Stage 17: Aranda del Duero - Guadalajara
This is that rarest thing for a Vuelta stage, a day without a categorised climb, although it does rise to almost 1,400 metres at one point and features 2,400 of vertical gain as it carries the race southwards towards its finale in the mountains in central Spain.
At 219.6 kilometres, this is also the longest stage of the Vuelta. Coming the day after the second rest day in Burgos, it should allow the GC contenders to sit in and let the sprinters' teams take control of the peloton with the aim of keeping the breakaway within range and setting up a bunch finale in Guadalajara.
Fatigue will be taking a significant toll on the bunch by now, which will encourage the riders that do infiltrate the break of the day to think that they might be able go the distance. The terrain will offer further support to their hopes, the route bumping its way to its highest point at the Alto de Carrrascosa just prior to halfway.
After dropping down to the intermediate sprint at Atieza, the route continues to roll up and down until, in the closing 40 kilometres, the terrain levels out on a main road, which should favour the group pursuing the escapees.
The finale is set up perfectly for a bunch sprint. Coming into Guadalajara from the north, the route runs almost directly south into the heart of the city until just outside the final kilometre when it turns 90 degrees left and then, 300 metres later, switches 90 degrees right. From that point, the riders have a 700-metre run straight to the line, the road rising all of the time but at barely two per cent, which won't concern the lead-out trains or the sprinters being pulled along by them.
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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