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Friday, September 17 - Piedrahita - Toledo, 200 km
Highest point: 1,670m
Category: Road stage
This has breakaway written all over it. There's a cat 2 climb soon after the start that takes the race up into the remote and beautiful Sierra de Gredos. This looks like it will be the launchpad for a long-range attack, given the rolling terrain that follows right to the finish. With one key mountain stage to come the next day, the overall contenders will be happy to let the sprinters' teams chase down breakaway riders, but will those teams have the numbers to do so this late in a race of attrition?
Carlos Sastre is sure to be the centre of attention if he confirms his participation for a third major tour this season. Today, the race passes through his home town of El Barraco, where he's sure to receive a hero's welcome. However, Sastre's an unlikely winner here. Cervélo have more chance with their sprinter Thor Hushovd, winner of the Vuelta points title in 2006, who will be sharpening up his form before the Worlds. They will also look to get riders into the break of the day and Philip Deignan could be one. He took a stage win in Avila last year at a similar point in the race, and has made the Vuelta the major objective of a season hampered by illness.
Matt White says:
"This one looks like it will see another bunch sprint, or a breakaway, depending on how the day goes. It's odd that they've put in sprints like this so late in the race after all the climbing that's gone before."