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The last stage before the rest day, Stage 10 is the 2011 Vuelta a España's only individual team trial and takes place on a parcours running south from the grand university city of Salamanca down to the little village of Torre Zapata and back up again, a clockwise loop of 47km ending slightly north of the start. The Vuelta road book describes it as "completely flat," but it's not - there are no leg-breakers today, but a 165m climb during the first 22km is sufficient to make the going considerably more difficult for some of the TT specialists, a few of whom are known for their dislike of any sort of ascent. With all the climbing coming early on and a long descent to follow, this looks set to be a very fast course indeed - possibly even fast enough to bring new Vuelta records.
|The 15th Century Torre del Clavero, all that
remains of a fortified home once built by the
de Sotomayor family - whom we encountered
previously at Herrera in Stage 7.
The city surrendered to the Moors in 712, but was unable to enjoy the benefits of their science, culture and society as the region became the centre of ongoing battles between Muslim and Christian forces which left it a depopulated backwater. In fact, it could very easily have become just another of the once great cities that now exist as forgotten villages throughout Spain had it not have been chosen as a suitable new home for a group of Christians looking to resettle the area after their victory against Abd al-Rahman III in the Battle of Simancas, which saw the Duero region return to Christian control. More organised Christian resettlements took place under Alfonso VI of Castile and Raymond of Burgundy in 1085 and 1102. However, it was Alfonso IX of León's Royal Charter of 1218 allowing the formation of the University that really jump-started Salamanca's new lease of life - it quickly attracted scholars from across Europe, rapidly becoming one of the world's foremost centres of academia.
|The Baroque New Cathedral.
|The Romanesque/Gothic Old Cathedral.
|Typical landscape south of Salamanca.
Crossing the motorway once more, the riders come to Mozárbez located 11km from the start; believed to be the site of an ancient fort and famous for the large numbers of scorpions which seem to find the little village a desirable place to live. At Montellano, they turn a sharp and potentially slippery right turn onto the narrower DSA-206 heading south-west and passing into an area with more trees than previously. The parcours leads through Cuatro Calzadas, one of those unattractive hamlets consisting of houses strung out along the road and little else, the attractive meandering stream on the other side of the road being far more pleasant to look at.
The road is long and mostly straight, the only bends being gentle and undemanding curves - an ideal time trial road, in fact, which will encourage high speeds and get the riders to the stage's southernmost point at Torre Zapata rapidly. The village has little to offer, meaning the difficult and very tight turn onto the DSA-207 may prove the most exciting thing to have happened there in some time: if it isn't host to at least one crash, we'll be surprised. From this point, the riders are heading back towards Salamanca.
|Main Facade, University of Salamanca.
The DSA-207 ends a short way further on with a right turn at the junction with the DSA-204 which comes 30.5km into the stage - a junction that, being surrounded by dry fields, is another potential hazard due to slippery dust, puncture-causing stones and mud and diesel deposited on the road surface by farm vehicles. This road is even straighter, hardly deviating at all until a pair of Z-bends right at the end when it joins DSA-210 at a simple junction where the riders won't even need to apply their brakes. A bridge carries them over a stream just east of Aldeagallega, then a few more bridges pass by on the way to Porquerizos and, a short way further on, the CL-512 leading into Aldeatejada 41km from the start, then to a large roundabout junction with the A-66.
|La Plaza Mayor.
Predictions: It's a time trial and Fabian Cancellara is in it. It's not rocket surgery.
Weather: A bit hotter than it has been for the last few days with temperatures ranging from 27-29C expected along the whole route. Winds will be light but variable as the route's direction alters, changing from headwinds and crosswinds during the first half to crosswinds and very welcome tailwinds as the riders head back to Salamanca. No rain is expected anywhere on the route.
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