On Sunday, the Vuelta finished on the steep banks of the Angliru. At an average of over 10% with the steepest section topping off at 24%, you’d think that the riders’ gear choices going into that stage would be a critical decision for the teams. Not that they couldn’t climb the hill in a harder gear (something like a 38×28, for example), but why would you subject yourself to that if you didn’t have to? Besides, going into the final week of the race, wouldn’t you want to have all the advantage you could?
Reading this article of team gearing choices, it seems surprising that riders/their mechanics were caught off-guard. It’s not like they haven’t used this climb before in the Vuelta.