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Vuelta Stage 10: Break or Sprint?

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Jose Jordan/Getty

Stage 10: Valencia - Castellon, 146.6 km

Shame the sprinters have all gone home.

Route:

This stage begins with a gentle climb from the start line, rising to the 500 metre Puerto del Oronet. After the descent, there appears to be a long, uncategorised climb with seemingly low gradients. When done with that, there's a flat section until the day's major difficulty, a category 2 climb with an average gradient of 5.5 percent over 7.5 kilometres. When they have finished the descent of the climb, there will be about 10 flat kilometres left.

Profile:

Last 5 km:

Map:

This is a standard Vuelta transitional stage, with just enough climbing to leave sprinters unsure of a stage win, but not enough for much GC action to occur.

Implications:

General Classification:

Vuelta red jersey

Tom Dumoulin took the red jersey on stage 9, and won't lose it here. He's been climbing brilliantly, and the final climb won't bother him.

Points Classification:

new Vuelta green

Chaves holds this jersey by one point from Valverde. If there's a very small group at the finish, Valverde could sneak ahead.

Mountains Classification:

Vuelta KOM jersey

Fraile isn't technically safe, but Dumoulin or Chaves would have to score points on both climbs to take it from him.

Combined Classification:

Vuelta white jersey

Dumoulin now leads, will keep it.

Who'll win?

Sagan and Bouhanni have abandoned the race on the crash-marred stage 8, so we must look to the next fastest sprinter, and that is John Degenkolb. He specialises in being the best sprinter who hasn't abandoned the Vuelta, and so he is for stage 10. Can he make it over the hill? Well this stage bears some similarity to stage 19 of last year's race, where a cat.2 climb finished its descent with 10 kilometres to go. While Degenkolb did not win that stage - coming second to a late attack by Adam Hansen - he did climb comfortably, in fourth wheel most of the way up the climb, so I think he can make it to the finish with the peloton, and be the fastest sprinter there.

Now it's time to name all the climby sprinters. Jempy Drucker is fast enough to possibly challenge Degenkolb, but I'd question his ability to get over the climb - I don't think he's quite as fast uphill as the German. Anyway, even if he does make it to the finish in the main group he's not fast enough to beat Degs.

Jose Joaquin Rojas says he's not here to sprint, but he's one of the fastest men left in the race, and the fact that the final climb on stage 10 is the one on which he attacked to win the Spanish championship in 2011, there is extra motivation.

Caleb Ewan is probably going home on the rest day, but had a fast sprint on stage 5. However, he struggled in the mountains, finishing third-to-last, and I don't think he'll make it to the finish.

Pello Bilbao is a good pick from the peloton or the break. Should the break make it - and it might, he could be in it, but if the final climb proves more selective than I had anticipated, he could be the fastest sprinter there. Only Stuyven stood between him and a sprint victory on Saturday, and Stuyven's gone home.