By Bjorn Haake on the Alto de L'Angliru
Alberto Contador put his stamp on the Vuelta a España on Saturday with an impressive attack up the famous Alto de L'Angliru. The Angliru, with its steepest pitch of 23.5 percent, brought the showdown battle everyone had hoped for. There was no hiding and it was every man for himself.
Contador had set his eyes on the Angliru prize even before the Vuelta. "This was the stage that I had dreamed about the most. I think it is the most mythical mountain in all of the Spanish races."
To conquer the Angliru's torturous grades, Contador (which translates as 'the accountant') meticulously planned his winning ride. "Fortunately I could do the climb in training beforehand, so I knew it fairly well."
No amount of knowledge could make the climb any easier, Contador confessed. "The Angliru is very hard. It is a very impressive climb, with very steep grades." The Spaniard's fluid riding style belied the difficulty of the ascent, and he rode out of the saddle and away from his competitors, making the climb almost look easy.
The throng of fans who came up on foot or on bicycles probably knew the reality. Many had to get off their bicycles at the steeper sections. Even some of the cars by the organisation that were trying to make it up to the finish had a hard time.
This toughness of the climb and the good weather brought an unprecedented number of people to the mountain, making it resemble a Spanish Alpe d'Huez.
Contador noticed the massive amount of people along the way. "I am very happy with the atmosphere on the climb today. It was very important for cycling, for the Vuelta and above all for Spanish cycling. It was a great spectacle. Cycling isn't dead yet!"
Noting that frequent ascents like this could also hurt him some day, he quickly added that it shouldn't be overdone. "We don't want this kind of climb in every race, but once in a while it is OK, to give fans a spectacle."