Stage 14: Don Benito - Pico Villuercas
Date: August 28, 2021
Stage timing: 12:50 - 17:30 CEST
Stage type: Mountain
Vuelta a España stage 14 preview video
The Vuelta’s third weekend begins with a stage focused on two very different sides of a climb that’s new to the race, the Pico Villuercas. The start is Don Benito, which hosted the intermediate sprint the day before. Initially, the terrain is flat as the route tracks north-east through Valdivia and Obando. Approaching Cañamero, the road starts to rise. Beyond this town, that trend becomes more pronounced, as the riders tackle the day’s first classified climb, the third-category Puerto de Berzocama, which extends to 7.7km at an average of 5.2 per cent gradient.
The drop away from it is very brief and the next and very challenging climbing test arrives quickly. Swinging right at a T-junction, the riders will be faced with the 3km wall that leads to the Collado de Ballesteros. The first kilometre is a touch above 10 per cent, then it gets really serious, with a second kilometre at 15 per cent and a third at 14 per cent. It’s made even more difficult by the concrete surface, which doesn’t offer the same sureness of grip as tarmac, particularly if it’s wet, although that’s very unlikely to be the case in Extremadura at this time of year.
Cresting the Ballesteros, the riders can glance left towards the very top part of the Pico Villuercas, before descending to Guadalupe and continuing to Alía, site of the intermediate sprint. After rolling back around to Guadalupe, the riders will climb the southern side of the Ballesteros pass and continue above it to the finish. This final climb is 14.5km long and averages 6.2 per cent, and as a consequence is a very different test to the northern flank.
The initial ramps are not severe at all, but at its halfway point this changes markedly. There’s a kilometre at 10 per cent, a respite, then another steep kilometre. It continues in this same manner to the summit, the final section to the line the steepest of all, touching 13 per cent.
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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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