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The recurring nightmare for the climbing-phobic riders continues on the Vuelta’s 14th stage. It is the fifth of eight summit finishes, although those concerned do have the consolation of a mostly flat opening half to the 160.3 km journey.
An early break seems inevitable, but the riders will have their work cut out to build a sufficient buffer before an increasingly difficult second part to the stage. The third category Puerto de Siete Pilillas (km 107.2) is followed by the second cat Puerto de Los Villares (km 148.2) which, in lacking a descent, essentially acts as a first step towards the summit of the category one Sierra de la Pandera.
This 8.4 km climb averages 7.8 percent but has multiple sectors of 15 percent, including one inside the final kilometer.
Montoro appeared once before back in 2000 on a stage won by the Dutchman Jans Koerts, and the area is regarded as one of the greatest nature destinations in Spain. It is one of the last refuges for the Iberian Lynx. The Sierra de la Pandera has hosted finishes of the race five times, with the last being in 2002 when Roberto Heras triumphed.