The Angliru is a monstrous mountain climb which made its entrance in the Vuelta a España in 1999.
The climb was right away a star bigger than the best riders
The Spanish sports newspaper Marca headlined this climb with El’Infierno which translate as the Hell.
In 2002 David Millar refused to finish the stage and got disqualified. He threw is racing number on the floor just meters before the finish line screaming “We’re not animals and this is inhuman”. During the stage there was quite some rain and team cars got stalled on the steepest part of the Alto de l’Angliru. Not all the cars managed to restart because their tires slipped on messages painted by fans. Riders get caught behind these cars and others had to ride with flat tires because mechanics could not reach them. David Millar crashed that day three times, so it makes sense that this stage broke his limits. In 2001 Alto de l’Angliru broke Bradley Wiggings. He lost the red jersey by the end of the stage and his chances to win the Vuelta a España. So this is a climb to be feared.
The steepest part is 3km from the summit with a gradient of 23.6%
In 2008 and 2017 the finish line was as well on top of the Alto de l’Angliru. Both times it was Alberto Contador who graphed the stage win. In 2008 he described it as the hardest mountain he has ever climbed, because the gradient is so inconsistent. In 2017 he attacked at the foot of the Alto de l’Angliru. He is acquainted with his aggressive and offensive racing style and on the closing day of his career he confirms his exceptional talent. He wins the 117 km mountain stage. For sure a heroic goodbye.
The steepest part is 3km from the summit with a gradient of 23.6%. Don’t get shocked as there is always a solution. Get some very low gears installed on your bike and make sure the shifting works properly. One mistake can be fatal forcing you to get of your bike or otherwise your will drop down on the asphalt.
The main challenge is finding a rhythm that allows you to recover from the really steep sections
In total you will climb a distance of 12.5 kilometers from 340 to 1575 meters. The first five kilometers does average 7.6%, stiff but not over demanding. The sixth kilometer will give you some kind of break with a gradient of 2.1% and a short descent. Maybe you can duck into a cafe at this time for a hit of caffeine before the real fun begins. From this point it’s about six kilometers to the top with an average of 13.1%.
You will start with Les Cabannes, a 400m section which touches 22% gradient at times. From here the climb very rarely falls below 11% until the 12km mark. Other sections names, that will make your shiver are Lagos (14.5%), Les Picones (20%), Cobayos (21.5%), Cuena les Cabres (23.5%), El Aviru (21.5%) and Les Piedrusines (20%), before it finally eases off considerably for the last half kilometer. The main challenge is finding a rhythm that allows you to recover from the really steep sections when the gradient drops to just 11%!
The most common starting points for climbing Angliru are the city of Oviedo and the town of Pola de Lena. Both will give you several kilometers to warm up before you hit the slopes of the real climb, although if you leave from Pola de Lena you will have to tackle the tricky Alto de Cordal which has a couple of kilometers averaging over 10% gradient. There is a risk of snow, preventing you from reaching the top of Alto de l’Angliru. So the summer months are the best when you want to have some kind of guarantee of being able to make it to the top. You can opt to ride the cycling event Vuelve el infierno, Carrera Angliru which is a mountain race. It’s only13 kilometer, but a hell of a ride it will be. It is held in October, so a nice goal at the end of the cycling season to train for.