Over the past three years, Escaldes-Engordany has become THE city of the cycling Grand Tours. In 2015, it hosted a Vuelta stage for the third time in its history that headed for Lérida. In 2016, the Tour de France discovered the Principality's thermal city. In 2017, Escaldes-Engordany will, once again, host a Vuelta departure. What will happen in 2018?
3 Vuelta stages have started in Escaldes-Engordany
Principality of Andorra
Catalonia from north to south
Escaldes-Engordany – Tarragona
This stage begins in the border between Andorra and Catalonia, and the peloton must cover the provinces of Lérida and Tarragona from North to South. From a geological perspective, the route will cross Catalonia's three main geological domains: the Pyrenees, the Ebro Basin and the Costero-Catalana Mountain Range.
The route departs from the geological centre of the Pyrenees, where erosion has exposed the oldest and deepest rocks (metamorphic rocks from the Paleozoic Era, between 540 and 400 million years ago) and then takes us to the mountain range's outskirts, onto more recent rocks. In this first part, the roads and valleys cut through structures where the rocks appear to be fractured and/or folded, showing that the Pyrenees formed when the Iberian and Eurasian plates came together, squashing everything that stood between them. The Oliana anticline is an example of such a structure and consists of a huge fold that is 12 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide, making up the entire Oliana Valley.
The second part of the stage crosses the Ebro Basin and the Ebro Valley, two things we often mix up. The Tertiary Basin is a huge depression (between the Pyrenees, the Iberian Mountain Range and the Costero-Catalana Mountain Range) where sediments accumulated as the mountains eroded, during the Tertiary Period (Paleogene and Neogene). Around 60 million years ago, the basin began receiving sediments and it continued to do so until about 2.5 million years ago. That makes a total of over 50 million years collecting sand, clay and plaster! The Ebro Valley, however, formed in the last 2.5 million years, eroding a good part of the Tertiary Basin's sediments and depositing more modern and current materials.
In any case, the rocks here are much newer than those found in the Pyrenees, consisting essentially of materials that have been deposited by ancient rivers and lakes associated to the current river system. This way, we can highlight some geological elements that are representative of this type of environment, such as the lacustrine succession of Sanaüja. It is also worth mentioning the Cave of L'Espluga de Francolí that, with its extension spanning over 3590m, is the seventh largest cave to have developed in a cluster in the world.
Finally, the riders will have to cross the Costero-Catalana Mountain Range. Though the route runs through the Francolí River Valley, without any significant ramps, there are interesting rocky outcrops along the sides of the route. Among them are the La Riva reefs, enormous constructions of up to 40m high that were formed by coral in the Triassic Period (252-201 million years ago) and are now found on the surface. Shortly before the end of the stage, the reliefs of the Miramar Mountain Range are the last highlight of the day, featuring nearly 400 million years old volcanic rocks.
Stage Term: Anticline
An anticline is a fold of strata convex up, vault-shaped, and whose nucleus contains the most ancient materials. This geological structure is produced due to the compression of the land.
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