Gijón – Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru
Highest point: 1,850m
Category: High mountains
Third consecutive summit finish
After one of the Vuelta’s classic climbs comes the race’s latest epic ascent, the Cuitu Negru. It’s been dubbed ‘the Asturian Bola del Mundo’ as, in common with that climb north of Madrid, it’s a short but very steep extension to a road accessing a ski station, in this case Valgrande Pajares. With the tough San Lorenzo and Cobertoria passes to soften up the riders beforehand, this is rightly seen as the race’s queen stage. The final ascent gets harder from Brañillin, 3km from the top. The road, which is being resurfaced, then rises at an average of 13.5 per cent with pitches of 25 per cent. It’s a gruelling test suited to pure climbers.
Igor Anton: "The queen stage. This is the third consecutive mountain stage with a summit finish. It’s the hardest of the race and the last 3km on the Cuitu Negru average 14 per cent, after climbing three cat 1 passes that are as tough as any in Asturias."