Barakaldo – Estación de Valdezcaray
Highest point: 1,550m
Category: High mountains
The first summit finish
Starting in the Basque Country and finishing in the wine-producing centre of Rioja, this is the toughest stage so far. Most of the riders will be well acquainted with the climb of the Orduña, which features regularly in the Tour of the Basque Country. The stage then passes through Rioja’s vineyards to reach the final ascent to the Valdezcaray ski station. This hasn’t featured in the Vuelta since 1991 and not gone as high as this on the mountain since Sean Kelly won up here in 1988. The Irishman’s success underlines that this finish won’t entirely suit the pure climbers as this is a long rather than a steep ascent.
Bingen Fernández: "The Orduña is a very tough climb but once over that you’re on a plateau. The key issue there is the wind, although in September it tends not to be very strong. Valdezcaray is a long climb but not hard enough to split the race wide open."