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Saturday, September 18 - San Martín de Valdeiglesias - Bola del Mundo, 168.8 km
Highest point: 2,247m
Terrain: High mountains
Category: Road stage
A new classic?
The Vuelta can't boast the same number of iconic climbs as the Tour and Giro, but Unipublic may have found one to add to their list in the Bola del Mundo. This takes in the oft-used Navacerrada pass, but instead of dropping towards Madrid, the riders turn onto a minor road that leads up to the telecommunications masts standing almost 300m above the pass. That height is gained in three brutal kilometres with several steep ramps. There's plenty of climbing early on too, notably of the cat 1 León and Navacerrada passes. The latter is initially tackled from the north side, then the route loops back to come at it from the south and heads towards the Bola del Mundo.
If Alberto Contador rides, this is about as close as he can get to a home mountain finish. Although he lives to the south of Madrid in the town of Pinto, he often trains in the sierra to the north of the Spanish capital. His final training camp before the Tour was held in these very mountains and included a ride up to the Bola del Mundo. "Very hard" was his verdict, and he's widely regarded as the world's best climber.
After yesterday's spur to action, Carlos Sastre could be looking favourably at this stage. If he can manage to take a win here, then it would be something of a swan song for the rider, whose powers seem to be fading with age.