Stage 9: Villacastín - Sierra de Bejar. La Covatilla
After the previous day’s brutally steep conclusion, today’s leg brings a more traditional summit finish on the Covatilla climb. The stage mainly stays in the shadow of the Sierra de Ávila, although there are enough lumps to encourage breakaways. They will be hoping they achieve enough of a buffer on the bunch to hold out to the top of the Covatilla, which rises for 10km at an average of 7.4 per cent. It’s been five years since the race last climbed to this resort, perhaps because of its association with local hero Roberto Heras, who was stripped of a fourth Vuelta win in 2005 for EPO use.
Vuelta flashback 2002, Covatilla’s debut crowned with a home winner
Nine years on from finishing third in the 1993 race, now-retired Spanish climber Laudelino Cubino proposed a new summit to Vuelta organisers Unipublic. Located above the western town of Béjar, the Alto de Covatilla rises to almost 2,000m. Perhaps not incidentally, Cubino owns a hotel complex at the resort but it proved the ideal choice for that year’s final summit finish before the deciding time trial in Madrid. Fittingly, victory went to a local rider, although not to Roberto Heras. Having been in the break that day, Santiago Blanco held on to take a famous win ahead of Heras.
Highest point: 1,970m
Igor Antón says...
"It will be a stage where you want to avoid losing more than focus on winning. I know this climb and I also know that if it is hot it could cause a lot of damage because of the effort it will demand. From this point onwards, the GC will start to take shape."
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