Larra-Belagua, the Navarrese hardness that will see the light of day in La Vuelta

After his trip to France the third country through which it will pass the return 2023 (since August 26) to Andorra and logically also Spain, the race will return to national territory only to leave it at the end in Madrid, via Navarre. In the second week, the 14th stage, taking place on September 9th, will be one of the toughest days of this edition. in the debate over whether she can even be queen.

And that the previous day ends in the Tourmalet. The next morning, and departs from Sautveterre-de-Béarn, the famous port of Larrau, one of the toughest to see in the Vuelta, will serve as an entrance to the country. The result will be in Larra-Belagua, one of the six mountain finishes of this edition, and a Navarrese like Caja Rural’s Julen Amezqueta analyzes the climb in AS: “It will be an interesting and very entertaining stage because it offers a lot of room for team strategy. The day before will be that of the Tourmalet, That causes a lot of wear and tear and is an immediate option so those who lose time have an opportunity to win it back.”

The profile of the stage and the final climb.
The profile of the stage and the final climb.

The port that arrives after passing the city of Isaba, It consists of 9.5 kilometers with an average gradient of 6.3% and maximum ramps of up to 10%. That means constant. The finish is at an altitude of 1,587 meters, one of the highest points in the community. “I would split the climb into three parts. The first, when you get to the valley, with a first straight of about 2.5 km at 7%, not very difficult. The second, with horseshoe curves, is quite challenging. Then you get closer to the goal in the third part and leave the entire valley on the right. It’s a very open area, so the wind can be crucial,” says the man from Estella.

Regarding a possible tactic for this increase, Julen is clear: “If you want to cause damage you have to move the part of the horseshoes and take care of the hole they make. The last part isn’t that hard that it makes a difference and since it’s so exposed it’s likely that some will protect themselves by getting behind the wheel,” explains the Caja Rural man. Belagua is a port very close to Piedra de San Martin. This serves as a connection to re-enter France. It’s a quiet area, practically in the Roncal Valley with a cross-country ski area on its banks. “It will be a good showcase. “The traffic is almost non-existent in general and it’s pure nature,” says Amezqueta, who warns there are good opportunities for a break ahead of the Larrau race.

Julen Amezqueta credits Belagua's promotion to AS.  (Pepe Andres)
Julen Amezqueta credits Belagua’s promotion to AS. (Pepe Andres)

“It’s a very difficult climb discovered in the 1996 Tour (He only repeated this in 2007, never at the Vuelta). There is no leeway or breaks to recover. After a short descent you reach Isaba, at the foot of the final port. At the start there will be a lot of escape attempts and some favorite teams will try to filter their riders so that their leaders can try Larrau and then make their way to Belagua,” added the Navarrese. Julen has turned 30 this season and this is where he does most of his training: “When I visit Strava, I see that few people know about these two climbs and I encourage them to test their toughness. It’s very unfamiliar territory, especially for young audiences. I’m sure the gutters will burst for La Vuelta that day.”

Amezqueta joined the Caja Rural in 2018, and the Navarrese team, also played at home, played continuously in the Spanish round from 2012 to 2021. There was no invitation for 2022 due to the high level of competition from the pro teams, but they will be back in Barcelona in 2023. You will surely see them. “At the Vuelta there are not as many alternatives as at the Giro (Race he contested twice during his time in Italy). In our case, fighting for victory means overcoming a breakaway,” warns Amezqueta, looking forward to this new corner that La Vuelta will unveil.

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