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Stage 18: Sauveterre-de-Béarn to Larra-Belagua
Date: September 14
Stage type: Mountain
The Vuelta remains in Asturias for another pivotal day in the mountains and a grand finale up the new ascent of La Cruz de Linares, which is tackled twice in succession.
After the previous afternoon’s short and sharp stage to the Angliru, this is a real test of endurance, with five classified climbs spread across the day’s 179km. Coming into the third week of the race, this is sure to provoke a serious selection among the men still in the hunt for the maillot rojo.
The climbing begins with the category 2 Alto de las Estaca (5.1km at 7.5%), followed by the category 1 Puerto de San Lorenzo (9.9km at 8.6%). After tripping across the category 3 Alto de Tenebredo, the race tackles the double ascent of La Cruz de la Linares (8.3km at 8.6%).
There are time bonuses on offer on the first time to the summit, and then the peloton must come around do it all over again after a short stint in the valley.
There is a brutal transition at the base of the climb, with ramps of 16% almost from the off, and the gradients stay in and around double-digits for the first 4.5km. The gradient eases slightly nearer the top, though there are still pitches of 11% with a shade over 2km to go, an ideal platform for attackers.