If anyone's familiar with the 2009 Vuelta a España parcours it's Australia's Neil Stephens, Caisse d'Epargne directeur sportif and 14-year veteran of the European professional peloton.
Through years of competition on Spanish roads with such teams as Festina and ONCE, years of living in the Basque country and time spent on recon-duty earlier this summer to best direct Caisse d'Epargne's Vuelta favourite Alejandro Valverde to victory, Stephens is intimately familiar with the day-to-day intricacies of the Vuelta's 21 stages.
"The three big areas of the race will be the time trial in Valencia, the days around Aitana and the stages surrounding the Sierra Nevada and La Pandera," said Stephens. "The norm for the race should be that the overall guys are in a good position after this point - in our case hopefully Alejandro [Valverde] is in good shape and hasn't gone back for his raincoat at a bad time - then we should be able to take it day-by-day until the end of the Vuelta."
Stephens has shared with Cyclingnews his thoughts and predictions for each day of the Vuelta, providing insight into who he thinks the contenders will be in addition to Caisse d'Epargne's plan for team leader Valverde.
"Neil Stephens says" can be seen beginning with our stage one profile.
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