Stage 11 of the 2015 Vuelta looks really rather hard

I don’t usually do stage previews of anything other than Tour (and I don’t do many of those), but stage 11 of this year’s Vuelta stands out as being among the most intense ever seen in a Grand Tour.

It’s not long. Quite the opposite, in fact. At just 138km, it’s pretty dinky, even by the standards of the Vuelta which has tended to keep its distances shorter in recent years. What’s remarkable is that they’ve somehow crammed in over 5,000m of climbing in those 138km.

That’s hard to comprehend, so think of it this way. What goes up must come down, so almost half of the stage is actually downhill (the finish is higher than the start, hence the ‘almost’). That makes it sound easier, but it doesn’t negate any of the climbing.

So of what remains of the stage, they’re rising over 5km vertically in about 75km horizontally. That’s an average gradient of about 6.6%. But it’s not 6.6% for 1km, 5km or 10km. It’s an average of 6.6% for 75km. Okay, they get breaks with each of the downhills, but 6.6% is challenging. You certainly wouldn’t want to do 75km of it.

What could make things even more colourful is the fact that this comes the day after the rest day. In this year’s Tour de France, half the field didn’t really wake up the day after the rest day allowing Chris Froome to romp home.

The Vuelta starts on Saturday with a 7.4km team time trial. The race organisers somewhat euphemistically describe the stage as ‘very technical,’ which is perhaps a reference to a sandy section that half the riders are petrified about and the other half haven’t yet seen.