Stage 8: Logroño to Alto de Moncalvillo
Date: October 28, 2020
Stage start: 1:03 pm CEST
Stage finish: 5-5:30 pm
Stage type: Mountain
The second major summit finish of the race takes place in the province of Rioja at the end of a 164km day spent meandering through some of Spain’s most renowned wine fields. The stage begins in Logroño, the terrain undulating for its first half up until the intermediate sprint at Jalón de Cameros, where the riders will start to climb the second-category Puerto de la Rasa, 10km long at 5.3 per cent.
A long descent follows into the Iregua valley, the route then shifting west to Sorzano and Daroca de Riojal, where the final test begins. The category 1 ascent of the Alto de Moncalvillo is reputed as the hardest in this province, averaging an eye-watering 9.2 per cent for 8.3km as it rises to the telecommunications at the summit that is its reason for being.
It begins steadily enough, a kilometre at 6 per cent followed by a steeper one at nine and then another at seven. Then it takes off. The next kilometre ramps up to nine once again, with sections two and three per cent steeper than that. The next 4km average out at more than 10 per cent, but with frequent sections that are a lot more abrupt and continue for a considerable distance. The most savage is a 600m segment that runs at 15 per cent, and even once past this the gradient remains close to double figures.
The viciousness of the slope only starts to ease within a few hundred metres of the finish line, adjacent to the TV mast, from which there is a spectacular view that reaches as far as the Cantabrian Mountains to the north.
Although the climb was never featured previously on the Vuelta route, it does have significance in Spanish cycling. It was here that José María “Chava” Jiménez claimed his first professional victory in the 1994 edition of the Tour of Rioja. Then in his first full season in the pro peloton, Jiménez chased down Swiss-favourite Alex Zülle, who had attacked near the foot of the climb without being entirely sure what awaited him further up.
Jiménez bridged up to Zülle and then skipped away from the Swiss on the steeper ramps in that swashbuckling style that would become very familiar over the following years, making him a favourite among Spanish fans.
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