Alto del Angliru

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In the 2011 Vuelta a España, this was the story on the Angliru:

On the maximum slopes it was game over for Martin, Bruseghin and Sastre, the cue for Cobo to jump across to lone leader Anton and leave him flailing with six kilometres remaining, getting into the same rhythm that saw him take second on yesterday’s stage and sit in the top 10 overall.

Positioned perfectly in the group behind Cobo, Wiggins had Froome for company, with Menchov, Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez and Pouls sitting on for the ride, the Team Sky men riding themselves closer to overall victory as the kilometres dragged by.

Despite the torturous gradient, Cobo continued his scything run to the finish and had 40 seconds over Wiggins’ group, which had shed Rodriguez in pursuit of the lone Spaniard. Hitting the Cueña les Cabres section – with a maximum gradient of 23.5 per cent and three kilometres until the finish – the Geox-TMC man was riding towards the overall leadership.

The weapon of choice was low numbers not commonly seen:

Juanjo Cobo (Geox-TMC) was one of the few GC riders who rode 34×32 (a 28.3-inch gear) up the steep grades, which topped 24 percent on some ramps.

Most of the other GC favorites rode tougher gearing that later did not give them the same pedal speed that Cobo was able to generate on the steepest ramps.

“We chose those gear ratios because we knew that the ramps were so steep it was important to be able to keep a high cadence,” said Geox-TMC sport director Matxin Fernández. “You could see that Cobo was more agile on the pedals and I believe that made a difference.”

A preview of bikes before the start of Sunday’s stage revealed the following selections among some of the GC contenders: Nibali 34×29 (31.2-inch); Kessiakoff 34×28 (32.3-inch); Fuglsang and Mollema, both 36×28 (34.2-inch).

Team Sky’s Chris Froome said Monday that in hindsight he would have changed his gear ratio to something easier than his 38×32 (31.6-inch).

Makes the 39×27 I currently employ seem downright inadequate (yeah, I end in the 27 from time to time).

Where did this monster come from:

The organizers of the Vuelta a España wanted a mountain to rival the Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France and the Mortirolo Pass and Monte Zoncolan in the Giro d’Italia, which would go on in 2003 to add one of the world’s most demanding climbs, the Zoncolan, in an attempt to compete with the new Spanish climb. The Angliru was first included in 1999, on stage eight from León. José Maria Jiménez won after catching Pavel Tonkov a kilometer from the finish. He dedicated the win to Marco Pantani, disqualified from that year’s Giro d’Italia, saying: “I dedicate it to Pantani by everything that he has suffered in this time”’Angliru#Origins.

The Angliru seen from Monsacro peak.

Image source:

Jiménez in ’99. His chase down of Tonkov is epic. Watch as he catches the Mapei follow car at 3:12. He knows he had it now. El Chava was a baller.

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And this was the action last year, in two parts. The weather was better. But the hill remains a brute.

Vuelta a España 2011: Alto de L’Angliru (Part 1 of 2).

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Vuelta a España 2011: Alto de L’Angliru (Part 2 of 2).

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

17 Replies to “Alto del Angliru”

  1. Jonny, I would just like to point out that you 39X27 carries you up an occasional 12% grade. I think at 24%, we’d both be walking ;)

  2. Sweet Jesus, Kitchen! 24%??!!?? Even with my 22:34 I’d be walkin’.

  3. How about add some land mines and shrapnel to dodge?? If we want to decrease doping the stages need to get more feasible, not harder…or at least harder with a day of rest in between.

  4. @Holden…if that was a sling at me, then I guess you weren’t aware that the pros in GT’s used to have to do two stages in the same day.

  5. There’s more to this story, prob Cycling News. The Sky guys were running asymetrical up front which limited what they could run in back. Sketchy call be the D.Sportif…Froome was the only one who spoke out about it later IIRC. Credit to Cobo tho….he was a beast last year in Vuelta.

  6. Uh…I should chk. this but don’t have the time…I now think it was the front which they couln’t drop down due to the nature of asymetrical rings. Eh….the story has been around for a few months about the front/rear setups on asym. rings.vis-a-vis big climbing setups.

  7. …similar but different…

    ‘bio-pace’ was shimano’s attempt to save the world of cycling by giving us all a more constant, smoother pedal stroke with less ‘dead’ time through a 360* pedal stroke…it’s actually kinda mechanically ingenious in it’s own way…

    …but it was something this ol’ roadie & his pals never bought in to ‘cuz we’d already worked for years learning to be smoooooth on the bike…

    …the o-symetric rings, especially in a ‘time trial’ setup are designed to utilize that slow ‘big hammer’ powerstroke with a fast ‘deadspot’ return & while it works well for some guys whilst on the bike, the question ultimately might be what does it do to the knees over the long run ???…

    …there is thought to be less ‘recovery mode’ throughout a 360* pedalstroke & then, over time, will the harder ‘push phase’ or powerstroke leave these guys hobbling about in retirement…

    …anyway, just a few thoughts…

  8. Running round rings on a fixed gear does wonders for one’s stroke. Even mine. Just sayin’…

  9. I remember when Frankie Andreu had a column in Velonews and he said that in person, Jimenez didn’t look like he could climb an overpass, but as soon as the road turned up he was gone. It was also cool to see that little bit of Escartin in there too.

  10. I think the East side of Lincoln Gap in VT is the closest I’ve seen to the brutality of the Angliru, though thankfully it’s much shorter. The thing about the 24% pitches is that even as tall as 34×29, it gets very hard to keep the front wheel on the ground. Even on a good day, it’s like being in quick sand.

  11. Something I read at somepoint in someplace of my existence said that the Spaniards in the Vuelta went 39 km/hr. Uphill…downhill, didn’t matter. Jimenez seemed to fit that stereotype on that climb