The 156km stage features four other categorised climbs (and plenty of uncategorised ones) before reaching the foot of the Alto de la Lejana. The official race profile marks this as a 5.74% climb but that doesn't really tell the full story and if riders havnt had a chance to do their recon work here, then they could be caught out.
The climb itself is actually quite short in length - at 7.4km it isn't exactly alpine - but it is long enough for the better climbers to put in a sustained attack and maybe snatch a few seconds from their rivals ahead of tomorrows slightly larger summit finish which is likely to decide the race.
Of the first half of the climb 2.5 kilometres of it average a respectable 7.3% already well ahead of the advertised 5.7% and its gradients like this which often present a springboard for the Contadors of this world - those who prefer a relatively constant-just-hard-enough gradient to attack and produce some splits within the leading group and maybe shed a few of the weaker climbers who might have been productive in a short sharp sprint to the finish. The problem with this method is that Richie Portes Sky team are likely to start the climb with at least a couple of strong domestiques at the front and shedding the likes of Kiryienka and Sergio Henao within the 7km climb is close to impossible, let alone within the first 3km of the climb.
But that still isn't the full story of the climb, because whilst the mid-section may level out slightly there is a whole different horror still to come. The final 475 metres of the climb really ramp up, averaging a lung busting 21% gradient. This is where the next wave of attacks is likely as those who prefer the real steep stuff try to kick all the way to the finish. A finish designed for Joaquim Rodriguez? Yes - but he isn't here. Instead look for other explosive climbers - if I could pick out one rider who is likely to make their move here is would be the inform Nairo Quintana of Movistar - the young Colombian is a phenomenal climber, even on the long steady gradients but he possesses a kick that few others have when the road really starts to point skywards. Indeed the absence of Rodriguez may make this finish slightly more interesting.
|A stage for Quintana?|