Start location: La Vall d'Uixó
Finish location: Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre
Start time: 12:34 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:30 CEST
At the 2019 Spanish general election, Tomás Guitarte became the first MP from the fledgling Teruel Existe political party to be elected to congress. The party was created as a platform to represent the people of Teruel, a depopulated, remote region in Aragon that they believe was being neglected and badly in need of investment. The party proved to be popular among residents, and Guitarte became something of a kingmaker in helping Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE party form a coalition government — the support of which has seen him targeted for abuse and threats from right-wingers.
Teruel experienced mass emigration during the mid-20th century, when General Franco’s policy of Plan de Estabilización saw people flee from remote areas like Teruel to industrial towns instead for work. Now, the province is the least densely populated in Spain (aside from Soria further north in Castile and León), and unlike other places nearby (such as today’s start town of La Vall d’Uixó, whose economy has been bolstered by tourists attracted by the astonishing cave paintings of Coves de Sant Josep, is so neglected that there isn’t even a train line running to Madrid.
Stage six profile sourced via the Vuelta website
Teruel might be difficult to get to by road or public transport, but the observatory tower at Javalambre where stage six finishes is even more difficult to reach by bike, as the riders will find out today. The Pico del Buitre climb they must ascend to get to the top at the end of the stage is the only classified climb on the menu save for a couple of category three efforts early in the stage, but it's a viscous one, and surely the hardest of the whole opening week. After a gentle first few kilometres, the road kicks up to almost 10%, and barely relents for the remaining 8km to the top, save for a brief downhill section halfway up. It’s an exasperatingly uneven climb, constantly ramping up via narrow, twisting roads to gradients of over 12%, and will therefore suit the pure climbers rather than the diesel engines — as was the case when the climb made its Vuelta a España debut in 2019, when lightweight Colombian Miguel Ángel López rode away from the other GC contenders to take the red jersey.
That stage also took place during the opening week of the race, and Alejandro Valverde, Primož Roglič, Nairo Quintana and a still little-known Grand Tour debutant called Tadej Pogačar were the only riders to finish within 54 seconds of López. That those riders would also end up being the top five on GC by the end of the race suggests that, though still very early in the Vuelta, this climb is selective enough to reveal which few riders are capable of winning the red jersey.
After two more relaxed stages for the climbers, the mountains come back in today’s stage with a vengeance. The stage promises to be a playground for the pure climbers, of which there are a lot of in this year’s Vuelta, and the summit finish will certainly give a clear indication as to who will be challenging for the red jersey as the rest of the race unfolds.
The display of strength by Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step) on stage three proved any doubters wrong in his abilities to defend his Vuelta title, and he’ll be a prominent figure in this stage. Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič will be heavily marking their Belgian rival, ensuring the time gap between themselves and the leader does not grow any further. Two-time Tour de France winner Vingegaard is one of the world’s best climbers and could make a stage-winning attack on the climb’s final pitches. His teammate Roglič, however, also has experience on this climb and the abilities to take the stage. The road will ultimately dictate whether a Jumbo-Visma rider, and specifically which one, will contend for the stage win and potentially the overall lead.
Another GC favourite, who looked in great form on stage three, is UAE Team Emirates' Juan Ayuso. It became abundantly clear he is the team’s GC leader and that UAE will do everything they can to propel him across the finish line first.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) is a formidable climber and is in great form at the moment, following his second place GC finish at the Vuelta a Burgos a few weeks ago where he finished just 39 seconds behind Roglič. He currently sits fifth in the GC and will want to gain some time in these early stages. His teammate Lennard Kämna could be another contender for the stage – he put in a solid effort on stage three alongside Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), who could also be in with a chance, as could Caruso's teammate, Sergio Higuita.
Pure climber Hugh Carthy could perform well on this type of uphill terrain for his EF Education-EasyPost squad, moving him up in the GC rankings. Max Poole could be an option for Team DSM-Firmenich or Bauke Mollema for Lidl-Trek.
We think Jonas Vingegaard will take the stage win, moving him up on the general classification.