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Gallery: The Vuelta tackles the Angliru

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Fabian Cancellara grinds up the Angliru in 2011.

Fabian Cancellara grinds up the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jose Maria Jimenez was the first man to win atop the Angliru, after a gripping pursuit of Pavel Tonkov through mist and rain in 1999.

Jose Maria Jimenez was the first man to win atop the Angliru, after a gripping pursuit of Pavel Tonkov through mist and rain in 1999.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A tired Vincenzo Nibali at the summit of the Angliru in 2011.

A tired Vincenzo Nibali at the summit of the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo slips away to win the stage and the Vuelta on the Angliru in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo slips away to win the stage and the Vuelta on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo seized the red jersey on the Angliru.

Juan Jose Cobo seized the red jersey on the Angliru.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabio Roscioli gets a helping hand on the Angliru in 2000.

Fabio Roscioli gets a helping hand on the Angliru in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer leads Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez on the Angliru in 2008.

Levi Leipheimer leads Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez on the Angliru in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador completed a Vuelta a Espana-Giro d'Italia double in 2008.

Alberto Contador completed a Vuelta a Espana-Giro d'Italia double in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo (right) assesses the situation in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo (right) assesses the situation in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roberto Heras won his first Vuelta a Espana in 2000.

Roberto Heras won his first Vuelta a Espana in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Carlos Sastre lays the groundwork for Juan Jose Cobo in 2011.

Carlos Sastre lays the groundwork for Juan Jose Cobo in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador takes the plaudits atop the Angliru in 2008.

Alberto Contador takes the plaudits atop the Angliru in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roberto Heras was at the peak of his powers in 2000.

Roberto Heras was at the peak of his powers in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Sevilla lost the golden jersey to Roberto Heras on the Angliru in 2002.

Oscar Sevilla lost the golden jersey to Roberto Heras on the Angliru in 2002.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The mighty Angliru has become one of cycling's most sacred sites.

The mighty Angliru has become one of cycling's most sacred sites.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo races to an improbably Vuelta a Espana victory in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo races to an improbably Vuelta a Espana victory in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Aitor Gonzalez became leader of Kelme on the Angliru in 2002. A week later, he would win the Vuelta in Madrid.

Aitor Gonzalez became leader of Kelme on the Angliru in 2002. A week later, he would win the Vuelta in Madrid.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robert Heras makes Pavel Tonkov suffer in 2000.

Robert Heras makes Pavel Tonkov suffer in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez had already lost his hopes of overall victory by the time he tackled the Angliru in 2011.

Joaquim Rodriguez had already lost his hopes of overall victory by the time he tackled the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Chris Froome tries to salvage Bradley Wiggins' red jersey in 2011.

Chris Froome tries to salvage Bradley Wiggins' red jersey in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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2008. Alejandro Valverde tries to put Alberto Contador under pressure.

2008. Alejandro Valverde tries to put Alberto Contador under pressure.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bradley Wiggins struggles to turn the gear on the Angliru in 2011.

Bradley Wiggins struggles to turn the gear on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo can scarcely believe what he has achieved on the Angliru in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo can scarcely believe what he has achieved on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Angel Casero and Roberto Heras square off on the Angliru in 2000, while Richard Virenque and Raimundas Rumsas try to follow.

Angel Casero and Roberto Heras square off on the Angliru in 2000, while Richard Virenque and Raimundas Rumsas try to follow.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Never the most graceful rider, Juan Jose Cobo thrashes his way to the top of the Angliru in 2011.

Never the most graceful rider, Juan Jose Cobo thrashes his way to the top of the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez gets some friendly encouragement in 2011.

Joaquim Rodriguez gets some friendly encouragement in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Angel Casero is tracked by Roberto Heras' Kelme teammate Fernando Escartin on the Angliru in 2000.

Angel Casero is tracked by Roberto Heras' Kelme teammate Fernando Escartin on the Angliru in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali's hopes of back-to-back Vuelta wins evaporated on the Angliru in 2011.

Vincenzo Nibali's hopes of back-to-back Vuelta wins evaporated on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins chase the flying Juan Jose Cobo, 2011.

Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins chase the flying Juan Jose Cobo, 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo parts the crowds on the Angliru in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo parts the crowds on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador conquered the Angliru and the Vuelta a Espana in 2008.

Alberto Contador conquered the Angliru and the Vuelta a Espana in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer puts in a dig on the Angliru in 2008.

Levi Leipheimer puts in a dig on the Angliru in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roberto Heras made light work of the gradient to triumph atop the Angliru in 2002.

Roberto Heras made light work of the gradient to triumph atop the Angliru in 2002.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador applies the pressure, 2008.

Alberto Contador applies the pressure, 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Carlos Sastre on the Angliru in 2008.

Carlos Sastre on the Angliru in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There is precious little respite on the Angliru, as Igor Anton discovers in 2011.

There is precious little respite on the Angliru, as Igor Anton discovers in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo dropped Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to claim the Angliru in 2011.

Juan Jose Cobo dropped Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to claim the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The agony of the Angliru, as expressed by Fabio Roscioli in 2000.

The agony of the Angliru, as expressed by Fabio Roscioli in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joseba Beloki chases Roberto Heras on the Angliru in 2002, while eventual race winner Aitor Gonzalez digs in.

Joseba Beloki chases Roberto Heras on the Angliru in 2002, while eventual race winner Aitor Gonzalez digs in.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Jose Cobo dons the red jersey.

Juan Jose Cobo dons the red jersey.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gilberto Simoni showed his class with stage victory on the Angliru in 2000.

Gilberto Simoni showed his class with stage victory on the Angliru in 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador can sense Alejandro Valverde is weakening in 2008.

Alberto Contador can sense Alejandro Valverde is weakening in 2008.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bradley Wiggins limits his losses on the Angliru in 2011.

Bradley Wiggins limits his losses on the Angliru in 2011.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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?”