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Vuelta Stage 15... LIVE! Alto de Monachil!

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Finally, after several days of racing that, while not without merits even before Jason McCartney's most excellent escape, was pretty much irrelevant to the final picture... it's back to the action. Today's ride from Villacarillo to Granada contains only three rated climbs and finishes with a 20km downhill run. But - ah! - the Alto de Monachil could have diced up the peloton pretty significantly before that 20km, and if history is a guide, might contain a few surprises after the summit as well.

The Alto de Monachil is 8.4km at 8.1% grade average, and slopes as nasty as 14%. It also grades out lower because it's not terribly long and there's a downhill section, but the average is misleading: the first 6km are a steady 9, 10, 11% or worse. If the racing is all piano beforehand, then maybe the favorites will all just hang together. But much of this stage was run last year, and the Astana boys unseated Alejandro Valverde in the process with a combination of blistering attacks and an 80kmph descent. A year later this may not be the stage, but it should be fun.

[Food for thought: how come nobody wants to revisit Vinokourov's win? Does the thought of Valverde the winner cause people to just move on? Had to be asked...]