Stage 5: L'Eliana - Alto de Javalembre
As is often the case at the Vuelta, the first of eight summit finishes, at the Javalembre Observatory, is a new one and should provide the initial hierarchy in the contest for the red jersey, even if the breakaway does manage to stay clear on this constantly rolling stage through the provinces of Valencia and Aragon.
The stage gets under way in L'Eliana, just inland from Valencia. It begins to ascend from the off, reaching the first of three classified climbs, the second-category Alto de Alcublas, after 31.7km. The road continues to rise beyond this, reaching 1,000 metres and then staying more or less at this altitude for the next 100 kilometres. Midway through this stretch, the riders will tackle the second climb of the day, the third-category Alto Fuente de Rubielos.
These constantly undulating and winding roads offer fertile ground for a breakaway, and Euskadi-Murias, Burgos-BH and Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, the three Spanish pro continental teams who were wild card picks for the Vuelta, are sure to be represented. Some of the WorldTour teams without any obvious GC candidate should also feature, improving the break's chances of going the distance.
It will be interesting to see which teams set the pace in the peloton chasing behind. As the race is only five days old and there are many more difficult tests ahead, the GC favourites are likely to be more focused on each other and the contest on the final climb than on contending for the stage win, offering a little more incentive to the break.
The final climb is not especially taxing by Vuelta standards. Extending to 11km and averaging 7.8 per cent, it begins gently before pitching up into double figures in kilometres four and five to reach a little plateau. Immediately beyond this, it rises much more abruptly, touching 16 per cent for 500 metres and then continuing at 10-11 per cent for the next 3km before easing a little before the observatory at the summit.
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