By Jonny Long
The GC battle of the 2019 Vuelta a España continues on stage 13, after a couple of days gifted to the breakaway, as the race heads up the gradients of the Basque Country and time in the overall classification will be won and lost.
The 166.4km stage features a series of second and third category climbs, before the highlight of the day, the summit finish on Los Machucos.
The summit finish climb is 6.8km long, with an average gradient of 9.2 per cent, giving it a Especial category status. The climb twice reaches a maximum gradient of 25 per cent, firstly just after 1.4km and then just before the flamme rouge with 2km to go.
After the initial ramps in the high teens before the first 25 per cent section, the gradient then reduces to the low teens, before ramping up again to 25 per cent, then providing a downhill and flat finish in the final kilometre.
The riders will finish at an altitude of 880m, with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) looking to defend his race lead of 1-52 over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), the world champion hoping to receive assistance in pegging back the Slovenian from team-mate Nairo Quintana and Miguel Ángel López (Astana).
Last time the Spanish Grand Tour went up Los Machucos was in 2017, on stage 17, Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) won the race, although his result has expunged from the record after the Austrian was banned for four years for his part in the Operation Aderlass blood doping scandal.
Second on the stage was Alberto Contador, finishing 28 seconds back, with Miguel Ángel López (Astana) third, a minute back and leading home a group containing Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Chris Froome finished in 14th on the day, 1-46 down, describing the final climbing as "like riding up a wall". The Ineos rider however held on in the final week to claim the overall victory in what would turn out to be his second Vuelta victory, after he was handed the 2011 win after Juan José Cobo's victory was stripped after the Spaniard was found guilty of doping.
Vincenzo Nibali holds the Strava KOM for the Los Machucos segment, which he achieved on stage 17 at the 2017 Vuelta, completing the 8.1km climb in 24-42, with an average speed of 19.7km/h.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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