It's been a week since the sprinters had their last clear shot at glory, when the Vuelta raced into the Catalan town of Igualada, but here finally is another stage that should definitely tempt them into action, assuming, of course, that there are plenty of them left in the race after duelling with the time limit in Andorra and having to negotiate yesterday's full-on mountain experience.
Starting in the Cantabrian fishing port and resort of San Vicente de la Barquera, the route principally hugs Spain's rugged Atlantic coast. Route director Fernando Escartín has described this stage as flat, and while there is only one classified climb on the road to the Asturian city of Oviedo, the roads along this stretch of coastline undulate almost incessantly so that by the finish the riders will have notched up almost 2,300 metres of vertical gain without going above a height of 350 metres at any point.
At Gijón, where Thomas de Gendt won in the 2017 race, the route turns south, crossing the third-category Alto La Madera, which averages 3.5 per cent for its 8km. From the top, 22.5 kilometres remain to the finish. It should already be clear at this point whether the breakaways will fight it out between themselves or if the peloton will reel them in, with a bunch sprint the almost inevitable consequence.
The final 13km are on one of the main highways into Oviedo and are relatively free of road furniture. The final roundabout is just outside the 2km-to-go banner. Inside the final kilometre, the route snakes a touch until the 350-metre when it straightens up towards the line, rising a little as it does so.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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