The twelfth stage of La Vuelta a España passes through Malaga city. / EFE

La Vuelta a España cycling event races along the Costa del Sol

Cyclists competing in the twelfth stage of the national race made their way along the coast before a gruelling, 19-kilometre climb to the Peñas Blancas finishing line in Estepona

SHAY CONAGHAN

Participants in Spain’s national La Vuelta cycle event raced along the Costa del Sol’s main thoroughfare today, Thursday 1 September, forcing the closure of some sections of the N-340 for a brief period of time.

The event, which began in mid-August, is approaching its final ten days of racing. It was Richard Carapaz who won the Costa-based stage, as he managed to take first place with a nine-second advantage at the finish line of the steep climbs of the Peñas Blancas mountains, in Estepona.

Belgian cyclist Remco Evenopoel continues leading the overall ranking for a seventh consecutive stage, a record not seen since 1978.

Hectic race day

Today’s race started in Salobreña, in Granada province, as the cyclists set off just after 12.30pm and crossed into Malaga province in the following half hour.

It was a fast-paced competition from the off, with 15 attackers making a break and splitting the pelotón (the main group of cyclists who stick to the same pace) in different groups. However, this pack could only establish a small, ten-second lead and they were quickly caught again by the pelotón.

These attempts at breaking away so early in the race weren’t surprising, given that the vast majority of the stage was on flat and wide roads. That allowed for the leading pack to be made up of an unusual 32 cyclists.

By the time the race had made its way to Malaga city, the leaders had opened up a three-minute gap and the riders averaged a speed of 47.4 km/h.

The race then headed towards the first hilly section of the stage, where cyclists took to the relatively easy slopes of Cártama, Coín, Monda and Ojén. Unfortunately for Evenopoel, the overall leader of La Vuelta, he suffered a crash on the Ojén road with less than 50km left.

Final ascent

The racers then descended back towards the coast, past Marbella and on to Estepona. Just before tackling the final climb, the leaders had opened up a massive, ten-minute gap to the pelotón as they began the gruelling, 19-kilometre ascent.

The leaders were visibly suffering, as the mountain section had an average slope of 6.7%. The riders took on the long, uphill segments, which at one point peaked at 15% before the finish line

Richard Carapaz won the stage, as he broke away from the other leaders with a burst of pace just two kilometres from the end.

Cycling to plant trees in Sierra Bermeja

La Vuelta a España this year isn't just about the daily, competitive stages.

Local Marbella cyclist Luis Ángel Maté is currently competing in the race with a charitable cause in mind: he has pledged to plant one tree for every kilometre he breaks away during each of the competition's stages, either on an individual or collective level.

Prior to La Vuelta a España starting, Maté had announced that he would also be donating 100 trees.

Moreover, his proposal has been matched by both the race organisers and his team, meaning that 300 trees were set to be planted before the competition even began.

After the twelve stages, Maté has managed to donate over 400 trees for his cause. Yesterday's stage was especially poignant for him, as it finished in Sierra Bermeja itself, where he often spends his time training.