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Vuelta a España - Stage 12: September 11 - Almería - Velefique, 174km

2009 Vuelta a España stage 12 profile

2009 Vuelta a España stage 12 profile (Image credit: Unipublic)

Proycling's Analysis: This marks the start of four tough stages in Andalucía. There are two first-cat climbs, the first of which is climbed twice. The toughest sections of the Velefique come early. There are pitches of up to 14 per cent but the gradient eases towards the summit. However, the 3,550m of climbing that the riders will do is plenty for one day.

Culture Vulture: The region is the driest in Europe, averaging 330 days without rain each year.

Local hero: Expect mayhem if Almería’s biggest star, Grammy Award-winning singer David Bisbal, turns out to promote his new album. He has a big following in Spain, Latin America and the US.

Vuelta Retro: The Calar Alto observatory has hosted two summit finishes in the past. Back in 2004, Roberto Heras triumphed spectacularly, bumping Floyd Landis out of the leader’s jersey on the way to his third Vuelta victory.

Neil Stephens says: This is one of the hardest days of the Vuelta. I drove around it and there's a lumpy section in the middle that's hard. This day and the next is going to be a critical part of the Vuelta and it's going to offer some severe type of racing. When I was driving around it the temperature was 40-45 degrees Celsius, so although it should be a bit cooler it's still going to be brutal. 

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