After yesterday’s tough final climb, this is the first proper summit finish of the race, atop the Valdezcaray ski station. This mountain has not featured in the Vuelta for over 20 years. It’s not particularly steep – it averages just 5.2% and starts to flatten off over its second half – but it is a long one (13.4km), so we could see a stage winner who is a steady rather than an explosive climber. This may bring other riders into play in addition to yesterday’s top four of Valverde, Rodriguez, Froome and Contador.
Before they get there, the peloton will be going over the Cat 1 Puerto de Orduna 50km in, a climb that should be familiar to most of these riders as it is regularly used in the Tour of the Basque Country. It’s shorter but sharper than Valdezcaray, weighing in at 7.7km and 7.8%, and is steepest (close to 12%) near the summit. This might provide the springboard for an attack if anyone is brave enough. Either way, this might be a day for an otherwise innocuous break to stay away if Movistar want to rest their legs for the bigger battles to come and give a smaller name the burden of defending the red jersey for a few days. For that reason, look for Andalucia and Caja Rural to be even more keen than usual to get men in the break today.