Fernando Escartín commentary
Mid-moutain, with an uphill finale. The terrain will be a “leg-breaker” from the beginning. The climbs will not be excessively difficult, but they will wear down the peloton so that the first uphill finish at the Ermita de Santa Lucía, will be a spectacular one. It will be a battle to the end and the 2nd category climb at Serratella will be a decisive one, though differences among the strongest riders will be minimal.
Beach and mountain
Benicàssim – Alcossebre
The stage takes place through the Valencian regions of El Maestrazgo and La Plana, a complex of mountain ranges that are parallel to the coastline, and depressions between mountain ranges made up of mild and undulating reliefs. In the geological 3D diagram, the main materials can be seen, although it is a complex structure that is difficult to perceive. The oldest materials (Devonian-Jurassic periods, between 400 and 140 million years old), appear in several colours, including violet, blue and greyish-green, the Cretaceous materials (between 140 and 65 million years old) are green and blue-green; and the most modern materials from the Miocene and Quaternary periods (less than 20 million years old) are represented in yellow and grey, respectively.
The contrast between the Plana de Castellón and the Maestrazgo mountains could not be more pronounced. The Province of Castellón is the second most mountainous in Spain, while it's coastal plain features a flat agricultural area, crossed only by the rivers and watercourse that come from the reliefs of the Iberian Mountain Range. The mountains were formed during the Alpine Orogeny (40-20 million years ago), when the movement of the tectonic plates compressed, folded and fractured all types of sediments and raised them forming the mountain range. The rivers and torrents created the current valleys, resulting in the region's fractured terrain. The effects of the rivers and the sea, combined with the changing sea levels, formed the region's large coastal plain.
Departing Benicassim, the riders will encounter the Plana de Castellón before entering the Desierto de las Palmas Natural Park, going from the coast's mild reliefs to the stage's first ramp. In these first reliefs, the Agujas de Santa Águeda stands out for its sharp peaks that are cut out of red sandstone of the Buntsandstein, a formation dating back 250 million years that pertains to the Triassic Period.
Heading back down towards Oropesa, the route passes through an area of cliffs formed by limestone rocks from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago) that go all the way to the sea. Oropesa is a magnificent example of a tombolo, a relief that forms when an island near the coastline provokes an accumulation of sand that eventually joins the island to the continent. Many historical settlements, such as Oropesa, occupied these tombolos because they were easy to defend.
Again, pedalling between climbs and descents of the region's mountain ranges, we reach the characteristic Maestrazgo landscape. Among these mountains are numerous iron ore mines that have been abandoned after years of operation and can, currently, be visited in the Maestrat Mining Park. Another highlight includes the route of Barranco de la Valltorta, where this land's ancient populations left invaluable paintings inside the limestone caves.
Fuentes Beach, in Alcossebre, is rather unusual as it has springs that result in small sand volcanos or sand blows and in some quicksand areas. This water comes from a large aquifer that is filled with water in the Maestrazgo mountains and connects to the coastal plains.
The stage's final climb, towards the Chapel of Santa Lucía, takes us to the Irta Mountain Range, a mountain ridge parallel to the coastline formed by the Iberian and Costero-Catalana mountain ranges. At the top, the finish-line offers us, on clear days towards the South-East, the silhouette of the Columbretes Islands, a Protected Natural Area. It consists of an archipelago made up for four groups of volcanic islands that were active only 300,000 years ago.
Stage Term: Sand volcanos or Sand blows
Sand volcanos are formed when underground water is exposed to pressure and finds an escape to the surface through sediments that have been dragged by water, as is the case with sand and clay. This process has very little to do with real volcanoes, but they do reproduce many volcanic phenomena to a smaller and less heated extent, making it possible to enjoy their eruptions without any risk.
Jersey wearers after the stage 4
Receive exclusive news about the Vuelta