Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

By David Hunter

Corvera De Asturias – Alto De L’Angliru 117.5km

Strap yourself in, for an epic day of cycling.

Just 117.5km long, but featuring 3500m of climbing. This promises to be an incredible day.

It starts with 12.7km at 3.5% and this is where the break should form. After a short descent, we start the long drag up to the first categorised climb of the day.

8.1km at 8.6% sounds difficult enough, but consider one kilometre of that is flat. The final 4km of the climb rarely goes lower than 9%. We have just 10km of descending from the crest until the next climb.

This is the shortest climb of the day, but it’s another test of climbing ability. The climb is 5.7km at 8.6%, like most Vuelta climbs in features double digit gradients. This time we only have 9km of descending before the next climb. The mythical L’Angliru.

Easily, one of the best climbs in cycling. The riders have to face 12.5km at 9.8%, with many impossible sections! It doesn’t really get harder than this. Given the stage will be very fast, the riders will already be tired by the time they reach the lower slopers. Expect huge gaps and riders all over the mountain.


Rain, lots of rain. This is only going to make the stage harder.

Breakaway Hopes

Short stages are not great for breakaway riders, there is little time to build a big lead. With some teams still chasing a win, expect to see a fierce battle for the break, but it could be pointless. If a team wants to control the stage, it is easy to do so. By putting riders on the front from early on, the break could even be caught on the first climb.

Remember, if you win on this mountain, your name goes down in the history books.

Breaking Sky

The good news for Nibali, is that other teams will want to attack. To try and win this race,  you have to eliminate the Sky domestiques before the L’Angliru. With two cat 1 climbs, this is possible. I expect to see lots of attacks on the first climbs, and some of those will be from team leaders. You must make Moscon work early. He is the first rider you need to crack.

Next up is Nieve. If you can make the pace high, he will also drop away. The problem is Poels, it will almost be impossible to drop him. However, if Froome arrives on the L’Angliru with only one man, his red jersey will be in danger.

Teams must attack early, it is their only chance.


Alberto Contador – is it written in the stars? Final race and a chance to win on a mythical mountain. King Contador has looked in great form, he has grown into this race. Such a shame he lost time back in Andorra, when he wasn’t feeling well. This is a wonderful chance for him to end his career in style. Most of the watching fans would love him to do so.

Chris Froome – operation red. I expect to see Froome ride very similarly to how he approaches the final mountain stage in the Tour. He will surround himself with his teammates and ride a TTT up the mountain. He will not chase attacks, or get too worried. Sky have been in this position before and won many times. A lot will be expected of Moscon, Nieve and Poels, but they always deliver. With a 1:37 lead over Nibali, it looks great for Froome. Don’t expect him to care about the stage win.

Vincenzo Nibali – he’s lost the Vuelta on this climb before, that time it was to Chris Horner. The Italian has enjoyed a tremendous race, there is no shame being second to Froome. He needs a perfect stage if he is to take the red jersey, but a stage win would be a little comfort. He certainly has the ability to take the stage, but he looks to have a lost a little bit of the edge he had earlier in the race.

Ilnur Zakarin – the Russian is chasing the podium. He is only 12 seconds behind Kelderman, that is nothing in a stage like this. He’s enjoyed a brilliant race, his best performance in a grand tour. He will hope to follow the wheels of the moves and walk away with a stage win. One thing that could work in his favour, is his attacking spirit, he is not afraid to go long.

Prediction Time

A fairytale win for Alberto Contador.

Froome to win the red jersey.

Zakarin to make the podium.


David Hunter

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6 thoughts on “Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

    1. It’s good thing Chris made it a three bagger!……..or else he’d be all pooped out by now!

  1. Droping Mikel Nieve, really? He has been with Froome all the time he has been in trouble in this Vuelta, performing better as a domestique than Poels.

  2. Will be a big, big, super big surprise , but I’ll say this stage belongs to ” Superman” Lopez, second Contador and third Zakarin.

  3. Attacks on Froome will have to be early otherwise, as David says, Sky will TTT up Angliru and be very unlikely to lose 90 seconds. OOOh and it will be a brave man that goes early on this stage…. Alberto?

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