Originally published on 31/08/2015 by Guillaume Prébois
Stage 11 of Vuelta 2015 (Andorra - Encamp On Cortals)
Our man, Guillaume Prébois, is back at it previewing some of the hardest stages the pros will tackle in the grand tours and giving us a layman’s perspective from his saddle. Tomorrow’s stage of the Vuelta has been touted as the toughest stage ever created in the history of this Grand Tour. Read on for Guillaume’s opinion.
This is the first real mountain stage of the Vuelta 2015 and what stage! She would have been directly inspired by Joaquim Rodriguez, who in the Principality, is a national hero. All climbs are also marked by signs where his name appears. Andorra is a handkerchief wrapped into a tourniquet, the stage looks like the Amstel Gold Race in the sense that the race wraps around the same area and returns several times to the same place.
I urge all fans to come to compete in this relatively short route (138km) but muscular (altitude 5000m) and gorgeous (if the sun shines if the Andorran bowl becomes hellish cauldron and descents are Fast and dangerous).
The pros have the chance to perform on closed roads, it is not our case. If the climbs are very quiet, the central axis that runs through the Principality suffers from heavy traffic mess of which there is little pleasure.
I had already climbed twice the Coll de la Rabassa in the challenge 3 Great Tours in 2008 as it was in the Vuelta program. I have however discovered the Collada della Gallina (11.7 km at 8.5%) which was specially borrowed pouring asphalt for the Tour of Spain. It is classified "Especial", the equivalent of Hors-Category Tour de France, notably due to a very narrow and steep kilometers to 12% average.
The beginning of the climb is dry, it rises quickly above the roofs of Sant Julia de Loria. It's easy to find a rhythm through many laces and switchbacks along the rise.
The slope remains high, at around 10%, before reaching a false flat that does not last more than 500m. Come to a junction where a small chapel is located, we take the right to attack the piece of resistance, recently asphalted (before this pass could be climbed by the east side). The road is very narrow, perfectly smooth and black, with a constant slope (12% over 1km) with the exception of a few hundred meters to 15%.
There is still 4km to the summit, still very demanding, until the last 500 meters, when it becomes
At the summit, altitude 1910m, a monument marks the passage of the neck.
I repeat, if the rain falls on Andorra for the 11th stage of the Vuelta, Paradise will turn into hell. I was struck by the speed of descent and the few straight portions. The turns are often on slopes and call for good technique. At the bottom of the descent, it falls on Sant Julia de Loria, 500m from the foot of the ascent that is the other side of the tunnel.
The riders then head to the Alto de la Comella, classified in 2nd category (4 km at 9.5%), an intermediate collar, dry and stiff, which is mainly used to avoid the center of Andorra la Vella.Everything will depend on the climb to Els Cortals Encamp (8.7 km at 9.1%). I found the foot of the ascent particularly hard. After such a long stage, it will be ultra-selective.
The first part of the climb is begins in the city, but it quickly comes out in a wooded area which then gives way to alpine pastures. In the middle of the climb, is a short ledge, but the slope again very quickly to the summit where a solitary cable car is located. Breathtaking views and sumptuous sites greet you at the top.
In conclusion, the Vuelta has a legendary stage. Rarely have so many passes been condensed in so few kilometers. The ascents are never long, but still harsh!
Guillaume Prébois rides our Ritchey Superlogic C260 stem, Superlogic EvoCurve bar and Superlogic post.