Everything you’ve heard about the Angliru is true; it’s a terrible climb. In a world of exaggeration and hyperbole it is genuinely epic, brutal, and potentially life shortening. You could easily tackle the lower slopes in perfect health only to find you’ve acquired a heart condition by the summit.
That kind of climb.
There is little to compare it to.
Just consider the stats, for a moment: it’s twelve kilometres in length and the final six average thirteen percent in gradient. For a couple of kilometres it doesn’t drop below seventeen, and contains ramps up to almost twenty-four percent. Pro riders, when cornered and asked for an opinion, generally lapse into the thousand-year stare of man who’s seen things he wishes he could unsee before running off for a little cry.
You get the idea?
Today, on Stage 12, it was our big finish.
Well in advance of the final slopes we were down to our top six GC contenders (and Roglic’s teammate Sepp Kuss, of course). From side on, the torture was apparent; each rider locked in his own world, grinding to a halt between every pedal stroke, any pretence at momentum long since cast aside by those damn inconvenient laws of physics.Embed from Getty Images
The final two or three kilometres were about finding a coping pace – a sustainable level of effort – and riding at that. Anything more would be suicide. Unless your name is Hugh Carthy, who thought to himself: “yeah, this seems ok…might throw in a little attack here lads!”
And off he went. In slow motion. Eeking out the metres between himself and Richard Carapaz and Enric Mas, who in turn were few bike lengths clear of Dan Martin, Aleksandr Vlasov, and the battling Roglic (and his trusty lieutenant).
The moment when Carthy rounded a torturous right hander near the summit, face overwhelmed by grimace, the glory of Asturias opening up behind him in dramatic backdrop, might be my single favourite moment of Grand Tour racing this season.Embed from Getty Images
The claustrophobic wall of Asphalt giving way to the wider world; a world where things other than pain and suffering exist, and we knew he’d nearly won. Beautiful.
And I’m biased, of course, because Carthy is a Lancashire lad (like me) and I know tons of cyclists who look like him, speak like him, and would give an agreed percentage of their salary to be able to ride a bike like him.
It was wonderful!Embed from Getty Images
Carthy now lies third. To leap two further places might be a task too far in this Vuelta Espana. But I guess when you’ve won on the Angliru it probably feels like anything’s possible. Alternatively, you might decide you never want to go anywhere near a bicycle (or a mountain) ever again.
Both of these are acceptable responses.