31 climbs for Basque Country

There's not much opportunity for racing on the flat in the Basque Country, a fact underlined by the

There's not much opportunity for racing on the flat in the Basque Country, a fact underlined by the

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The organisers of this April's Tour of the Basque Country (April 3-8), which has been extended from its usual five days to six, will have no less than 31 climbs, including a second stage that features a daunting 11 climbs. In addition, the final day time trial in Zalla will be much longer than usual at 24km rather than the traditional 8-10k test.

The climbing begins on the very first day. The stage into the border town of Irun includes an ascent of the Jaizkibel climb, which features in the San Sebastian Classic, just 12km from the finish. Before the Jaizkibel, the riders will have previously tackled the Gurutze, Xoxoka, the Gurutze again and the tough Erlaitz hills on a stage that only measures 130km.

Incredibly, the following day's 155km from Irun to Segura has six more climbs than the first day. This too features the Gurutze, and then follows with the Leaburu, Altzo, Abaltzisketa, Altamira, Olaberria, Liernia (twice), Aztiria, Gabiria and the Alto de Minas, seven kilometres from the finish.

The third day has fewer climbs but concludes with a summit finish at Lerin, although the final climb is only a kilometre long. Prior to this, though, the race crosses the Otzaurte and Urbasa climbs before a final finishing circuit featuring two ascents in Lerin, including the final one, as well as the Puerto de Sesma.

The fourth stage to Vitoria looks the easiest of the race, heading to the Basque capital via the Alto de la Herrera and two passages over the Zaldiaran. But the final road stage returns to almost constant ups and downs with climbs at Ordu¤a, the Alto de San Cosme, Humaran, Beci, Avellaneda and Beci again before the finish in Zalla.

Because of the International Cycling Union's regulation preventing split stages in ProTour races, the race goes into a sixth day for the first time in its history. The closing 24km time trial in Zalla is much longer than usual, but also flatter than the usual hilly course. The length of this final test should ensure that the overall result remains in doubt until the race's last moments, but the multitude of climbs on previous days may just see someone is out of sight in the leader's jersey before Zalla.

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