Route director Fernando Escartín has passed up the chance to follow the well-trodden route through this central area of Asturias that leads to a summit finish atop the Alto del Angliru and instead opts to introduce a quite different finale on the wonderfully spectacular La Cubilla pass that leads into the neighbouring province of León. This is preceded by two very well-known first-category ascents, the Puerto de San Lorenzo and the Alto de la Cobertoria, which is so often the launch pad for the Angliru.
From the start in Pravia, the riders will cover almost a third of the stage's distance before starting to climb the San Lorenzo, 10 kilometres of typically Asturian mountain road, mixing long sections at between 10-13 per cent with parts where there is a negligible gain in altitude.
The three climbs run one into the next. As a consequence, no sooner do the riders reach the foot of the San Lorenzo than they start up the La Cobertoria, its gradient more even, not varying much from the average of 8.2 per cent for its 8km.
From Pola de Lena at the bottom of this pass, the riders will turn south, rising steadily for the next 16km to reach the start of the Cubilla pass. It's quite different to the previous summit finishes, extending to 17.8 kilometres with the steepest gradient a very modest, for the Vuelta at least, nine per cent. The approach to it and the length of the pass, which will look stunning if the weather is clear, will give an advantage to teams, notably Jumbo-Visma, that are likely to adopt the "steamroller" strategy, rider after rider setting a consistently high pace to set up their leaders. This could be a very good day for Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruiswijk.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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