• Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) go toe-to-toe on the final climb of Stage 13 of the 2018 La Vuelta a Espana (Getty)Source: Getty
At just 97 kilometres in length, La Vuelta have gone to great lengths to somehow stuff over 3,000 metres of climbing into the penultimate stage of La Vuelta a Espana.
Cycling Central

15 Sep 2018 - 9:42 AM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2018 - 9:48 AM

La Vuelta concludes in typical fashion with a processional stage around Madrid, but before the peloton reaches the security of the finishing circuit, they will have to weather a brutal course set for them by organisers.

The 97 kilometre stage set in the Andorran mountains has all the hallmarks of an epic stage, with ascent after ascent set to test the tired legs of the peloton, a day after a tough summit finish.

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The riders tackle the Coll de la Comella first, with the foot of the climb coming a kilometre 1. It’s not the hardest climb of the day, 4.7 kilometres at 6.8 per cent, but could provide a springboard for a breakaway to form, or one of the big teams to put on the pressure early.

The Coll de Beixalis is next on the list of six climbs in the road book. The Beixalis is graded at 9.7 kilometres at an average gradient of 6.8 per cent, while its steepest pinch is 14%.

Straight after the descent from the summit, the Coll de Ordino looms. The 11.2 kilometre climb at 6.5 per cent is crested after 42 kilometres, before the descent back into the valley runs to the foot of the Coll de Beixalis, which is climbed again, this time from the other side. This way up is significantly steeper, and rates at 6.5 kilometres at 8.3%.

The route goes back up on the Coll de La Comella, but the second drag up to the top is on the other side. For 4 kilometres the route climbs at 4.9% before the top is crested with 16.5 kilometres to go.

The final climb, Coll de La Gallina, is widely rated as one of Andorra’s toughest ascents. The final haul up to the line amounts to 7.7 kilometres with an average gradient of 7.8%. The Gallina is renowned for its double digit gradients in short sections near the summit, and should offer a fitting finale to what shapes as a brilliant setting for the final GC battle.

Simon Yates heads into Stage 20 with a minute and thrity eight seconds advantage, but has been cautious in his public statements, recalling his Giro d'Italia woes earlier in the year, where he slipped out of the lead as he dramatically cracked on the final few stages.

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Just one decisive day in the Andorran mountains stands in the way of Mitchelton-Scott and their first Grand Tour victory.