The Angliru – the very name strikes fear into the hearts of most pro cyclists. Only the very best of the climbers can hope to win on this dreaded ascent with its gradient up to an astonishing 24%. On Saturday this climb will be featured in the Vuelta a España for the sixth time, with this penultimate stage set to decide this year's overall winner.
The 12.5 kilometre climb has an average of 10.13% gradient, with a short descent about halfway up. The last half of the climb is the brutal part, with an average of 13.1%. The Buena les Cabres, only 3k m from the finish, has a 23.6% gradient, and two later ramps are 18-20%. It is not uncommon for riders to walk their way up the steepest sections.
The climb in northern Spain first appeared in the Vuelta in 1999, being won by Jose Maria Jimenez, who died of a heart attack only four years later. Gilberto Simoni took the win in 2000.
Rain hit the peloton on the climb in 2002, and chaos ensued. David Millar, then riding for Cofidis, crashed three times on the climb and protested the stage by stopping a metre before the finish line and handing over this start number, effectively abandoning the race.
The climb then was taken out of the race for six years, reappearing in 2008, when Alberto Contador won on his way to the overall victory. Juan Jose Cobo was the most recent winner in 2011, when red jersey Bradley Wiggins cracked in the final three kilometres. Cobo, too, went on to win the race.
The general feeling within the peloton can probably be summed up by the remarks of Vicente Belda, after the 2002 stage: “What do they want, blood?”