The climbers will be happy with the next year’s Tour of Spain (Vuelta a España), which was launched in Madrid on Wednesday. There are 40 categorised climbs, including five mountain top finishes and the 16km time trial up the Alto de Navacerrada, but only one flat 40km individual time trial.
The three week tour will start with a 7km team time trial in Granada, southern Spain, on August 30th. It then heads north to Jaén, Córdoba and Puertollano before the first individual time trial in Ciudad Real on September 3rd. Although that will produce the first real splits in the general classification, the mountain men will have it all their way for the remaining two and a half weeks.
During the first rest day on September 5th, the riders will transfer north east for three tough stages. Stage 7, between Babastro and Andorra is 224km long and finishes with a special category climb to Naturlandia-La Rabassa (2050m). The next day is much shorter at 160km but has another uphill finish, this time to Pla de Beret (1880m) in the heart of the Pyrenees. Monday’s 9th stage between Viella and Sabiñánigo is slightly easier, but still features a category one climb with 53km to go.
The next three stages finish and Zaragoza, Burgos and Suances as the riders head west. These are relatively flat and should give the sprinters and opportunists chances for more glory. The second rest day is on September 12, enough time to recharge before the major challenge of the 2008 Vuelta. Stage 13 from San Vicente de la Barquera to the feared Alto de L’Angliru will be pivotal in determining the final outcome of the race. Absent last year, the Angliru is back and its slopes of up to 23 percent are rightly feared by the riders.
The fun doesn’t stop at the Angliru, however. Stage 14 has another uphill finish at the Fuentes de Invierno ski resort with the rest of the stage peppered with smaller climbs. It’s only 158km long but will hurt the riders after the Angliru. A lumpy 198km between Cudillero and Ponferrada follows, then there are three flatter stages to Zamora, Valladolid and Las Rozas. Stage 19 from Las Rozas to Segovia (161 km) has a couple of first category climbs before halfway, and finishes with three laps of a circuit in Segovia. The final sprint is technical and uphill, and it probably won’t be one of the big sprinters who wins it.
The penultimate stage is another individual time trial, but this one is all uphill. The riders will tackle the category one Alto de Navacerrada (1870m) and if the general classification is close, this will be a thrilling battle. The day after, the race will roll into Madrid for the traditional parade, usually dominated by the sprinters.
Overall, next year’s Vuelta looks quite similar to this year’s.
Vuelta of hope
“This will be the Vuelta of hope, a chance for a new cycling,” said race director Victor Cordero on Wednesday while unveiling the 63rd edition.
Cordero made an appeal to the cyclists to help herald in a new cycling, “which can be clean, and spectacular”.
Among the riders present were reigning champion Denis Menchov of Russia, who also won the 2005 edition after Roberto Heras was snared for doping, and Spaniards Oscar Pereiro, Carlos Sastre, Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador, the Tour de France champion.
Spain’s minister for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, has recently come under fire from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound who claimed that not enough was being done by the Spanish authorities to reveal all of the athletes allegedly involved in the Puerto affair.
When it erupted in May 2006, an approximate total of 200 athletes were reported to be involved across a wide range of sports but in the end only a few of the 60 or so cyclists said to be implicated were actually sanctioned.
Lissavetzky had replied to WADA by saying the Spanish authorities had not held any information back about the affair.
As for the Vuelta, he added: “A clean race is fundamental. We trust you (the cyclists) to make this Vuelta spectacular, to attract new supporters.”
Stage 19 – September 19: Las Rozas – Segovia, 161kmStage 1 – August 30 : Granada – Granada (Parque Tec. Ciencias de la Salud) TTT, 7km
Stage 2 – August 31 : Granada – Jaén, 167km
Stage 3 – September 1: Jaén – Córdoba, 165km
Stage 4 – September 2: Córdoba – Puertollano, 153km
Stage 5 – September 3: Ciudad Real – Ciudad Real ITT, 40km
Stage 6 – September 4: Ciudad Real – Toledo, 162km
Rest day – September 5
Stage 7 – September 6: Barbastro – Andorra (Naturlandia – La Rabassa), 224km
Stage 8 – September 7: Andorra (Escaldes – Engordany) – Pla de Beret, 160km
Stage 9 – September 8: Viella – Sabiñánigo, 198km
Stage 10 – September 9: Sabiñánigo – Zaragoza, 173km
Stage 11 – September 10: Calahorra – Burgos, 178km
Stage 12 – September 11: Burgos – Suances, 180km
Rest day – September 12
Stage 13 – September 13: San Vicente de la B. – Alto de L’Angliru, 199km
Stage 14 – September 14: Oviedo – E. E. Fuentes de Invierno, 158km
Stage 15 – September 15: Cudillero – Ponferrada, 198km
Stage 16 – September 16: Ponferrada – Zamora, 185km
Stage 17 – September 17: Zamora – Valladolid, 160km
Stage 18 – September 18: Valladolid – Las Rozas, 179km
Stage 20 – September 20: La Granja de S. I. – Alto de Navacerrada ITT, 16km
Stage 21 – September 21: S. Sebastián de los Reyes – Madrid, 110km
© BikeRadar & AFP