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Baby blue race rocket with lots of neat touches
Tuesday, August 31 - Málaga - Valdepeñas de Jaén, 177 km
Highest point: 1,100m
Terrain: Medium mountains
Category: Road stage
A decisive break
Breakaway riders have a good chance of staying clear right to the finish here. While the sprinters may fancy a final fling in Valdepeñas de Jaén, the cat 2 Puerto de Valdepeñas that tops out inside of the final 10km should persuade most to hold fire. The stage's opening kilometres along the Costa del Sol should see high speeds, though, as the riders fight to get into the break that's sure to form and consolidate on the 910m, cat 2 Zafarraya. From there, the route bumps northwards over parched terrain to the decisive final climb. A rider with a 30-second gap at the summit should be able to maintain their advantage to the finish.
With the race just four days old, a successful breakaway could well result in one of its members taking the leader's red jersey. Getting one of their riders into red is sure to appeal to all those teams who don't have to defend the interests of an obvious overall contender, including Andalucía, Footon and all the French teams. Cofidis's Leonardo Duque is one to watch on stages like this. He's gone close many times before at the Vuelta and certainly has the all-round skills to win here.
Leonardo Duque was awarded the Tour de France combativity title after stage 19 last year and has made his mark during a few Vuelta stages too. The Colombian has a mean sprint and decent mountain legs, so look out for him.