Another day, another summit finish. This is the last decisive stage of the Vuelta and it ends with a giant 21km summit finish.
Stage 19 Wrap: a stage win for Chris Froome which allowed him to reduce his deficit to Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador kicked Esteban Chaves off the podium.
The Route: the summit finish looms large but there’s plenty along the way, a 193km stage with 4,200m of vertical gain. After the start in Benidorm the race heads inland and quickly reaches the first climb. It’s not prime ambush country though, for starters the first climb is steady at 5% for most of the way and it’s also on a lot of roads known to half the peloton thanks to the Vuelta, other races and the numerous pre-season training camps held in the area.
The Finish: labelled as Spain’s version of Mont Ventoux the comparisons work with the rocky scenery and a road leading to a communications tower but not with the ride. This is longer and not as severe. It’s a grind, 21km at 5.9% with the final 6km at 8% for most of the way. It’s uphill almost all the way to the end, only in the final few metres does the road level.
The Contenders: another breakaway? As the final set piece stage any early fugitives might not have it their own way if the main GC teams try to up the pace. Otherwise the usual suspects should appear, think Robert Gesink and George Bennett, Mathias Frank, Ben Hermans, Dario Cataldo, Valerio Conti and Pierre Rolland among others. Watch Kenny Elissonde and Omar Fraile as the mountains jersey is still in play and there’s Thomas de Gendt too, discreet so far but strong on a hilly stage with a long climb like this.
Will Chris Froome take a risk? He’s 80 seconds down on Nairo Quintana so a late attack and the time bonus will bring nothing, either he sits tight and hopes for the stage win or goes for a bold early move and risks a boomerang scenario.
Nairo Quintana has won a stage already but not in the red jersey – David de la Cruz took the jersey for a day – and he’ll fancy his chances on this long climb, just the kind of route where he can deploy his Movistar team like booster rockets before he tries to go clear.
Among the others Alberto Contador has been close on the climbs but never incisive while Esteban Chaves looks sharper but expect the pair to mark each other. As the climb is not so savage it still suits Alejandro Valverde and Gianluca Brambilla.
|Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome
|Esteban Chaves, Gianluca Brambilla
|Valverde, Contador, Gesink, Hermans, Frank
Weather: warm and sunny, a top temperature of 29°C.