Start location: Ribadesella/Ribeseya
Finish location: Alto de L'Angliru
Start time: 13:40 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:30 CEST
Here it is then, the stage with the climb all fans have been looking forward to, and most of the riders have been dreading – the Alto de l'Angliru. In the years following its debut inclusion in 1999, the Angliru has become a staple of the Vuelta a España, hosting stage finishes seven times since then. The most recent visit was in 2020, when Hugh Carthy attacked out of an elite group of favourites to take the victory, although that took place in usual circumstances and eerily quiet atmosphere as Covid measures meant there were no crowds present. The last time fans were able to watch the riders race up the Angliru from the roadside was in 2017, on which occasion they were especially noisy as they roared on a retiring Alberto Contador to take the stage win, on what was a fairytale ending to his career.
Contador’s history on the Angliru also demonstrates just how much of a game-changer the climb can be. His ride here in 2008 to take both the stage win and red jersey was one of four occasions that the overall lead has changed hands on this stage: in 2020 Richard Carapaz gained the few seconds he needed to overtake Primož Roglič; Juan José Cobo roared away from suffering overall leader Bradley Wiggins and his Sky teammate Chris Froome in 2011; and Roberto Heras put an enormous 2:50 into red jersey Óscar Sevilla at the 2002 edition. While it’s true that on half of those occasions there was another change at the top of GC to see someone else take overall victory (Roglič in 2020, Aitor González in 2002), both times were dependent on a time trial to do so. The lack of any such stage in this year’s final week means that any switch at the top might this time be permanent.
Stage 17 profile sourced via the Vuelta website
Initially, there’s nothing special about the Angliru’s lower slopes to distinguish it from many of the other mountain top finishes of the race, the road rising at around 8% for the first 4km, followed by a short downhill stretch. But that serves only to lull the riders into a false sense of security, as the remaining 7km rise up at an implausible, unbearable 13%, the worst coming during the Cueña les Cabres goat track. Some riders may cope better than others, and lightweight purists like Contador and Heras have enjoyed success over heavier all-rounders like Wiggins, but on slopes like these, even the very best climbers look like hollowed out versions of themselves.
To add to the riders’ misery, they will be made to go up two climbs before the Angliru, both of them ranked category one: the Alto de la Colladiella (7.8km at 7.1%), and the Alto del Cordal (5.4km at 9.2%). But though their inclusion in quick succession inside the final 56.5km within an already compressed stage of just 124.4km will add to the intensity of the day’s racing, the severity of the Angliru means all the GC action will be saved for its slopes.
Jumbo-Visma’s triple threat in the form of Sepp Kuss (current leader), Jonas Vingegaard, and Primož Roglič are all riders who will be contenders for the stage. All three are formidable climbers, demonstrating their prowess no end so far this Vuelta. Roglič and Kuss have a stage win to their names, while Vingegaard has two. Currently sitting first, second and third in the GC standings, we are still questioning with whom Jumbo-Visma plans to take Vuelta glory, with Kuss, a rider who has been a superb domestique for so long, still in the red jersey. But before they are able to choose, the steep slopes of the Angliru may decide for them as the stage unfolds.
Behind these three leaders, several riders are eager to challenge the Jumbo-Visma squad. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), trailing Kuss by 2:33, has been one of the few riders capable of keeping up with Jumbo-Visma during this year's summit finishes. The 20-year-old will have teammates Marc Soler and João Almeida supporting his bid for a podium finish, but can their three-pronged approach match the strength of the Dutch team?
Enric Mas (Movistar) is another rider eyeing a podium spot in the GC. He aims to use Angliru's demanding gradients to advance his position, currently sitting in fifth place. While he is a capable climber, he may not be the strongest compared to the four riders in the standings above him and will need to be at his absolute best to outperform his rivals.
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step) may be out of the GC battle, but he’s certainly dominating this year’s Vuelta with his display for strength. Two stage wins to his name so far, he chose to actively lose time on stage 16’s final climb, telling us that he is potentially targeting a third victory with this stage. The young Belgian may not be defending the red jersey, but he is targeting the mountains classification, so will want to gain as many points as he can on these categorised climbs.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) won atop this legendary climb in 2020, the last time it featured, and could be a contender for today’s stage. Second place the same year was Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), who has looked in capable form in this year’s race, sitting eighth in the GC, and could be a rider to watch for the stage win.
Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) has been actively involved in breakaways during this Vuelta, narrowly missing out on stage wins on stages three and 14. Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) showcased his climbing abilities on stage six, finishing second behind Kuss and briefly donning the red jersey. They will both be riders to keep an eye on in this stage, as well as Santiago Buitrago ( Bahrain-Victorious).
We think Remco Evenepoel will take the stage. With no GC to worry about, and evidence that he is targeting the stage win atop the Angliru, we think he’ll come to the start of stage 17 ready and raring to go.