Stage 6: Córdoba - Sierra de Cazorla, 200.3
Yet more hills. But we're getting closer to the mountains.
Like...most of the other stages so far in this Vuelta, there's a flat start, before some uncategorised bumps, and yes, a hill to finish.
Starting in Cordoba and finishing 200 kilometres later near Cazorla, the stage is the final day before the first mountain stage.
Last 15 kilometres:
From this we can see that the climb is a little more irregular than it seems on the profile. The part of it that is actually categorised is at an average of 7% and peaks at 15, but there is rather a slog on the way to it.
This stage is not for sprinters. Yes Sagan has climbed well, especially on stage 4, but he just won't be able to cope with all the climbing towards the end of this stage. This is just for puncheurs.
Leader Dumoulin only has one second on Chaves, who's a better climber. There's a pretty good chance the Colombian took take it right back off Dumoulin's shoulders. Nicolas Roche is also a challenge. He attacked well on stage 4, and if he managed to get a gap on Chaves, he could take it. However, judging by the way Chaves climbed on stage 2, he shouldn't lose much time to Roche on the easier climb.
Peter Sagan has had a fantastic first few stages of the Vuelta, and holds the green jersey. Whether he can hold off the climbers to keep it through the last fortnight is a different matter, but he should certainly keep it into stage 7.
Stage 6 contains the first categorised climb since the middle of stage 3. Even so, leader Omar Fraile can't lose the jersey.
Chaves will keep it.
Alejandro Valverde is the obvious favourite for this stage. He seems to have found his legs for going uphill, after looking a little uncomfortable on stage 2, with his win on Tuesday, and of course always has to be mentioned when third category climbs can be found at the end of a stage.
Valverde is apparently leading Movistar until further notice, and will want to get some bonus seconds in the bag before the mountains. This is a good chance for him.
Nicolas Roche is my second pick. The Vuelta a Espana has always been his best race, with a best GC finish of fifth in 2013. While Chris Froome is leading his Sky team, Roche seems to have been given freedom to attack in the hills, if not the mountains, making spirited efforts and just missing out on stage 2 and 4. He is within striking distance of another day in the red jersey, at 15 seconds back.
My third pick is Joaquím Rodríguez. The Spaniard has specialised in this sort of stage for years, and has looked strong at the start of the week. With Quintana and Froome not looking 100%, could he hope for another GT podium, or even a first victory?
Tom Dumoulin climbed brilliantly on stage 2, and has the red jersey. Daniel Martin can never be ruled out on short climbs.