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The penultimate stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana ends with arguably the most daunting climb world cycling, the 1550m Alto de l’Angliru.
The 142.2km Stage 20 route begins benignly enough in Aviles, but the climbs build both in height and frequency to finish on the monster that is l’Angliru.
The climb is a distance of 12.2km, average gradient of 10.2 percent with two points where the gradient rises above 21 percent, the last just under 2km from the finish line.
Before we this, however, there is the Alto del Cordal; a category one, 780m peak with an average gradient only slightly less than l’Angliru at 9.6 percent.
Expect only those with serious intentions to be challenging these two peaks.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), so long the race leader, was finally overtaken by the evergreen Chris Horner (Radioshack) on Stage 19.
The 41 year-old American now has the red jersey by three seconds on the Italian, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde a minute and six seconds behind Horner in third.
Horner professes to be feeling great, while Nibali has struggled in recent stages and will have to pull out a huge effort and attack with purpose to grab back his lead.
Don’t discount Valverde either, or fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who is now fourth overall after his win on Stage 19, trailing Horner by nearly two minutes.
Rodriguez has the ability and, according to him, the legs to pull off an attack that may just have him on top of the podium in Madrid.
Should he attack early, the other big names will undoubtedly follow and we could quite conceivably have the top four riding together and jostling for position in a spectacle that could define this year’s race.
This Vuelta has been brutal and, with only two stages left, the overall classification is still there for the taking by any of a number of riders.
With so much at stake, expect some amazing racing to come.