Vuelta a Espana Stage 4 - Preview

Hang on, we've got this wrong. The Vuelta is a race for sprinters, after all. This is the third stage in a row where they should divide up the day's main honours between them, and the most straightforward so far as it loops inland into the Comunitat Valenciana in order to avoid the province's main city before finishing at the Costa del Azahar resort of El Puig, which is welcoming the race for the first time.

There are no notable difficulties prior to the intermediate sprint at Náquera, where bonus seconds could be very hotly contested. The stage's only classified climb, the third-category Puerto del Oronet begins soon after, but with an average gradient of 4.5 per cent it won't shake many out of the peloton.

Dropping from it back towards the Mediterranean, the riders will reach the coast just north of the port of Sagunto. If the break has survived until this point, the escapees won't find much to help them in the final 20 kilometres, which are completely flat and run largely on main roads. They'd need to have half a dozen Thomas De Gendts with them to repel a bunch driven by sprinters' teams well aware that this is the last opportunity they'll have to be centre stage for a while.

The closing five kilometres are totally flat, and the principal concern for the lead-out trains will be the half-dozen roundabouts that have to be negotiated in the final three clicks. The last is just outside the 500-metre-to-go mark, and from there the sprinters have a dead-straight run-in to the line.

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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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