A summit finish? Yes but the final climb shouldn’t be a showdown for the overall contenders. Instead the gradual slope to the finish line is ideal for a breakaway to contest the finish.
The Route: the race heads west across the Cantabria region but avoids the mountains. The first half of the stage is ideal for a breakaway to get away whilst the bunch takes it easy. The second half sees all the action with the sprint, the feedzone and then the first climb, the Collado de Ozalba, 5.9km at 6.6% meaning it’s not hard. The Collado La Hoz is 5.7km but 7.6%, the 1% extra gradient makes a noticeable difference.
The Finish: the long ramp on the profile is over 17km long but just under 4% meaning it’s not for the climbers. It’s still a climb up to a mountain station but instead it’s a slow ramp to help separate riders in a breakaway. There’s one section at 7-8% early but the rest is easy. Finally the road kicks up at the end, rising to 5% for the finish line. It’s still not for the climbers but more for the all round rider.
The Scenario: the long distance and the long uphill slope make this a handy test for any rider thinking about the upcoming world championships. Being able to turn on the power all day on a course like this makes for a good test ahead of the worlds. So we can think about several riders outside the top-20: Philippe Gilbert and Alessandro Ballan of BMC Racing or breakaway specialists like Thomas de Gendt and Sergey Lagutin and maybe even the so far invisible Damiano Cunego?
But this made-for-breakaway stage is obvious and several teams still need a result in the race so we can expect a busy start as teams try to place a rider in the move.
Weather: warming up as temperatures reach 26°C (78°F) with a light tailwind for most of the day.
TV: video should start around 4.00pm Euro time with the finish around 5.30pm but the tailwind and the ticking clock for teams to win a stage win could make things faster.
Meanwhile: today sees the release of Tyler Hamilton’s book. If this has little to do with the Vuelta it will put cycling on the TV bulletins again meaning whoever wins today could well be overshadowed. Unfair? Yes but it’s a legacy of the mess from the past.