2009 Vuelta begins in Netherlands

First overseas launch of Spanish race in 12 years

The 2009 Tour of Spain will begin in the Netherlands, in the first overseas launch of the race in more than 12 years, organisers announced Wednesday.

The Dutch city of Assen will be the starting point of the 64th Vuelta on August 29, 2009, and the next two stages will also take place in the Netherlands.

The fourth stage will go through the Netherlands before concluding in the Belgian city of Liege. After a rest day, the race will pick up in the northeastern Spanish city of Tarragona.

The route will be particularly mountainous this year, especially in the second week.

"Almost all the mountain stages are concentrated in the second week, when the overall leaders will come to the fore," Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde said at the presentation. "It's a Tour for climbers."

Also present were his compatriots Alberto Contador, the 2008 winner, Carlos Sastre and Samuel Sanchez. But of these, only Sanchez, a gold medal winner at the Beijing Olympics, was able to confirm `100 percent' that he will take part. Contador left the door open for the possibility of defending his 2008 title.

"It is an option because this year the Vuelta gave me a very good feeling," the Spaniard said on the Astana team website. "My aim in 2009 is the Tour of France, which I could not race this year, but the door is open to take part in the Vuelta."

As for the parcours of next year, Contador commented that in Holland he would like the first week to be "simpler, because this territory of the classics is not my speciality, though I admit that the Vuelta needed the first week to contain major uncertainty, something more dangerous. And we cannot forget that in Belgium and Holland cycling is the king sport."

About the mountain stages, Contador assured that there are "openings that can make many differences and this is what pleases me most in this Vuelta," in reference to arrivals at Aitana, El Catí, Velefique, Sierra Nevada and La Pandera.

The cyclists appeared happy with the route, despite some concern over the long trip from Liege to Tarragona. The Tour concludes in Madrid on September 20.

"All the ingredients are there to enjoy great cycling," said the Vuelta's new director Javier Guillen, who succeeded Victor Cordero, who had been in the job since 1995.

To read an in-depth preview of the 2009 Vuelta, visit Cyclingnews.com.

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