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After the first of two rest days, the 2016 Vuelta a España (#LV2016) continues Wednesday with a stage that ends on one of the nastiest climbs in Spain.
Words by John Wilcockson/Image by Yuzuru Sunada
The Peña Cabarga has an elevation of only 1,853 feet (565 meters), but that’s also the height of the mountain above the base, near the coastal city of Santander—and it climbs for 5.6 kilometers at an average grade of almost 10 percent, with pitches of 18 percent on the lower and upper stretches.
This is the fifth time that Peña Cabarga has featured in the Vuelta. The first time was at the 1979 Vuelta won by Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk. The race didn’t return to this Cantabrian peak for 31 years, but it’s now being featured for the fourth time in seven years.
This image from the 2010 Vuelta shows Basque rider Juan Manuel Gárate (today a sports director with Cannondale-Drapac) on the first part of Peña Cabarga. That stage was won by Joaquim “Purito” Rodríguez in a solo attack 20 seconds ahead of race leader Vincenzo Nibali, to move within four seconds of him on GC.
The most recent finishes on Peña Cabarga have both been won by Team Sky riders. In the memorable stage 17 of 2011, Chris Froome made a breakthrough by winning his first-ever grand tour stage. He attacked early in the climb, was caught by race leader Juan Jose Cobo and then outkicked the Spanish climber to win by one second and close to within 13 seconds on GC—even though Cobo went on to win that Vuelta. And in 2013, Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka won solo from an early breakaway, while a battle between the GC men saw Chris Horner take 25 seconds out of race leader Nibali and close to within 3 seconds of the Italian.
Knowing he won here five years ago, Froome will be eager to repeat that victory and take back time from current race leader Nairo Quintana. As for Alberto Contador—who hasn’t raced up Peña Cabarga before—he knows he can’t lose any more time to Quintana if he’s to get a (remote) chance of winning a fourth Vuelta in his four starts.