The stage itself has been designed by and for cycling fans [Note: my input was not solicited - Ed.], with two laps of Córdoba before the stage finish and, therefore, with climbs of to San Jerónimo (2nd Category,), which has proved on previous occasions to be no mean obstacle for the sprinters. The summit is located just over 10 kilometers from the finish. Even the GC favorites will have their options at the finish.
Previous editions: Jaén has hosted nine stage starts, whilst Cordoba has hosted 17 stage finishes. The most recent stage to finish in Córdoba also started in Jaén. This was in 2008 and was won by Tom Boonen, who unfortunately abandoned the Vuelta yesterday, during the arduous stage to Sierra Nevada. This year, however, the finish is more challenging and the riders will arrive with a lot less strength than on the previous occasion.
Cadel Evans remains this correspondent's sentimental favorite, though after yesterday's untimely mechanical and his pained 7th place finish on today's stage, only a fool would bet on the Australian against the whole of Spain. Sitting 5th at 1:51 from race leader Alejandro Valverde, the man with a Wikipedia-verified nickname of "Cuddles" needs to stop being warm, fuzzy and whiny and instead slash and burn his way back into contention.
With five stages to go before next week's individual time trial, the penultimate day of racing in the Vuelta, it's imperative that Evans lose the "Cuddles" moniker and redeem himself in the eyes of the cycling press (of which I'm now apparently a legitimate member, once again). This writer strongly believes that it's Evan's sappy, sentimental and overly-sweet nickname that has impaired his performance (and not an absence of CERA from his Australian blood, for example), and invites you - the reader - to make haste and quickly rechristen "Cuddles" with an apodo befitting a Grant Tour Winner. While "'Roo," "VegemiteyCadel" or even "The Wizard of Oz" would be better nicknames than "Cuddles," I don't agree with Bike S(n)ob NYC, who swings too far into the territory of suggested autocriticism when he refers to Evans as "The John Coltrane of Excuses." Many of Evans' excuses would seem legitimate to a fellow cyclist, though the one thing that can't be explained-away is that fucking nickname. So get on it! I'm calling on my Australian readers especially to lead the charge here - give your man a new name and help him back into the top-3!
On another note, if betting were legal in the USA, my pick for the Worlds would be Damiano Cunego, with an assist by able-bodied Filippo "The Ego" Pozzato. Il Piccolo Principe flew up the final climb today to take his second win of this year's Vuelta, as described by VeloNews:
"Damiano Cunego (Lampre) collected his second win of the 2009 Vuelta a España on Sunday atop the Alto Sierra de la Pandera.
Cunego jumped away from a crumbling nine-man break to climb the Pandera alone to victory as the battle for the overall was fought behind him. Fellow breakaway Jacob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) hung on for second at 2:23, with a resurgent Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) third at 3:08.
Race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) briefly found himself in difficulty on the steeps of the Pandera, but fought his way back to finish fifth on the day at 3:22, 12 seconds behind the ever-aggressive Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia).
Rather than losing time, Valverde actually took some seconds on his rivals — Robert Gesink (Rabobank) finished sixth at 3:26, Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) seventh at 3:40 and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) ninth at 3:48."
Take a look at the complete route map for this year's Vuelta, courtesy of Unipublic, which has seen fit to accredit Pappillon and its staff as "virtual" prensa for the remainder of the race. We'll bring you all of the standard race coverage you depend on, such as stage profiles, maps and results, infused with brilliant, hi-res imagery and snarky or otherwise non-PC commentary.