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With no fewer than nine stages ending with challenging climbs and six featuring steep sections en route, sprinters are down to jut six stages in which they'll have any real chance of success this year. It's a strength-sapping, difficult parcours where a rider such a Contador, who can keep going long after others have run out of energy, can do well. However, Rodriguez believes that he too ha the chance to perform well.
"If he's there, Alberto Contador will be the favorite by far. There are beautiful and difficult uphill finishes, which suit me. The individual time trial - a nightmare for me - is limited," he says, referring to the much-reduced 40km ITT that in addition to the lack of sprinters' stages makes the race very much one for the grimpeurs alone.
Sammy Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi also sounds optimistic, telling L'Equip that while there are many summit finishes, "these are short... not endless."
Movistar's Juan José Cobo, who won the event last year when he rode on a wildcard entry with Geox-TMC after an amazing ride in which he made the dreaded Alto de l'Angliru with its gradients approaching 24% look easy, says that the three stages in Sanchez's homeland the Asturias Mountains will be key to winning the race. "This is super demanding Vuelta. Maybe even too much for me," he adds, "This course is perhaps too pointed for me."