The penultimate stage
This stage is typical of the Tour of Basque Country, winding back and forth over iconic climbs before heading south into Vitoria. There is something for everyone on the route today, from steep ascents to open plains where rouleurs will be in their element. Today’s five climbs should count against the sprinters, most of whom will be out of the equation even before the Urkiola, which is the last categorised mountain of this year’s race. It’s almost 50km from the top to the finish, mostly on straight, flat roads where escapees will be vulnerable to counterattacks from behind.
Vuelta flashback 1972, Race leader Fuente defends team-mate in Vitoria
Legendary Asturian rider José Manuel Fuente was in a class of his own in 1972. Although he only won a single stage, his margin of victory at the Pyrenean resort of Formigal was a staggering nine minutes, catapulting him into the lead. He was equally strong on the penultimate day’s stage to Vitoria. Seeing his Kas team-mate Miguel Lasa’s second place under threat from Frenchman Désiré Letort, Fuente went on the attack on the Orduña clumb, blowing the bunch apart, catching the break, then Letort. At the summit he sat up, enabling the bunch to regroup and Lasa to retain second place.
Highest point: 700m
Igor Antón says...
"The GC will be pretty much decided by this stage, so I would expect an escape containing some big names who aren’t in overall contention to go all the way to the finish. The race leader’s team will have to defend any attacks on the climb of the Urkiola."