Llívia lies 1,223 metres above sea level, an altitude that obviously brings some risks for pro-cycling races this early in the season. Last year’s 4th stage originally would have started here, but due to weather conditions (snow) the roads were impassable and the start was rescheduled to Montferrer at an altitude of 600 metres. Let’s hope the 2018 edition does start in Llívia.
There is something special about the departure place. Llívia is Spanish – or, if you prefer, Catalan -, but it is completely surrounded by France. A situation that has existed since 1660. The year before that, in 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees ceded 33 Spanish villages in the area to the French crown. Llívia did not become part of the French kingdom as a clever Spaniard noted it was (and is) considered to be a city and not a village.
So, after the start the route moves through France for a few kilometres before re-entering Spain. Via Seu d’Urgell the riders continue to the Port El Cantó, a climb of almost 25 kilometres. The first slopes go up at 9 to 10%, but at kilometre 6 the gradient flattens out so that the Cantó is averaging 4% from bottom to top.
Following the descent the race passes through the valley for approximately 35 kilometres before hitting the Port de la Creu de Perves. This is a 13.5 kilometres climb with an average gradient of 4.5%. The second half is by far the most toughest section as from kilometre 6 onward the slope is averaging 6%. The riders crest the summit after almost 160 kilometres in the saddle.
The descent leads to a false flat of aproximately 10 kilometres to the last climb, which runs through the Tunnel de Vielha. The final ascent of the 5th stage amounts to 15 kilometres and is averaging 4% before the riders drop down to Vielha e Mijaran. The descent is 13 kilometres and the last 600 metres or so are on the flat.
The Aran Valley was part of France until the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The valley lies in the north of Catalonia and is hugging the French border. Capital Vielha e Mijaran is situated at an altitude of 974 metres and is surrounded by mountains that are peaking at more than 2,000 metres.
The first three riders on the line take time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds, while intermediate sprints (at kilometre 4.6 and at kilometre 172.1) come with 3, 2 and 1 seconds.
Volta a Catalunya 2018 stage 5: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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