The route of the 2011 Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) has been officially unveiled, confirming rumours of a return of the Angliru climb and a visit to the Basque Country for the first time in 33 years.
2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali was among the riders present at the launch in the seaside resort of Benidorm, where the race will start on 20 August with a night-time 16km team time trial. "It's a very hard Vuelta," he said. The tour will end in Madrid on 11 September after a total of 3,295km of racing.
The 66th edition of the Vuelta avoids the Catalunya region and the Pyrenees but includes 10 mountain stages and six summit finishes, two of which have never been climbed before. These are to Estacion de Montaña Manzaneda in Galicia on stage 11 and La Farrapona in the Asturias region on stage 14.
The race returns to Valdepeñas de Jaen in 2011 and to San Lorenzo del Escorial, which ends with a final kilometre at 23 percent. The Vuelta visits the Sierra Nevada near Granada and the infamous Angliru is also back on stage 15, as is the Peña Cabarga, where Igor Anton crashed out last year.
The only time trial is over 40km around Salamanca on stage 10, making the Vuelta a race for the climbers. The Basque Country will host the final decisive stages before a transfer to Madrid for a 94km circuit finish. Stage 19 from Noja to Bilbao is flat but stage 20 from Bilbao to Vitoria includes four first category climbs.
Backers of Basque independence have created security problems for the Vuelta in the past and the race has not returned to the region since 1978 when protesters blocked the course with metal barriers and sticks.
The regional Basque government, led by a non-nationalist for the first time, lobbied hard to have the Vuelta return to the region, where cycling enjoys huge popularity, according to Spanish media.
2011 Vuelta a España stages
- Saturday, Aug 20 - Stage 1, Benidorm, team time trial, 16km
- Sunday, Aug 21 - Stage 2, La Nucia to Playas de Orihuela, 171.5km
- Monday, Aug 22 - Stage 3, Petrer to Totana, 164km
- Tuesday, Aug 23 - Stage 4, Baza to Sierra Nevada, 172km
- Wednesday, Aug 24 - Stage 5, Sierra Nevada to Valdepenas de Jaen, 200km
- Thursday, Aug 25 - Stage 6, Ubeda to Cordoba, 185.7km
- Friday, Aug 26 - Stage 7, Almaden to Talavera de la Reina, 185km
- Saturday, Aug 27 - Stage 8, Talavera de la Reina to San Lorenzo del Escorial, 182km
- Sunday, Aug 28 - Stage 9, Villacastin to Sierra de Bejar La Covatilla, 179.5km
- Monday, Aug 29 - Stage 10, Salamanca, individual time trial, 40km
- Tuesday, Aug 30 - Rest day
- Wednesday, Aug 31 - Stage 11, Verin to Estacion de Montana Manzaneda, 171km
- Thursday, Sept 1 - Stage 12, Ponteareas to Pontevedra, 160km
- Friday, Sept 2 - Stage 13, Sarria to Ponferrada, 150km
- Saturday, Sept 3 - Stage 14, Astorga to La Farrapona Lagos de Somiedo, 173.2km
- Sunday, Sept 4 - Stage 15, Aviles to Alto de l'Angliru, 144km
- Monday, Sept 5 - Rest day
- Tuesday, Sept 6 - Stage 16, Villa Romana La Olmeda to Haro, 180km
- Wednesday, Sept 7 - Stage 17, Faustino V to Pena Cabarga, 212.5km
- Thursday, Sept 8 - Stage 18, Solares to Noja, 169.7km
- Friday, Sept 9 - Stage 19, Noja to Bilbao, 157.9km
- Saturday, Sept 10 - Stage 20, Bilbao to Vitoria, 187km
- Sunday, Sept 11 - Stage 21, Circuito del Jarama to Madrid, 94km