The country's biggest cycling race rolled into Malaga province on Thursday as the twelfth stage of La Vuelta a España departed from Motril bound for Antequera.
Race leader Chris Froome couldn't build on his commanding lead from stage 11 in which his second-placed finish, 14 seconds behind Colombia's Miguel Ángel López, saw him gain ground over his rivals and extend his overall lead to one minute 19 seconds. On Thursday's stage 12, Froome crossed the finishing line at the Unesco world heritage site in 32nd place, some eight minutes after stage winner Tomasz Marczynski after a mechanical failure and a crash on the final down-hill stretch into Antequera. He did, however, limit his losses over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) to 20 seconds, and over Spanish rider and three-time Vuelta champion Alberto Contador (Trek) to 42.
The first half of the 161.4-kilometre stage took in much of the Costa Tropical, departing from Motril town centre, before heading down the coast through Almuñécar, Nerja, Torrox Costa, Torre del Mar and Rincón de la Victoria before entering the suburbs of the city of Malaga.
After passing through El Palo, riders embarked on a 17.4-kilometre hill climb at a gradient of 4.9 per cent into the Montes de Málaga.
After a gradual descent into Colmenar, the pack headed west before a final ascent up Antequera’s El Torcal before a sprint to the finish at the dolmens.
It was a big day for Antequera with anticipation building throughout the day and thousands of people coming to the finish line to have their photos taken, while youngsters from local riding schools held their own races, using the same finishing line as the professionals.
On Friday it will be Coín that has its day in the limelight as it hosts the start of stage 13 to Tomares. The stage begins at 12.30pm but there will be activities in the town centre beforehand for cycling fans to enjoy.
The cyclists will cross the town centre before climbing into the area known as Alto de Ardales before passing through Almargen and on into Seville province where the finishing line is located.
Despite his stage-12 setback, Chris Froome will maintain the red jersey and will be looking to claw back lost seconds.