Stage 3: Ibi - Alicante
The sprinters won't want to let this stage that runs between Spain's toy-making centre of Ibi and the port of Alicante evade them. It features just two categorised climbs, neither of which should cause the likes of Bennett, Gaviria, Phil Bauhaus, Fabio Jakobsen or Luka Mezgec much of a problem as they go hunting for victory.
The third consecutive stage to take place in the province of Alicante looks problem-free for its first half, although the intense heat that's typical of this region in late summer will be a significant draw on resources, although its cumulative effect shouldn't be felt for a few days yet.
Soon after the start, the riders will begin a large loop that includes the first of the day's climbs, the third-category Puerto de Biar. Moving east, the Puerto de Tibi follows 35 kilometres later. At almost seven kilometres, it's much longer than the first hill, but averages less than five per cent. Topping out 30 kilometres from the finish, it will trigger a frenetic dash into Alicante, taking in the intermediate sprint on the way.
The finish, located beneath the spectacular Castello Santa Bárbara that overlooks the Mediterranean city and alongside Alicante's impressive marina, should be a superb spectacle, particularly as the peloton will speed towards it on major roads without too many changes of direction. After coming around a sweeping right-hander just inside the final kilometre, the final gallop to the line along the seafront is wide and straight. Given the tightness of the time gaps at the top of the general classification, the bonus seconds available on the line could result in a change of leader and perhaps even that rare thing nowadays of the Vuelta being led by a sprinter.
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