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September 12 post: So here we are, at the Queen Stage of this year's Vuelta, the seventh of eight mountain stages.

The GC contenders looked a little sluggish today climbing the Lagos de Covadonga stage 15 summit finish in the rain or were they saving themselves for the four categorized climbs on Monday?

Stage 16 starts from Gijón, a coastal city and the largest city in the Asturias region, but the peloton will not enjoy a flat ride along the Bay of Biscay. Instead, the riders will head inland where they'll hit the Cantabrian Mountains (Cordillera Cantábrica in Spanish) at km 40. After that it's nothing but climbing and descending for the next 120 km over a cat 3, two steep category 1 climbs and the slightly less steep summit finsh on Alto de Cotobello. The latter three climbs are not overly long at around 10 km, but average over 8%.

The second last climb, Alto de la Cobertoria (profile), was used as a summit finish in 2006, a stage Alexander Vinokourov won (report and photos) on his way to winning the overall Vuelta title that year. Here is video from the complete 2006 finish climbing in four parts: Part 1 (), Part 2 (), Part 3 ( finish) and Part 4 ( trailing riders).

The finishing climb, Alto de Cotobello (profile), has never been used in the Vuelta a Espana. It was recently renamed Cima Rubiera in honor of Spanish rider José Luis "Chechu" Rubiera who is riding out his career with RadioShack. Ironically, the Vuelta organizers snubbed RadioShack when inviting this year's teams so Rubiera will not have a chance to race the climb renamed in his honor as a pro cyclist.

The GC contenders may have held back on Sunday's stage, but with a rest day coming on Tuesday, the pure climbers in GC contention like Ezequiel Mosquera, Joaquin Rodriguez and Frank Schleck will need to put time into others who are expected to perform much better in Wednesday's 46 km, flat individual time trial. — Steve
Imaginings From Belgium (recapping the Asturias mtn stages) — chechurubiera

Stage 16 climbs
Km 39,2 - Alto de la Cabruñana - 6,6 km at 4,77% - Category 3
Km 91,1 - Puerto de San Lorenzo - 10,0 km at 8,50% - Category 1
Km 133,8 - Alto de la Cobertoria - 8,1 km at 8,54% - Category 1
Km 171,3 - Alto de Cotobello - 10,1 km at 8,15% - Categoría Especial

(Y! 2010 Edition)