You’d think that, after that mega-mountain weekend, the podium would be set. Well, it’s fairly certain it will consist of Rodriguez, Contador and Valverde but this final summit finish might just mix their positions around. The peloton has to get over one Cat 2 and three Cat 1 climbs before tackling the HC Bola del Mundo, finishing the stage at the highest point in the Vuelta. Oh, and did we mention that the last climb is an average 8.6% gradient, but has ramps of up to 23%?! Of course it does!
If Valverde and Rodriguez are still harbouring any hopes of the overall victory, they are going to have to attack hard where the road really starts to ramp up – that’s at around kilometre eight of 11.4, assuming they don’t try something even more audacious earlier on. And even if they do distance Contador, he still has a cushion of 1:35 over Valverde to play with so it will take a big effort to force a change to the red jersey. But in this race, you just never know. Perhaps more realistically, Valverde will want to ensure Rodriguez doesn’t get as much as a sniff of overturning the 46-second deficit which separates second from third.
There are opportunities for riders to change places a little lower down the order: Robert Gesink is 32 seconds behind fifth-placed Daniel Moreno, while just 34 seconds separate Laurens Ten Dam in seventh from Igor Anton in ninth, with Andrew Talansky sandwiched in between. But all eyes will be on the three amigos at the top of the order, and with time bonuses potentially crucial expect them to ensure that the day’s break is not allowed to stay away to the finish. The stage victory will go to one of the big guns – you can be sure of that.