With the rest day done the Vuelta enters the final phase towards its conclusion in Madrid this Sunday. A hilly stage awaits with an early opening climb and a tricky uphill finish.
The Route: 177.5km and 3,640m of vertical gain. After a brief parade along the coast the road turns inland at Benicasim and tackles the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, 7km at 5.1% before open inland roads and the next two climbs average 3-4% but have their steeper sections of 5-6%. Both are far from the finish which make them unlikely ambush country.
The Finish: less than 4km but another steep finish, this time reportedly with a cement-paved track and so a hard climb.
The Contenders: there’s a good chance a breakaway stays away after using the early climb as a launchpad but that “good chance” means half the field will want to be in the move. With a finish like this Astana’s Andrei Zeits, BMC Racing’s Ben Hermans and Lotto-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink all have their chances if they can make the move but so do many others. What about Caja Rural? Normally a lively presence in this race they’ve been discreet but surely they’ll have to flood the breakaway and if so Sergio Pardilla is the pick. The GC candidates could have a go and Chris Froome is the one who needs to take time but this short climb offers seconds rather than minutes.
|Brambilla, Froome, Quintana, Hermans, Bennett
Weather: sunshine and a few clouds, 29°C.