For the 45th time in the 12 stages so far this year, and the 9,023rd time in the last five years, the Vuelta features a stage which starts flat and coastal, heads inland to take in some climbs, and then... ends.
What’s it all about?
This is about the Vuelta doing what the Vuelta does. You’ve heard this before - there are lots of climbs all over Spain, and it is a rare day in this Grand Tour that doesn’t hit at least one of them. The field head along the coast from Motril, and will still be at sea-level when they take on nourishment not far before Malaga. The parcours avoids the city, and instead heads north and into the mountains. The largest obstacle of the day is Puerto del Leon, 895m up from basically nil. This one averages out to a long (17.4km) 5% climb, but there is a descent in there, so there’ll be some ramps into double digit territory.
After a descent, the category two Puerto del Torcal is shorter and steeper, and precedes a mostly downhill dash to the finish in Antequera. There’s only 18km from the final summit for any potential stage-winners to bring things back together. With Wednesday’s mountains still in the legs, this looks like another stage for the breakaway specialists.
Did you know?
This is one of those times that I have to really fight the urge to beat you all over the head with my otherwise pointless degree in Ancient History. Folks, there’s a megalithic site at the finish here. The Dolmen of Menga is (a) really old (3rd millenium BCE), (b) really big (25 metres long and with individual megaliths (stones) weighing around 180 tonnes), and (c) quite pretty. I mean, have a look at the main picture. Since last year, it has been a UNESCO site, making you wonder what, exactly, was keeping the good folk of the UN busy until 2016.
Pick to win
No easier than it has been on previous stages, this. I’m going to say that the break takes it, and that the winner will be the guy with the best sprint from among those who make it into the break. That’s the easy bit. Picking the right guy is hard. We still haven’t seen a Spanish winner, and Omar Fraile won something similar in Italy. Plus, he’s been oddly quiet so far in this. I can see him picking up the win.