L’Angliru. Speaking the name strikes fear, excitement, and desire into the heart of cyclists. I’m not only talking about amateur cyclists either, as Angliru – one of the steepest, most challenging climbs in the Pro-tours – can summon up passionate reactions amongst even the strongest riders on the planet.
The climb has only been featured in the Vuelta España four times – in 1999, 00, 02, and 08. It is an iconic climb, not unlike what Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux are to the Tour de France, or that Stelvio or Mortirolo are to the Giro D’Italia. However, it could be argued that Angliru is a new breed of climb to be featured in a Grand Tour and is much more difficult than the aforementioned four giants. Angliru is often compared to Monte Zoncolan in the Giro D’Italia as they are a new level of difficulty, and climbs that have been “found” to be a new test of ability for the pro cyclists. This is where the debate rages on.
In 2002, with the rain and fog being so strong, team cars could not ascend the narrow, slippery Angliru road. David Millar, who had crashed three times on the climb, stopped a meter short of the finish line, tore off his race number, threw down his bike in protest and quit the Vuelta, while in 9th place.
Kelme team director Vincent Belda said after the Angliru “What do they want? Blood? They ask us to stay clean and avoid doping and then they make the riders tackle this kind of barbarity.”
French Rider Patrice Halgand claimed Angliru was outside of the UCI rules due to it’s steepness and length and went on by saying “I find it ridiculous to go looking for a hill on a narrow road, dangerous and winding. There are other cols than the Angliru to climb in the Vuelta. Differences in the riders would show just as well on a col that’s less steep and on a wider road. It would also be better for spectacle, because on the Angliru the guys go too pitifully for the climb to have any sporting interest. Even the winner goes up in slow motion. There’s no attacking. From front to front, everyone just gets up as best he can.”
Gilberto Simoni the only male rider to win on the Zoncolan (both when featured in 2003 and 2007) said this of the Angliru: “The Angliru is the toughest. There are six terrible kilometres on that mountain. What suffering! The Mortirolo is also hard and long, but it’s not the Angliru. The fatigue you feel there is terrible. The Gavia is very long and has a lot of history, but it is not so hard.”
Gilberto Simoni has always been a favorite rider of mine. As I looked over the scheduled map of the 2010 Cima Coppi Tour I realized that L’Angliru was not far from the route I had planned and will opt for that over the Gijon – Cotobello stage. Considering this is said to be Gibo’s last year in cycling, as he plans to retire, I think riding Angliru, his personal toughest climb and one that he won in 2000, is a nice thought. Perhaps, it would be more wonderful to ride Zoncolan, but I’m not going to Italy this year!
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