Chris Froome’s six year pursuit of the Vuelta a España title culminates with how he performs on the race’s ascent of the Angliru today, with the Team Sky rider ahead on the overall but with a narrow lead and very little room for error or weakness.
Rated as Spain’s most difficult climb and one of the hardest in Europe, for Froome the 12.5 kilometre ascent of the Angliru could mark the point where he definitively joins Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil as the only rider to win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year.
For Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Froome’s biggest rivals, 1:37 back and second overall, dislodging Froome would allow him to take his fifth Grand Tour win and his first Vuelta since 2010. It would also, given Froome has held the lead since stage three, constitute a massive last-minute upset, but that is hardly unusual in the Vuelta : just ask Tom Dumoulin after his loss of the red leader’s jersey on 2015’s penultimate stage to Fabio Aru.
The ninth and last summit finish of the 2017 Vuelta marks the seventh ascent of the Angliru since 1999.
Today it is preceded by two first category climbs: the Cobertoria and the Cordal. Neither is excessively difficult and on such a short stage, just 117 kilometres long, the biggest challenge will probably come on their descents, both of which are technical.
The Cordal, in particular, has the reputation of being like a skating rink in wet weather, to the point where it once caused a change of leader in the Vuelta. In 1999 Abraham Olano, a good descender, skidded and fell and cracked a rib there and although he hung on to first place overall on the Angliru, Olano finally ended up ceding the top spot overall to Jan Ullrich because of his injury.
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