Prades Conflent Canigó
Prades Conflent Canigó
The peloton only has to look up to get an idea of the day ahead. Located at the foot of the Pyrenees, Prades is bolstered in the South by the impressive Canigó Pyrenean massif and has exceptional views of the mountain range that separates France and Spain. First opportunity for the strong riders of the 2017 Vuelta that will allow the bravest among them to begin dreaming of La Roja.
The pyrenees that join us
Prades Conflent Canigó – Andorra la Vella
This third stage takes place right in the heart of the Pyrenees, entering Têt Valley and continuing through El Segre until Seo de Urgel where we cross the Valira River Valley and reach Andorra la Vella. This route goes through Ordovician rocks (500-435 million years ago, shown in dark green and mauve colours in the diagram). The bottoms of the valleys through which the stage passes consist of more recent materials (yellow and grey colours) that are the result of hillside erosion.
The Pyrenees were formed when the Iberian Plate got closer to the Eurasian Plate, pushed by the African Plate. Between Europe and Iberia, the sediments were compressed and uplifted to form the mountain range we know today. Though it is true that it forms a geographic barrier, the Pyrenees are actually a seam that resulted from the union of two large geological regions that remain active to this day.
The stage's relief can be divided into three sections, according to each one's inclination and slope:
The first section is the ascent of the Têt River Valley, that formed through a system of fractures (or faults), among which the fault located in the South of the Têt-Cerdagne stands out, having experienced movement in the last 10,000 years. Proof of this are the triangular facets that can be seen on the right-hand side of the river.
Once we reach the highest point of the route, in Mont-Louis, we can see the impressive peaks of the Pyrenees to the South, whose summits (reaching up to 2881 metres above sea level, like the Puig de Bastiments) were moulded by the glacial processes of the Quaternary Period. Although the glaciers retreated around 10-12,000 years ago and the current landscape is nowhere near as icy as it was at that time, we can still see significant traces of this glacial action, such as the U-shaped valleys or the lakes that were carved out by glacial ice.
The second section is dominated by the descent through the Segre River Valley. This descent will feature a milder slope than the ascent as the Pyrenees are, generally, “asymmetric” and end abruptly near France, while it extends in various directions, each one less elevated than the one before, as if it were a staircase, towards Spain. The area also has various zones filled with sediments that have accumulated over the last 20 million years (Miocene) and result in soil that is particularly favourable for agriculture and livestock, as is the case in Puigcerdá.
Finally, the third section starts at Seo de Urgel and heads towards Andorra, where riders will have to climb and descend the reliefs of the Sant Julià de Lòria until they arrive at Andorra la Vella.
In the capital of the principality we will see just how important natural water is, and has been, since last century for Andorra's economic and touristic development, thanks to elements such as the Electricity Museum, located in an active state-owned hydroelectric plant, or the city's luxurious thermal water spas.
Stage Term: Triangular Facets
Triangular facets are geomorphological features that are created when a block of rocks is raised due to a moving fault and the river network becomes entrenched into that same rock. The result is a series of triangular-shaped ramps that are separated by the valleys of rivers or torrents.
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