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Vuelta a Espana 2017: A return to the Alto de Puig Llorenca on Stage 9

Joe Robinson
10 Aug 2017

The climb that announced Tom Dumoulin makes a return to the Vuelta on Stage 9 to Cumbre del Sol

Often a mountain comes along that proves to be the making of a rider. It will be the first glimpse of this particular cyclists ability and will etch itself as the starting point of a successful career.

When Stage 9 finishes atop the Alto de Puig Llorenca, 2015's summit finish in which Tom Dumoulin staked his claim as a general classification rider with certainly be mentioned.

Long before Giro d'Italia success and stage wins in all three grand tours, Tom Dumoulin was considered a pure time trial specialist. When he climbed into red in Cumbre del Sol, many sat up to the possibility we were witnessing the birth of a new general classification contender.

The top ten of that stage in 2015 read like a who's who of climbing and GC talent, and it came as a shock that Dumoulin sat atop the pile. Since this feat, the Dutchman has fast become one of the world's leading GC talents, and to many, Chris Froome's (Team Sky) greatest rival. 

Returning to the climb, Vuelta organisers will be hoping that this short and punchy climb will produce a similar shake up to 2015. At only 4km in length, this will not pose the difficulty of the high mountains but could certainly see time gaps form.

Averaging 9% across the 4km, the Alto de Puig Llorenca rears up to 21% at its steepest, with further ramps of 11% later in the climb. 

Bringing up the rear of a 174km stage, with only one Category 2 preceding the final climb, we can expect a sizeable peloton to hit the base of this climb. 

Based on results from 2015 however, there will most certainly be the opportunity to distance rivals, stealing crucial seconds. Riders of the calibre of Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lost 16 and 28 seconds respectively, on the races last visit. 

When looking at the start-list, a few names jump out as potential chances who will look to take stage honours. 

With the final climb bearing similarity to those found in the Ardenne Classics, a rider that will certainly fancying his chances is Julian Alaphillippe (Quick-Step Floors).

With podiums at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne under his belt, Alaphillippe is no stranger to the short steep stuff. With overall success potentially a step to far, stages like this may present the young Frenchman with his best opportunity for a win. 

With similar pedigree to Alaphillippe in the Ardenne Classics, Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) may also be eyeing up the road to Cumbre del Sol. The former World Champion has had a quiet season and will be hoping to make an impression at the Vuelta. 

With Louis Meintjes expected to be UAE's chosen son for overall honours, Costa may be given the freedom to chase stages. If the big GC contenders begin to look at each other, do not be surprised if the 30-year old sneaks off the front.

One man that could perform well, though a complete outsider, is Carlos Betancur (Movistar). The Columbian has shown great potential but has often struggled with issues such as weight, that has pegged his career. 

However, with solid performances in the Ardennes in service of Alejandro Valverde and an outstanding ride at the inaugural Hammer Series, Betancur could be back to his best. 

With no Nairo Quintana or Alejandro Valverde starting the Vuelta, the Movistar team will be hunting stages, and the finish into Cumbre del Sol could suit Carlos Betancur.

Stage 9 will definitely have fireworks in its final hour, so be sure to watch it happen. Live coverage starts at 1400 on Eurosport with highlights on ITV4 later that evening.