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September 6 post: Some climbers (Frank Schleck?) have been biding their time waiting for the high mountain stages and stage 11 with a mountaintop finish in Andorra may provide an opportunity for some riders to move back into GC contention.
Starting from Vilanova i la Geltrú, the previous day's finish, we'll head due north to the Pyrénées or Pirineos, as they are called in Spainish. We know the Pyrénées well from the French side since they are featured in the Tour de France every July. Often the Tour will venture into Spain and much of the latter half of this stage was used in the 2009 Tour de France stage from Barcelona to Arcalis won by Brice Feillu.
The 2009 Volta a Catalunya used the same finish to Pal that this year's Vuelta Stage 11 will use. Here's Dan Martin of Garmin-Slipstream on his way to finishing second that day. Photo: Colin Flockton, steephill.tv
From the Spanish coast to the border of the French Pyrénées seems like a lot of ground to cover. In fact, stage 11 will be the longest stage of this year's Vuelta at 208 km. The climbing is very gradual for most of the day with only a category 3 at km 47 before the mountaintop finish in Andorra officially starts at km 199. The Hors catégoriefinishing climb is 10 km at 6.5% (profile) ending at Pal, a village in the Vallnord ski resort complex. The road was built to handle the winter ski traffic so it's a steady grind most of the way unlike the short, steep finishing climbs we've seen so far. The 2009 Volta a Catalunya finished at Pal as well and only 37 seconds separated the top nine riders on that day. — Steve