hometown of a famous rider once more, this time of 1980s star Peter Winnen.

Fighting his way through the climbs of the 1980s, Winnen was born in the village of Ysselsteyn within the municipality of Venray, and scored no fewer than six GT top 10s, four in the Tour and two in the Giro. He didn't win often - a lack of sprint wherewithal and an absence of one-day racing background harmed him in this respect - but he did win big a couple of times, winning Tour stages in each year consecutively 1981 to 1983, including twice at the mythical summit of l'Alpe d'Huez. Apart from an anomalous national championship in 1990, his palmarès of wins are almost all accumulated at the Grand Tours and his favourite warmup race, the Tour de Suisse; not bad for a lowlander who grew up in a completely flat area.

Winnen also has two slightly more unusual things to point out about his career. One is that he was the first rider to ever manage to podium both the biggest race to the East of the Berlin Wall (the Friedensfahrt, or Course de la Paix) and to the West of it (the Tour de France), having been second in the 1980 Peace Race behind short-lived Soviet sensation Yuri Barinov, before making 3rd in the 1983 Tour; only Piotrs Ugrumovs (3rd, 1988 Friedensfahrt, 2nd, 1994 Tour), Zenon Jaskuła (3rd, 1989 Friedensfahrt, 3rd, 1993 Tour) and, long after the race fell from grace, Raimondas Rumšas (2nd, 1999 Friedensfahrt, 3rd, 2002 Tour de France) can match that achievement (though Michele Scarponi became the first person to actually win both a Friedensfahrt and a GT of course). And the other is that he is the reason Movistar's Colombian climbing helper Winner Anacona has his fabulous name, due to a combination of his father's fandom for the Dutch grimpeur and an erroneous spelling from the registrar who didn't get the reference.

For the most part, however, the first part of the stage is a quiet one, because all of the important stuff is crammed into the final two thirds of it. The transition point comes at the town of Sittard-Geleen, which has in recent years become a regular host of the race using its very short repechos as there are no more sustained climbs around the town. In fact, Sittard-Geleen has hosted the Tour of the Benelux every year since its inception, in a variety of formats, including time trials both short (2008) and long (2007, 2013), Team Time Trials (2012, 2016) and road stages. Here's the 2015 stage won by Johan le Bon. Here, I don't give the town a stage finish, but the town is also indelibly linked with cycling, and many pro riders have come from the town, such as Tour stage winner Jan Krekels, former amateur World Champion Danny Nelissen, 1950s pro Jan Nolten who won stages of both the Tour and Giro, and perhaps most prominently former Milan-San Remo winner Arie den Hartog, and so it would have been wrong to omit it from the route.

From here, the riders will be on terrain well-known to them, as we head for the heuvellingen. The first obstacle is the fairly benign Slingerberg, sometimes also called the Hussenberg after the village at the summit. It is a regular feature of both the Amstel Gold Race and the Eneco Tour's stages to Sittard-Geleen, in both featuring in relatively benign points in the race. It's also well known to the Ster-ZLM-Toer; until 2013 it was a tradition that stage 2 of that race would be a mostly flat stage that would feature the Slingerberg as a main obstacle heading into Sittard, but the race has branched out from that formerly fairly rigid protocol in recent years. This is followed in short order by the Lange Raarberg, a more benign but wider variation on the Raarberg that is somewhat longer than the Slingerberg but also more benign, with a similar steepest section and more false flat.

Descending from here takes us to the truest legend of the region, of course, which is Valkenburg and its most legendary possession, the Cauberg. This is a staple of cycling and, until this season, the final and most decisive climb of the Amstel Gold Race, whether the finishing line is drawn in Maastricht as in the early days of the race, at the summit of the Cauberg as until 2012, or a kilometre down the road in Berg en Terblijt as it has been since (with the skipping of the Cauberg from the final loop introduced this year). It's also commonly seen in the Eneco/Binck Bank Tour, as well as having become a staple final stage of the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour; patterned after Koppenbergcross the hill has hosted a cyclocross race since 2011, and the famous hill has hosted the World Championships Road Race on no fewer than five occasions.

The first of these was a win for Marcel Kint in 1938; he was succeeded by his compatriot Briek Schotte, before Jan Raas gave the Dutch home fans a reason to celebrate with his victory in 1979. Since then it has returned to being an outsider's plaything, though, with Oskar Camenzind winning for Switzerland in 1998 before the modern king of the Cauberg, Philippe Gilbert, won the race he was so clearly built to win in the most recent iteration of a Valkenburg World Championships, in 2012, to go with four victories in the Amstel Gold Race. The Dutch fans did have something to celebrate, however, as this was 2012, so we were in peak nobody can stop Vos time, and Merckx proved at her most unbeatable on home roads with a rainbow jersey at stake - it had famously eluded her time and again since her breakthrough win in 2006, but she was not going to be denied here, putting on an absolute exhibition on the Cauberg.

The famous climb has also seen Grand Tour racing on three occasions; the Tour paid a visit for the first time in 1992, when Gilles Delion won in that bizarre edition that celebrated the EU by spending as little time in France, or in mountains, as possible. The course jaune returned in 2006, with this time Matthias Kessler taking the spoils. It also featured - twice - in the 2009 Vuelta stage from Venlo to Liège, the only year in recent memory where the Vuelta has used the Tour's GPM classifications and incorporated cat.4 climbs (normally there's only ESP, cat.1, 2 and 3, leading to a lot of uncategorized ramps and repechos). Officially its stats are 1,2km @ 5,8%, but Heuvelsfietsen break it down to the essentials:

From here, however, there's still a LONG way to go. And I then follow it up with the first visit to my favourite Amstel Gold Race climb, the Keutenberg. The Keutenberg is, if you like, the Col de la Madeleine of the Limburg area; an oasis in a desert of overused climbs, it is a legendary climb in its own right and yet has managed to avoid some of the feeling of predictability that its neighbours suffer from. It features possibly the steepest of all gradients in the famous Limburg one-dayer, reaching up to 22%, but its overall stats are meagre, since at the end of that brutal first section, rather than give the riders a respite, it continues to climb at low gradient for the best part of a further kilometre.

From here we start a large circuit which will then incorporate a shorter one - don't worry, this doesn't get as complicated as the Amstel Gold Race route, which is allegedly created by race organizers dropping a plate of spaghetti from a height onto a scale model of the region. The objective of this longer circuit is to include some more drawn-out climbs, with first the Schweiberg and then, after that, our first cat.2 climb of the race, the western edge of the Camerig climb which is an Amstel Gold regular. These are primarily here for attritional purposes before we get into the first of the two circuits designed to cause action.


From here we join into a circuit which takes in three short climbs that are nevertheless among the steepest in the Amstel Gold Race and hence hopefully plenty selective. We will do two and a half laps of this specific circuit, which is 18,5km long and with the small squad sizes should hopefully break things up by the time the riders finish the last of the circuit climbs with around 32km remaining. The three climbs on the circuit are Kruisberg by its toughest, southwestern face (also known as Botterweck), which is short but includes some very steep gradients, and two more famous ascents, the legendary Eyserbosweg, slightly longer but no less steep, and the Keutenberg which I mentioned earlier. Between them, there's a fairly tricky descent from the Kruisberg (which backs directly into Eyserbosweg so no respite), and some twisty downhill from Eyserbosweg and narrow roads from Keutenberg to Gulpen.

Kruisberg (Botterweck) - @ 72km, 54km & 35km remaining:

Eyserbosweg - @ 70km, 52km & 33km remaining:

Keutenberg - @ 98km, 62km & 43km remaining:

As you can readily imagine, these roads should have hopefully torn the race to shreds before we head away from that short circuit towards the German border, on a gradual downhill false flat broken up only by the climb of Oude Hulsberg with 27km left. This climb is similar in terms of its overall statistics to those on the circuit, although its steepest gradients don't get quite so brutal; it doesn't patch itself up with false flat though, so it's a climb all through its duration.

From here we head past Limburg Stadion and head directly for the border town of Kerkrade, where the gradients may ease up but we continue with some rolling terrain as we take on a second short circuit around the town. Kerkrade does not have any famous cycling sons or daughters, however it has some reasonably interesting cycling history, having introduced a tricky circuit in order to host the Nederlandse Kampioenschap (Dutch national championships) in 2012, with the championships then returning in 2013 to reuse the same course. The main obstacle is the 800m, narrow forested climb of the Duivels Bosch, which for the most part isn't steep, but kicks up at the start. We are exactly cloning that 10,8km circuit and doing two laps of it after entering the town. The actual circuit features three climbs, with two other repechos to deal with; Mont Chèvre is short but is along similar lines to the digs we see in Sittard-Geleen stages but slightly harder - its overall stats are 600m @ 6,0% - while the up-and-down nature of the Haanraderweg climb means that the chasers may get the chance to see their prey as they approach the Duivels Bosch climb.

When used in the national championships, this Kerkrade circuit was very decisive. In 2012, the difficulty of several laps of the climb broke up Rabobank's hoped-for hegemony on the course as it was driven to an every-man-for-himself slugfest. Niki Terpstra eventually won the race, nearly two minutes ahead of the chasing duo of Lars Boom and Bert-Jan Lindeman, with a Wesley Kreder-Robert Gesink-Sebastian Langeveld trio another minute back and then nobody else within eight minutes. The women's race was even more brutal, with the climb forcing a selection of van Vleuten, Brand and Vos in short order, with Annemiek soloing away; Vos eventually dropped Brand and chased but never quite reached her teammate, with Brand eventually losing three minutes yet still being 3rd; Amy Pieters at six minutes, and the duo of Sanne van Paassen and Mascha Pijnenborg, over nine minutes back, were the only riders inside ten minutes. The following year, Brand was with Vos and van Vleuten on Rabobank, and so when she tried the same attack, she wasn't marked, and the previous year's dominant duo came in 30 seconds behind Lucinda as we were into prime Marianne gifting mode at that point. A chasing quartet of Pieters, Koedooder and Gunnewijk being monitored by Thalita de Jong kept the Rabo team honest, however, only just a minute and a half back, so it wasn't the slaughter of before.

Nor was the men's race, which was rainy and difficult, but the péloton seemed to have a better grasp on the demands of the course, this time 23 riders finished inside the 8 minute mark, with Johnny Hoogerland breaking the shackles of a chase consisting of Tom Dumoulin and Sebastian Langeveld to finish ahead solo, with Ligthart, Terpstra, Kelderman, Slagter and Kroon about a minute back from the winner. Now, my stage is harder than just loops of the circuit, but at the same time an elite WT race péloton will have more depth than most national championships races, as there isn't the same number of riders foraging in very small groups or alone, or small teams trying to interject themselves. The types of rider coming to the fore here will be interesting, as shorn of the restriction to just Dutch riders, we should likely see versatile Classics men like van Avermaet, Sagan, Oss, Kwiatkowski, Gilbert, Naesen and so on mixing it up with the first time we see the puncheur types and hilly escape artists like Gallopin, Wellens, Teuns, and yes, the likes of Dumoulin too, try and get into the mix.

La Vuelta a Espana Stage 13 Oviedo-Monte Naranco 39,9 Km ITT

El Violeo-Lampaya (3rd Category, 350 m, 2.7 Km at 8.7%, Km 10.2)
El Escamplero (3rd Category, 255 m, 2.1 Km at 7.1%, Km 19.1)
El Violeo (2nd Category, 442 m, 3.4 Km at 9.1%, Km 31.9)
Alto del Naranco (3rd Category, 589 m, 3.8 Km at 7.3%, Arrive)
PS: All time checkpoints are at the top of the climbs.

The third and last TT of the race. But since this one is very hilly with 4 categorized climbs, pure climbers shouldn't lose too much time if they are in good form (a minute at most imo unless someone delivers a huge TT like Vino Albi '07 or Dumoulin Montefalco '16) and the stage should go to a stage racer instead of a pure TTer.

After a rolling 7 km or so, the first climb of the day is El Violeo-Lampaya from Llampaxuga. With 2,7 km at %8,7 it is a 3rd category climb with parts of %14-15.
El Violeo-Lampaya (till the intersection at km 2,76) :

After the descent and a very short flat part, the 2nd and easiest climb of the day, El Escamplero starts. With 2,1 km at %7,1 it is another 3rd category climb. I couldn't find a profile though.

Then comes a part of false flat before a 1,5 km or so descent and a short flat part before we start the hardest climb of the day, El Violeo por Branes. With 3,4 km at %9,1 and with parts of %19,5-20,5 and with max gradient of %23 this is definitely a 2nd category.

After a short descent and false flat, the last climb of the day, Monte Naranco starts. With 3,8 km at %7,3 this is a 3rd category climb with %12 max.
If you want Violeo+Naranco in one piece (only till km 11,5, where the stage ends) :


Monte Naranco:
DACH Rundfahrt stage 20: Bern - Solothurn (191 km)
category: high mountain stage

Stage 20 is the last chance for gc contenders to get back time and to turn around the general classification. The stage starts where stage 19 finished, in Bern. The first 50 km are flat and end with an intermediate sprint in Neuenburg. After they pass this city the riders ride into the Jura mountains, the mountain range on the north western border of Switzerland and France. The first climb the riders tackle is Chaumont. While not exactly brutal this is still a quite hard 1st category climb with a 5 km long section of over 9%. Only a few kilometers after this first mountain the athletes already face the 2nd first category climb the Col du Chasseral (the section between 9 and 3 km to go is the one which gets climbed in this stage). Tbh this stage could also be 2nd category but anyway there are again some very steep sections which will make this pass quite hard.

After the descent there is a series of slightly easier climbs, a 2nd a 3rd and a 4th category ascent. Still the number of climbs and the fact that there is never really a place to rest a bit will hurt the riders. After the 4th category Col de Pierre Pertuis the road flattens out a bit, but not for very long since the next 1st category climb, the Grenchenberg starts. The climb starts with 5 kilometers at over 10% so if a team wants to put the hammer down early, this is where they can do it.

If a gc rider has absolutely nothing to lose and wants to try a suicidal attack Contador style, he could already attack here as well. The intermediate sprint in Grenchen after the descent might be another motivation for that.
After the intermediate sprint the finale of the stage starts with two absolutely brutal ramps. First up is the last 1st category climb of the day, the ridiculously steep Weissenstein.

If you want to crack a rider this is a perfect place to do this. Heavy weight climbers will fear attacks by lightweights and they should be afraid because if you crack here you might lose minutes. The golden kilometer after the descent could be another reason to attack here already. However the stage isn't over yet and there is still another climb to come and wait, did I call the Weissenstein ridiculously steep? Well actually this is ridiculously steep:

This is the Balmberg. Due to its length this is only a 2nd category ascent but nonetheless you can definitely create carnage on this pass and test other gc contenders one last time. As I already mentioned, you don't want to crack on the Weissenstein, since if you already crack there you could lose minutes even on only 3 km's.
The finish is in Solothurn and there we will finally know the winner of the DACH Rundfahrt. There is still a stage to go but that one will only be a typical parade stage at the end of a gt.