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On Friday, we enter the most difficult (decisive) portion of this year's Vuelta a España with three consecutive mountain stages that will spread out a tightening general classification.

Although, Sunday's Anglirú summit finish will be the most difficult and highly anticipated of this year's race, Friday's course in Galicia should provide an entertaining mountain stage of a different variety. The climbing on stage 13 is front-loaded so by the time we hit the slight downhill run into Ponferrada with 27 km to go, the race should be in pieces with small groups working to rejoin the leaders. Some will rejoin while others will lose some time. Expect a small break to arrive in Ponferrada (Castilla y León) after 158 km of racing with a bunch sprint deciding the finish. The Vuelta has finished in Ponferrada five times in the past with David Garcia of Xacobeo Galicia winning from a break most recently in 2008.

In total, there are two category 1 and three category 3 climbs evenly spread out over the first 130 km. There will be some of steep sections and difficult, twisty descents so when the (early) live TV coverage starts the peloton should be already scattered across the course. That's why a stage like this is often more exciting to watch then a summit finish where the drama only plays out at the finish (in slow motion).

Don't be surprised if yesterday's sprint finish winner, Peter Sagan (Liquigas) takes this mountain stage. He climbs and descends well enough for this stage to stay with a break and we know he can sprint. — Steve