Preview: Vuelta a Espana stages 15-21Sat 3 Sep 2016
A difficult second week of racing at the Vuelta a Espana saw Jens Keukeleire take a stunning victory on stage 12 for ORICA-BikeExchange, whilst Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates move up to third and fourth respectively on the general classification.
The third and final week of racing moves south towards Valencia and the Mediterranean coast with a 37kilometre individual time trial coming before the race climax in Madrid.
Sunday 4th September, Stage 15: Sabingo-Sallent de Gallego to Aramon Formigal, 118.5km.
A short but difficult mountain stage with three categorised climbs including a challenging summit finish on the first category Los Sarrios climb. The category three Alto de Petralba and the second category Alto Cotefablo come before the finale on a potentially fast and explosive stage.
Monday 5th September, Stage 16: Alcaniz to Peniscola, 156.4km.
After an exerting weekend in the Pyrenees the race heads down to the Valencian coast for a mainly flat stage that includes only one, third category climb before a long descent to the finish. Favouring the sprinters who have made it through the mountains or potentially a collaborative and fortunate breakaway.
Tuesday 6th September, rest day: Castellon.
Wednesday 7th September, Stage 17: Castellon-Llucena to Camins del Penyagolosa, 177.5km.
After a welcome rest day the peloton reconvenes for a mid-mountain stage that includes four categorised climbs before a steep climb up to the summit finish on the first category Alto Mas de la Costa. Short at only four kilometres but with an average gradient of 13% and a maximum reaching 22% this is the first appearance of the Mas de la Costa in the Vuelta.
Thursday 8th September, Stage 18: Requena to Gandia, 200.6km.
A lumpy and undulating stage with a lone second category climb, the Puerto de Casa del Alto coming after 60kilometres of racing before a series of technical descents and short ramps lead to the finish. The stage levels out before the finish line providing the penultimate opportunity for the sprinters before Madrid.
Friday 9th September, Stage 19: Xabia to Calp, 37km, ITT.
A potentially decisive individual time trial that comes before last mountain stage of the race and covers a technical yet not quite flat parcours, that runs along the coast. Ideal for the specialists and the punchier rouleurs, it’s the first time in the history of the Vuelta that a time trial has been held on the second to last day.
Saturday 10th September, Stage 20: Benidorm to Alto de Aitana, 193.2km.
The penultimate stage and the most decisive for the overall general classification is a challenging day in the mountains covering five categorised climbs. The brutal summit finish atop the hors category Alto de Aitana is worthy of its status of race decider. Twenty-one kilometres in length and almost 1300metres of elevation, the climb will provide a spectacular climax to the race.
Sunday 11th September, Stage 21: Las Rozas to Madrid, 104.8km.
The largely ceremonial final stage is mainly made up of nine finishing circuits of downtown Madrid where the sprinters and their teams will be looking to gain a foothold for the finale. With the general classification neutralised after stage 20 it will be a celebratory last day of racing for this years Vuelta.
General classification after stage 14:
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 58:41:40
2. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 00.00:54
3. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:02:01
4. Simon Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:02:17