There are loads of cycling fans for whom their interest in cycling begins and end with Le Tour. This is entirely understandable as the mainstream media coverage of this one race, at least here in Britain, must outweigh the coverage of the rest of the sport by at least 10 to 1 (a statistic I’ve just made up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at least double that). The Tour of Britain starts tomorrow but it’s very much a third category race compared to the third of the annual Grand Tours that is currently approaching it’s climactic final week, namely La Vuelta a Espa?a. In recent years La Vuelta has offered some of the most exciting stage racing in the sport. Contador’s attack to Fuente D? in the Picos de Europa was just one stage where the rules of Grand Tour tactics were ripped up. The road up to the cable car at Fuente D? looks very easy on the TV coverage, but I can assure you, having driven it many a time, it’s a long old uphill haul.
And then there was Chris Froome’s breakthrough as a Grand Tour contender in 2011, in one of the most exciting stage finishes I’ve ever seen, on the slopes of Pe?a Cabarga. Froome ended up second and Wiggins third on the podium at the end of that race.
Both of these epic stages took place in the mountains of northern Spain where I spent my summer. After starting way down south, yesterday the race arrived in the north once more. On Sunday the riders will tackle the legendary climb to Los Lagos de Covadonga, a climb won only once by a Brit, Robert Millar. That was back in’86, the same year in which Greg Lemond was famously struggling to put down The Badger in the Alps. I’m more interested than usual in the stage this weekend because last month I rode up to Los Lagos recording my efforts on Strava.
Quite a few of the riders in the pro peloton use Strava nowadays to publicise their efforts making it one of the few sports where you can directly compare your performance statistics with those of the elite. I had to churn out an average of 229 watts for over an hour and a half to get to the top, which was pretty high for me and my performance was good enough for just over halfway down the leaderboard. Again, not bad for a first time effort at an hors categorie climb. The current leader of the full climb did it last summer in a shade over one hour. It will be very interesting to see how Laurens Ten Dam and the other pros do on Sunday.
There will be live coverage on Sunday afternoon on Eurosport and highlights in the evening on ITV4 and Eurosport.