Chris Froome (Team Sky) went full circle to clinch his second stage victory in the Tour of Spain in stage 11 on Wednesday on the very spot where he revealed himself five years ago. At the top of Peña Cabarga, the Briton outsprinted his leading rival for overall victory, Colombia's Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who retained his leader's red jersey and a 54-second lead over the three-times Tour de France champion. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was third in the stage, six seconds adrift, and...
The stage in videos
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The stage in pictures
Omar Fraille (Dimension Data) during stage 11 of the 2016 Vuelta a España © Graham Watson / Unipublic
The cave coastline
The stage commences at the Asturias Jurassic Museum (MUJA), in Colunga, an authentic geological monument regarding the dinosaur remains of that period of the Earth's history. It is an amazing museum where one can discover all the peculiarities of these fascinating reptiles that became extinct 65 million years ago. It is worth seeing the building from the sky, in order to see that the shape of the building is in fact a tridactyl (three-toed) dinosaur footprint.
As the stage follows the coastline, the most noteworthy geological elements are the beaches and river mouths. There are all kinds of spectacular beaches: Guadamia is a river canyon with a beach at the back; Cuevas del Mar is surrounded by cliffs and blowholes where the air blows when it storms; La Palombina is formed by an isthmus in the shape of a shell, etc. Ribadesella Beach is, besides an estuary, formed by the mouth of the Sella River and, Ribadesella is where we find the Tito Bustillo Cave Art Centre, whose paintings feature in Unesco's World Heritage listing. This cave has prehistoric paintings that date as far back as 22,000 years ago.
From here, the stage crosses a karst region. La Vuelta does not have any underground stages, meaning that we will not see the caves, galleries, stalactites, etc, that lie just beneath the entire route. But, luckily, there are also other surface phenomena, such as sinkholes. All these phenomena have to do with the dissolution of the area's limestone, that dates back as far as 150 million years.
Some topography formations result as a combination of the coastal processes and the limestone. The most striking aspect of this is the presence of blowholes in the entire area. These are karst galleries found on the sea level where the waves go in, creating immense pressure, making the pulverised sea water shoot out above the cliff, accompanied by a very characteristic blowing sound that gives it its name. The Arenillas Blowholes are the largest on the Western Coast, reaching around 40 metres high.
Between San Vicente de la Barquera and Comillas, the route passes through the Oyambre Natural Park that was created in order to protect sand dunes, estuaries, marshlands and beaches, that form a singular complex. In truth, we will continue to see river mouths and the beaches associated with them right until the end of the stage. One of the most striking is the Saja River's mouth, between Suances and Miengo, that forms part of the Liencres Sand Dune Natural Park, considered one of the most important in Northern Spain due to its geo-morphological interest.
To finish, the route takes us to the Peña Cabarga Massif Natural Park. The park occupies a limestone massif formed in the Cretaceous Period, around 100 million years old. It is of great geomorphological interest due to its karst formation resulting from the dissolution of limestone rocks, that has led to the creation of channels, sinkholes and limestone cliffs. Among these karst formations, one in particular stands out: the Karst de Cabarceno, which was exploited to extract iron since Roman times and is, today, a magnificent Natural Park.
Jersey wearers after the stage 21
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