A hundred meters from the beach of Ézaro, where the Galician coast at its best, there is an ominous sign with the red warning triangle: thirty percent (30%) warns the board, then you directly ride against uphill over a huge rock. Welcome to the Mirador de Ézaro, the steepest climb in bicycle racing history.
A percentage that never before in the bike race had to be overcome. Circus or sport, ask experts themselves. “If people want to see a show, then we must understand that we are always also artists,” concludes Robert Gesink of Rabobank Cycling Team.
At the start, the eye of the riders this time very different focus than usual. The gears are the talk of the day. Which cassette is good for the 1.9 km long and up to 29% (according to exact measurements) steep Mirador de Ézaro? A climb that never before in the Vuelta, even the terrible Angliru d’Alto (23.6%) cannot match with it?
Some of the other monstrous and most feared climbs of Europe: Keutenberg (22%), Mur de Huy (inner curve 25%), Kronplatz (24%), Monte Zoncolan (22%), Wall of Montelupone (21%). Only Wall Scanuppia is steeper, a perpendicular path of 45%, which hitherto never included in a cycling race.
Mirador de Ézaro climb profile
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Rabobank chose a 39×32 gear ratio for Bauke Mollema for the first time in the history of the team, though he decides to change it to a 39×28.
Juan Manuel Garate is the rider of Rabobank chose the least resistance, a compact 36/34×28 ratio. Other competitors chose: Chris Froome 38×32, Alberto Contador 36×28, Alejandro Valverde 39×29 and Joaquim Rodríguez 39×28.
Even the most experienced sports director Adri van Houwelingen has never experienced before. He said: “In modern cycling, I find this climb does belong.”
Gesink agrees: “I have more trouble with a cobblestone strip such as the Arenberg Forest since the factor luck plays a much bigger role. If you look at the differences, then climb it reflects the relationships we have in the preceding days in this Vuelta saw.”
As expected, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador were again the best from the bottom of the climb. In the last three hundred meters, Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez managed to drop Alberto Contador and extended his lead in the general classification.
Robert Gesink said “In the last three hundred meters I wanted to sprint. I can normally sprint for three hundred meters, but today, I fell silent now after 150 meters. I was completely capped. This indicates the difficulty of the climb.”