Nairo Quintana made a big move towards the Vuelta a España title when he benefited from Alberto Contador's early attacks to turn the race upside down on Sunday. The Colombian finished second in the stage behind Italian Gianluca Brambilla as his main rival Chris Froome was trapped behind. Contador is now fourth overall just over four minutes off the pace while Froome lies second, 3 :37 behind Quintana and Esteban Chaves is third 20 seconds further back. Contador...
The stage in videos
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The stage in pictures
Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) leads the break during stage 15 of the 2016 Vuelta a España © J.A. Miguélez
Between ancient glaciers and volcanoes
This stage takes part through the central part of the Pyrenees, covering some of its most spectacular geological landscapes. A good part of the itinerary goes through valleys that were created by glaciers around 65,000 years ago, when the Pyrenees were completely covered with ice. At the end of the stage, very close to the French border, are rocks formed by volcanic eruptions that generated explosions and large streams of lava that covered valleys almost 300 million years ago. Solid remains of those lava streams and of the ancient volcanoes are perfectly visible nowadays. This is a spectacular landscape that hides an equally, if not more, spectacular geological history.
The stage connects the Tena and Ara valleys through the Cotefablo Port. Both valleys were created by glaciers that measured more than 30 kilometres in length and had an ice thickness of 400 metres in some points. Today, Pyrenees glaciers are rare and can only be found at the foot of the highest peaks and in areas with favourable orientations. But glaciers not only excavated valleys, but also accumulated notable sediments, such as the Senegüe moraine, with its characteristic half-moon shape.
All types of topographies and formations can be found in these valleys. Among the cascades, the most notable is the one at Sorrosal, a truly spectacular waterfall located right in the urban centre of Broto. A highlight among the valleys is Ordesa, which is a little out of the route's way, but is very important in the geography of the Pyrenees and is a National Park since 1918. It is worth, at least, a quick visit with the Vuelta helicopter.
In any case, the landscape is a natural wonder. The entire last part of the stage goes through some of the most emblematic peaks in the Pyrenees:
● The Anayet peak consists of the remains of a volcanic conduct through which lava travelled to the surface. Erosion has made the rest of the volcano disappear, leaving only the “chimney” through which lava exited behind as it is made of more resistant rocks. These explosive eruptions that covered the area in lava happened approximately 300 million years ago.
● The Culivillas Peak and Royo Peak, in the surroundings and inside the Formigal Ski Resort, are formed by rocks resulting from the volcanic eruptions of the Anayet Peak and Midi D'Ossau.
● The Midi D'Ossau Peak, although slightly removed, has an unmistakeable silhouette. As in the case of the Anayet, it is in fact the remains of a volcanic chimney through which lava erupted 300 million years ago.
● La Marmolera del Infierno and the Infierno (Hell) Peaks are numerous peaks standing over three thousand metres tall found in this part of the Pyrenees. They are easily identifiable as part of them are formed by marble, which makes them stand out from the rest of the landscape due to its spectacular white colour that looks very similar to snow.
Volcanic chimney. Conduct through which lava is expelled from a volcano. With passing time, and once the volcanic activity has ceased, the entire volcano is often eroded away, leaving only the rock that fills the chimney behind.
Jersey wearers after the stage 21
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