Alto de l'Angliru

For many, the Alto de l'Angliru conjures up memories of one of the modern-day greats. It was here in 2017 that Alberto Contador, in his final race as a professional, stormed to victory in an ultimate display of power, grit and courage.


It was also the scene of a less elegant performance, when in the 2002 Vuelta a young David Millar stepped from his machine yards from the line, refusing to finish on a miserable day in protest at the brutality of the climb. Chosen by Vuelta organisers as a marquee climb to compare to Ventoux and the Stelvio, it first featured in 1999. The tactic clearly worked as the TV coverage that day attracted six million viewers.

The Angliru starts in the small town of La Vega de Riosa in the Asturias region of northern Spain, winding its way up 12.5km of re-surfaced cattle track that boasts a gruelling average gradient of 10.3%. The second half of the climb is the toughest, reaching a knee-breaking 24% at Cueña les Cabres, 3 km from the summit. The scenery is very un-Spanish, the greenery astounding in its contrast to the parched plains further south. There’s a good reason the hills here are so lush – be prepared for changeable weather at any time of year, and even snow from November to May. It’s also spectacularly quiet, with most Asturians living close to the coast.

Dutch pro, Stephen Kruijswijk, holds the Strava KOM with an impressive time of 45’33”, set during the 2017 Vuelta. For mere mortals however, anything close to the hour mark deserves a swift doff of one’s cap.

The Alto de l’Angliru is not well-served for air travel, it must be said. Flights to Asturias Airport are sporadic at best, while Santander and Bilbao are a couple of hours away. Once you’re in the region, however, there’s a nearly endless list of climbs – famous peaks and hidden gems – to keep you busy.