Back to the racing and the Vuelta heads across northern Spain with Sunday’s finish in Madrid on its mind. But there are stage wins at stake. With few sprinters left in the race and a tricky finish today’s stage promises some unpredictable racing as it loops around Burgos.
The Route: a 189km route west across the north of Spain through the Rioja area famous for its red wines. It’s a good spin for the legs but as it’s the last chance of a flat finish before Madrid it’s going to be a day for the big ring specialists. The two climbs are each about 6km long at 5.5%, enough to play a part but leg-breaking.
The Finish: harder than it looks. If the profile says the route is flat, note the hairpin bends well before the 5km to go point. An attack and some hesitation in the bunch could see a move go clear here. The map makes it look urban but the race passes the local castle on a hill – home of a large battle – and it climbs noticeably on a narrow road before things descend and the more obvious urban finish takes shape with 5km to go.
The Scenario: who wants a sprint? With several sprinters having left the race and many teams depleted – Belkin, Lotto-Belisol and OPQS are down to four riders, Garmin-Sharp, Orica-Greenedge and Vacansoleil-DCM on five – it’s harder to set up a sprint. So we can expect a breakaway to form an we’ll see how it takes shape. Apart from Madrid this is the last flat finish so the move should be crowded by the heavier riders. It’s a lottery, a real El Gordo, to pick a rider as the course is so open. A last workout for Fabian Cancellara? The ever-present Juan-Antonio Flecha? Expect many job-hunting riders to crowd the moves too. And don’t be surprised if Michael Matthews goes up the road, after all his team mate Leigh Howard can stay back to win the sprint if it happens.
Weather: cloudy and cool. Almost Belgian temperatures with the thermometer predicted to peak at 17°C whilst a 25km/h tailwind will whip the bunch along. Note this turns to a headwind for the finish.
TV: tune in for the final 30 minutes to watch the race speed through Burgos and see if the climb past the castle is used to launch the winning move. The finish is expected for 5.45 Euro time.
- The first 115,3 km of today’s stage will take place in the roads of La Rioja. This small Spanish region is home to just over 320,000 people. Perhaps the most distinctive product of this area is Rioja wine, shared with some parts of the neighbouring Navarre and Basque Country.
- Calahorra, departure of today’s stage, is one of those Spanish cities that had great importance 2,000 years ago (during the Roman empire) but today is little more than a quiet rural town which serves as a commercial center to the surrounding hamlets.
- If you are interested in Paleontology, La Rioja is a perfect place to study dinosaur footprints. Just visit south eastern villages like Enciso to enjoy these fossils.
- Arriving to Burgos from the east, the race will cross the Sierra de Atapuerca, where one of the most important archeological sites of the world is located. Homo antecessor, considered by some as the most ancient European human being, was discovered here. The skull of one of those Homo antecessor was called Miguelón as a homage to Miguel Indurain, the Navarrese winner of five Tours de France.
- If you want to know more about our ancestors, visit the Museum of Human Evolution that opened in Burgos, today’s finish line, in 2010.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel