Vuelta a España 2022, stage eight
Distance: 153.4 kilometres
Start location: La Pola Llaviana/Pola de Laviana
Finish location: Colláu Fancuaya. Yernes y Tameza
Start time: 12.10 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.30 BST
After passing through the region the previous day, the Vuelta a España doubles back on itself to spend a full day in the Cantabrian mountains of Asturias on stage eight. Last year, the region produced an unforgettable stage of racing when Primož Roglič and Egan Bernal went head-to-head on the climb up to Lagos de Covadonga, and this year the second weekend of the race has two tough days lined up that are likely to set light to the GC contest.
Stage eight is vintage Vuelta, with non-stop climbing, including six categorised ascents, and little respite for the peloton throughout the day, with a summit finish to boot.
Beginning in Pola de Laviana, the same departure town as the day Hugh Carthy won atop Angliru in 2020, the race starts the day on a category two climb. Well, almost – the first 2.4km of the stage are uncategorised, but very much uphill, and this promises to be one of those days where the peloton smashes to pieces almost instantly, as the fight for the break clashes with the motivations of the GC teams to keep their leaders safe and not allow any rivals to go clear on the first climb.
The Alto de la Colladona is 6.4km long and at an average of 7% will shake things up right away, before the sharp descent that follows allows for the possibility of everything coming back together again. The route continues downhill following the descent for another 18km or so before kicking up once again. 9km of uncategorised climbing lead into the day’s second category two, the Alto de la Mozqueta, an almost identical ascent on paper to the first – 6.8km long at an average of 6.6%.
Eleven kilometres of descent is all that the peloton will have to catch their breath before they rise once again, up the Alto de Santo Emiliano, a cat three test of 5.7km in length and with an average gradient of 5.3%. After this, the riders can enjoy the longest segment of the route without any significant climbing – around 25km of relative rest – before the action kicks off once more.
The following 20km features two category three climbs in quick succession: the Puerto de Tenebreo (5.3km at 6.2%) – which also features bonus seconds for the KOM contenders – and the punchier Puerto de Palavia (4km at 7.7%).
From here, there’s just a descent and an intermediate sprint standing between the riders and the sternest challenge of the Vuelta so far.
The category one Colláu (Collado) Fancuaya is a climb that is new to the Vuelta, and while it isn’t as daunting as other peaks that lie within the same range – the fearsome Angliru or its ‘evil little sister’ the Alto del Gamoniteiro which featured on last year’s race – it’s still been described as ‘inhumane’, a description sure to fill the peloton with trepidation. Only paved in 2019, the road up to the summit is narrow and likely to be tricky if weather conditions are unfavourable, although in late August this shouldn’t be an issue.
The climb is listed as 10.5km in length, but the riders will have been ascending for around 15km before they begin the categorised part of the ascent, adding to its difficulty. The gradient is ferocious – an average of 8.5% is skewed by the comparatively easy first 4km, but the final 6km are brutal. Almost all pitched at 9% or above, there are sections of over 11% and pitches of up to 19% along the way, and the stage winner here will either be a GC rider on a mission or an exceptional climber.
The stage finishes when it tops out at the summit of the Fancuaya in Yernes y Tameza.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage eight map and profile
A savage start to the stage is compounded by a huge amount of climbing on the way to the race's second category one finish.
Vuelta a España 2022 stage eight predictions and contenders
This stage is the first of two brutal back-to-back mountain days and two horrible summit finishes, but we think this one will may be allowed to go to the breakaway.
The category two climb at the start of the day is the perfect launchpad for the break to go clear and if the right combination of riders go clear then the GC contenders may be content with letting them go up the road. Still, you can expect more fireworks amongst the overall contenders on the final climb of the day.
The climbers who are way down the GC will be the key candidates to try and make the break here, think Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Bob Jungels (Ag2r Citroën), Chris Froome, Alessandro De Marchi (both Israel-Premier Tech), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Villella (Cofidis), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), or Reïn Taaramae (Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux).
A number of teams who have GC interests have also allowed riders to escape into the breakaway to try and take stages - think Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) on stage five - so we could see riders from the likes of Movistar (Carlos Verona, Gregor Mühlberger), EF Education First - EasyPost (Esteban Chaves, Mark Padun), or Astana (Vincenzo Nibali, Alexey Lutsenko) all potentially trying to put riders in the break.
Prediction: We're taking a punt on Thibaut Pinot getting up the road in the break and holding off the GC contenders to take the stage win. Remco Evenepoel will retain the overall lead.