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Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2021: Stage 17 (Unquera - Lagos de Covadonga, 185.8 km)

No more hiding, it's time for a 2-day punch in the Cantabrian mountains that will probably decide the race. On the first day the riders will tackle 4 climbs (3rd cat, 2x1st cat and Esp cat) finishing in Lagos de Covadonga, one of most iconic Spanish climbs and interesting tourist attraction. In the middle there will be two ascents of 1st cat Collada Llomena, a hard and steep climb as well.



Collada Llomena:


Lagos de Covadonga:



source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipe...OVADONGA_8.jpg/800px-LAGOS_DE_COVADONGA_8.jpg

I'm expecting serious GC action. The top guys can't neglect Eiking threat anymore. I think Movistar and Ineos will ride aggresively to put time into him and other contenders and the race will explode. They won't be saving their energy and wait until Gamoniteiru. They can't afford luxury of a good TT (unlike Primoz). That being said, I think Primoz won't just wait and follow wheels: if he feels good he will attack or counter-attack in last kilometers to put some time into Movistar guys before Gamoniteiru. Hopefully it be interesting on these steep sections of Covadonga.
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Lots of climbs in the region have been changed to their Asturian name this year, so Altu de Hortigueru isn't actually a new climb for the race.


Next up is Collada Llomena. Like Mirador del Fito in the 2018 Covadonga stage, won by Thibaut Pinot, it's climbed twice. Being one of the harder cat. 1 climbs of the race, the double ascent should greatly whittle down the peloton.


Then it's time for the real deal, the second of three ESP climbs of this edition, the mythical Lagos de Covadonga. Almost every source of profiles online insists on drawing the line at Lago Ercina, but in practice we finish slightly lower down, like every year, as in the profile linked here - the forum software refuses to post the image.

For those in need of a more detailed profile: the one below matches as far as Lago Enol, 12.4 kilometres in, then the road continues to descend for another 200 metres before rising once more at 4.6% for the final 500 metres.

Sprinters apart from Jakobsen will quit en masse before the stage. Then Eiking will attack the final climb and keep the red jersey, extending his lead.
That's right, I almost forgot we have this nice subplot of how long Eiking can hold onto red (in virtual status during the stage or by the end) and whether G. Martin might do better on the long climbs and claim virtual red before Roglic grabs it by the end of the stage, or the following day.