For the second straight day, the Vuelta a Andalucía ends with a summit finish, and steady rain and cold weather are set to make the 5.4-kilometre ascent to Allanadas even tougher. The big question is whether race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and his arch-rival Chris Froome (Sky), second overall, will once again fight it out on the final climb as they did on the Alto de Hazallanas on Friday.
Although the first part of the Saturday’s 199.8 kilometre stage has only three classified third category climbs as the Vuelta a Andalucia loops north through the hilly province of Jáen, riders will have found that the route is much tougher than it looks on paper, with barely a metre of flat. Narrow, often poorly surfaced roads, coupled with the rain, will further increase the stage’s difficulty.
As for the final climb itself, although classified first category, it is far shorter than the 16.9 kilometre ascent the riders tackled to Hazallanas yesterday. That said, after a fairly straightforward first two kilometres through the village of La Guardia and out through the surrounding fields, the opening segment, whilst twisting and with a couple of ramps at 17 percent, flattens out completely in several places.
A sharp turn right, 3.5 kilometres from the line, is where the climbing begins in earnest, with abrupt changes of gradient, ranging from 20 percent to 12 percent, making it very hard to tackle at a steady pace. There are no false flats, and the narrow road is better surfaced than Hazallanas and there is no snow. With 400 metres of vertical climbing in 3.5 kilometres, any weaknesses will be quickly exposed.
The final chunk of the climb is marginally easier as it relents on the approach to the finish, close to a hermitage at the summit, where the road ends, 998 metres above sea level.
The poor weather forecast all week has finally arrived and will make the climb even tougher for the peloton. Steady rain for most of the day was already making life unpleasant, and just a few hours before the finish, thick fog covered the entire final climb. The intermittent freezing rain showers continued and temperatures stood at just 4 degrees above zero at the summit – a repeat of the poor weather experienced by the Vuelta a Andalucia when it last visited the Allanadas in 2010, a stage won by Sergio Pardilla of Spain.