Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2021: Stage 18 (Salas - Alto d'El Gamoniteiru, 162.6 km)

Some very tired legs versus one very hard mountain. Oh, and it's also the queen stage.

The run-in is somewhat uninspiring, with the usual Puertu de San Llaurienzu/Puerto de San Lorenzo...

...followed by the even-more-usual Altu/Alto de la Cobertoria, from its easier western side...

...then a mediocre loop around Pola de Lena, following a similar pattern to the Pico Villuercas stage: descend the lower part of the final climb, then do an easy section before taking on the easy side of a climb before descending to the start of the final climb. In this case, that easier climb is Altu la Segá o del Cordal/Alto del Cordal, from the side that we usually see descended in Angliru stages.

Then it's time for what is probably the single hardest climb of the season (certainly if we exclude smaller races), Altu d'El Gamoniteiru/Alto del Gamoniteiro. Fans and Javier Guillén alike have spent years waiting for the logistics of this finish to be figured out, as this is probably the hardest climb you can do in Spain without travelling to the Canaries or doing the impossible and finishing atop Pico Veleta. This isn't the ideal stage or placement for its introduction, but it should still be carnage.

The cyclists weren't saving themselves before this monster, were they? :D I don't think any other GC climb (except cancelled Crostis) has as long section with 10% of average gradient as this one (14 km). Cumulated fatigue will be huge on Gamoniteiru so some guys may lose a lot of time. It will be interesting to see how Roglic and Bernal respond tomorrow. They may pay for it (especially Egan). Primoz will try to control the situation - even if he feels worse he has a considerable margin and can limit his lossess. Movistar guys will try to attack Roglic but at some point they may just settle for podium places. The GC situation is more set than before and, despite difficulty of the last climb, mindset of top-guys and their level of fatigue may result in smaller time gaps and less drama than today (unless one big guy cracks completely).
Obviously a super hard climb, but under normal circumstances the not really steep central part and the fact that the last km is the steepest one will turn it into a bit of a waiting game. That said, after what happened today it's either huge gaps or a really horrible 2014 Zoncolan style waiting game because the winner is set in stone and everyone else is pretty much dead, nothing in between.
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Sad Trobaniello noises
Trobaniello with rain would be more cancelled than it currently is.

As a recreational rider, the difference for me between a constant 8 pct and constant 10 pct is huge. I go anaerobic so quickly at 10 pct but I can hold 8 pct just under threshold for a pretty long time. I think it's just a mental barrier of seeing double digits..
You need a bigger sprocket.
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Rain again. Probably.
Watch out for that Cordal descent.

Also, 7th San Lorenzo and 8th Cobertoria in the past 12 years coming up. It's like other climbs do not exist.
I'm a firm defender of San Lorenzo + Cobertoria because they're two hard climbs that have often served well in getting legs tired before the final climbs (Angliru, Farrapona, etc.). In the Vuelta, that's sadly not commonplace.
So on the one side, the only real way someone can have a go at winning this race is by sending riders up the road and giving it the beans on La Cobetoria. That's a hell of an ask from a modern GC rider. And the one man we know has appetite for that kind of destruction just threw himself at a wall today.

On the flip side no matter how shiny the paint looked at the end of that, the wall took a pretty big hit today. If neither Lopez nor Mas nor Haig nor Yates finds it within themselves to pickup his kitchen sink and see if the wall can take another hit of the proper stuff I would be genuinely dissapointed. But first we have to see if Pidcock or Mader or Verona or someone can up the ante tomorrow.
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This final climb can be regarded as the brother of fearsome Angliru. Gamoniteiru's top is just 4 km from Angliru's finish. Both are located in a limestone massif called Sierra del Aramo. Gamoniteiru is the highest peak of the massif (1791 m ASL). Another peak with the same prefix is Gamonal (1712 m ASL) - it's near Angliru col (initially it was an alternate name of that climb).

There is also a description of trekking in this area
Last year I could have possibly hiked there but unfortunately had to cancel my travel to the Cantabrian mountains due to the pandemic.