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.