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September 8 post: The Vuelta a España will enter and finish in the Basque Country for the first time in 33 years. Back in 1978, backers of Basque independence created security problems for the Vuelta when protesters blocked the course. In recent years, the Basque government lobbied for the return of La Vuelta and now it has happened.

Spanish fans don't normally flock to the roads like other major races (except for steep finishing climbs) but all that should change for stage 19 because the Basque country has some of the most avid cycling fans anywhere. The week long Vuelta al País Vasco in April and Clásica San Sebastián at the end of July are the two biggest races in the Basque country and they bring out big crowds. And any time the Tour de France comes down to the French Pyrenees, you'll see the wild Basque fans dressed in orange.

Most pundits are predicting this stage will end in a sprint finish, but the category 2 Alto de Vivero will be climbed twice before the riders finish on their second pass through Bilbao, the largest Basque city and the tenth largest in Spain. The last pass of Alto de Vivero occurs just 14 km from the finish so it is very possible a break will succeed at this point of the race.

Team Sky gave Geox-TMC the day off on Thursday after Juan Jose Cobo was on the ropes at the end of stage 17 on Wednesday. Surely, Team Sky are not going to wait for their last chance on Stage 20 to try and make up the 13 second GC deficit. They said they would be looking to chip away at the lead with bonus time. They'd better start today with bonus time available at the two intermediate sprints and the finish. — Steve