|La Olmeda Museum|
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Unipublic, the organisers of the Vuelta, took a brave step in including the Alto de l'Angliru in yesterday's Stage 15. While it's only been a part of the race since 1998, it's so steep and so difficult that it has already achieved the notoriety of the Mortirolo and Zoncolan and is even approaching the semi-mythical status of Mont Ventoux, the holiest mountain in cycling. As a result of that inclusion Stage 15 - though otherwise really rather non-descript - takes on the feel of a Queen Stage; and for those following it to avoid seeming like somewhat of an anti-climax the route planners will really need to have done their jobs well.
Unfortunately, Stage 16 seems a little bit of a let-down. Having said that, there are those out there who enjoy sprints and prefer to watch a plain stage - those people will probably be glad we're back to the flatlands today after the mountains of Asturias. However, the majority of fans - because cycling is a sport in which we love so much to see our heroes suffer - prefer the mountains; and while today has a couple of upward bits, from a climbing fan's point of view it all seems a little dull. In fact, the really testing mountains are all behind us now: there are some interesting Cat 1 and 2 climbs still to go in the coming days and a selection of respectable 3s and 4s all the way to Madrid, but the big ones have all been ridden.
Oh well. At least there's still lots to look at - and when we say lots, we really mean it on this stage.
|A mosaic depicting a hunt, La Olmeda|
We leave La Olmeda via the PP-2420 running north-east towards Ganinas de la Vega, turning left at the intersection just before the village to head along the CL-615 to Saldaña, first passing by Lobera de la Vega. We turn right at the junction with the CL-624, head across the wide bridge into Saldaña and then turn right onto the P-240 which at first leads back in the direction we came. The neutral zone ends after 6.4km on a straight section of road around 0.5km from the town.
|Abia de las Torres|
|Osorno town hall|
|Iglesia de la Asuncion. Melgar de Fernamental|
|Eermita Nuestra Senora del Torreon|
We cross the motorway again, following alongside for a little longer this time until we reach Villanueva de Argaño, 74km from the start of the race. We travel south of a steep slope almost 100m high stretching around to the north and ahead, almost a mesa; then through an 8km section without any villages en route to Las Quintanillas - it's an attractive town, the well-executed buildings of light-coloured stone achieving the look of a place far wealthier than it really is. The road bisects the village before turning south-east for Tardajos, another very pretty village that was inhabited for many years by some very ugly people, seeing fit to vote an openly fascist member of the far-right Democracia Nacional party onto its council several times. Less than 2km later, we arrive at Burgos.
|Papamusca, the Flycatcher|
|Arco Santa Maria|
Oh, alright then - we do know why they took such a long way round the city: there's a lot of stuff worth seeing.
On the eastern side of the town we reach a junction and turn right onto the BU-820, beginning the first intermediate sprint 120.2km from the start, then soon reaching Arlanzón with a tight right corner onto a narrow bridge. During the Middle Ages, Arlanzón was inhabited by Euskara-speaking Basques - the language has since died out in the area, but echoes still remain in place names and some local family names. Villasur de Herreros, home of what is probably the only museum in the world devoted to mining trains, lies a short way ahead with two sharp corners and another narrow bridge. The terrain it noticeably different after Villasur, having changed from the wide open fields that have characterised the stage so far to more rolling, wooded terrain.
|Embalse de Uzquiza|
|Belorado (from SlowCamino, probably the best blog about|
this part of the world)
|Tormantos (from the village's website)|
|Venus de Herramélluri|
|Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Legarda-Ochanduri|
Anguciana's most noticeable feature must be the 14th Century Torre Fuerte, built to control the nearby bridge and today looking a bit incongruous on a residential street. It was purchased by a Franciscan order in 1920 and housed a school, more recently passing back into private ownership. The race turns right in the centre of town, travels across the bridge onto the Calle de la Torre de Palacios and following through to the Av. Príncipe de Asturias - the location of the second intermediate sprint: it's straight and shouldn't cause any problems.
|Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Vega - 10th Century,|
|Remains of the Roman castle, Haro|
|Medieval tower, now an art museum|
Predictions: Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel would both have been in with a very, very good chance of winning this final flat stage - unfortunately, they've both gone home early (and in Cav's case might by his own admission not have survived the climb to finish Stage 15. The absence of the two supersprinters leaves the possible outcome wide open - there are points and a stage win up for anyone who wants them enough. We'll see Bradley Wiggins working hard to either win back the red jersey or maintain a place on the leadership board from which he can mount a final assault on it in the last few stages.
Weather: A good bit warmer than it has been for the last few days: in fact, positively hot towards the end of the stage. We can expect a low of 21C at the start, rising to 24 or 25C in the wide flatlands either side of that little first climb. Even the highest points between 130 and 140km will be no cooler than the mid-20s, with that rising higher during the descent to the finish line where it'll be as high as 28C. There will be gentle tailwinds all the way to the last 10km, making this potentially a very fast stage indeed, and the headwind for that last part should remain gentle and cause no hardship. Sun is expected over the entire parcours.
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