Tineo to Santuario del Acebo (154.4 km)
The first stage in a mountainous double header. This is the hardest stage left in this Vuelta and should give us an idea of who is going to win. If Roglic rides like he did on Los Muchucos, the only thing left to be decided will be the minor places.
Let’s call it the queen stage of this Vuelta with four very Vuelta-like climbs. None of them are very long, but they are all steep and irregular. The final climb is a newbie for the Vuelta but feels tailor-made for inclusion. It’s 7.9 kilometers long, with an average gradient of 9.7% and several stretches well over 15%. It finishes at the Santuario del Acebo, a church built in the late 1500s to honor a miracle of the Virgin Mary where a local woman with a gimpy leg had her leg return to full health. It doesn’t get any more Vuelta than that.
Writing this as the stage has already started, you’ll get the extra schadenfreude of seeing my predictions go awry in real time! While it would be poetic to see the winner of this stage be someone with formerly bad legs to parallel the miracle described above, I think the Slovenian hegemony continues and that Roglic takes the stage and secures the overall race victory. He’s proven to like the relatively-shorter and steeper climbs and this stage will offer him plenty. With a strong team to keep any break in check and to make sure he doesn’t expend a lot of energy before the finale, I think he takes his second stage victory on the way to the overall win.