The second week of La Vuelta is the toughest of the three. Stage 15 is in a sense emblematic of week 2, although it starts out rather friendly with the Puerto del Acebo and Puerto del Connio. Relatively speaking, these are gentle ascents. The Puerto del Acebo is 8.2 kilometres long and slopes at 7.1%, while the Puerto del Connio amounts to 11.7 kilometres and its average gradient sits at 6.2%. But, most importantly, what you see is what you get. No double digit ramps playing leapfrog with short descents.
The last two climbs are something else entirely. The Puerto del Pozo de las Mujeres Muertas is a craggy test of 11.3 kilometres at 6.8%. The gradients go everywhere and it is hard to find a cadence. Flat kilometres collide with kilometres at double digit gradients, and the other way around.
The finish climb to the Sanctuario de la Virgen del Acebo is even worse. Almost from foot to finish, the ascent slopes at over 10%. But this climb also includes some downhill sections, which is compensated by ramps at 15%. The final haul up is 7.9 kilometres long and the average gradient sits at 9.7%. No time to test the legs on this monster, as the first kilometre goes up at 14%.
This terrain is not suited for steady climbers and we are likely to see the lightweights come to the fore. On the other hand, it may be so steep that nobody is able to get away.
Of course, the GC riders will put each other to the test in the finale of the 15th stage, but we are not sure if this will be for the stage win. Given the course, a breakaway of strong climbers could very well tackle the Sanctuario del Acebo climb with such a margin that the stage winner will turn out to be in the lead group.
On the other hand, red jersey Roglic is armed with a hefty advantage over Valverde, Pogacar, Quintana and López. So if they want to win La Vuelta, well, their only option is to attack, preferably from far out. Yet, López lost more than 1 minute to Roglic when he directed his troops to the front in the Los Machucos stage he. The only man able to match the Slovene was that other Slovene, Pogacar.
Favourites 15th stage 2019 Vuelta a España
*** Marc Soler, Pierre Latour, Mikel Nieve
** Nairo Quintana, Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar
* Wout Poels, Jésus Herrada, Bruno Armirail, Felix Großschartner
Take a look at the route of the 15th stage of La Vuelta.
Vuelta a España 2019 stage 15: profiles
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