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Wednesday, September 1 - Guadix - Lorca, 194 km
Highest point: 1,300m
Category: Road stage
Worlds proving ground
Perhaps because there are no categorised climbs today, the organisers are describing this as a "completely flat" stage – not exactly the term we'd use. What they're effectively saying, though, is the sprinters should gobble this up. It takes the race from Andalucía into Murcia on roads that are often exposed and the riders could have problems if the wind gets up, especially if they're not towards the front of the bunch and echelons start to form. The sprinters are sure to be there, their teams ensuring that any breakaways are of the kamikaze kind.
Thoughts of the Melbourne Worlds won't be far away for sprinters, especially those who aren't yet established at the top of their national team. Take Germany: André Greipel and Gerald Ciolek could both contend for the world title, and the Vuelta could decide which gets the weight of the German team behind him. Vuelta history suggests Greipel, who won four stages here last year and will be aiming for what's likely to be a final flourish in HTC colours. But Ciolek also won a stage here in 2009, and won't fancy playing a lead-out role having already taken the World U23 title in a bunch sprint.
Matt White says:
"This will definitely be a stage for the sprinters. They've not had much chance to get going so far so they will want their teams to take control of this one, and the sprinters will decide it between them."