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After a day for the break on Wednesday, things are going to get a lot more serious for the GC contenders on Thursday.
The Vuelta a España peloton will face a daunting day in the mountains during stage 6, with the flat start to the race in the Netherlands and the relatively constrained past two days in the Basque Country yielding to much tougher terrain.
The 181.2 kilometer stage from Bilbao will take in the first-ever stage finish atop the Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo, and should see fireworks.
Things begin humanely enough with an undulating opening hour and a half. A more difficult remainder to the stage begins with the second category Puerto de Alisas (km 77.7), which is 8.7 km in length and has an average gradient of 5.8 percent.
A long mainly flat section acts as a bridge between that and the start of the day’s middle climb, the category one Collada de Brenes (km 145.8). This averages 8.2 percent over 6.8 kilometers but includes pitches of 15 percent, providing a possible platform for attacks prior to the day’s summit finish.
That is followed by the day’s intermediate sprint at Santa Cruz de Iguña but, in all likelihood, the difficulty of the terrain should put the sprinters out of contention for points there. The sprint is in the foothills of the day’s final climb, the Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo, and this will see the overall contenders going head to head on its slopes.
It is 12.6 km in length, averages 6.55 percent and has three stretches of 11 percent or over. That should provide plenty of opportunity for the strongest climbers and, depending on how he is going on the longer climbs, could see Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) return to a red jersey he willingly vacated on Wednesday.
Alternatively one of his main rivals may start to make a big push for the final Vuelta title. Things are still tight in the GC and any one of a number of riders could end the day in the cherished maillot rojo.