Ruta route revealed, strong field set for Qatar and Doha, Ullrich and Cunego to meet Lance in Murcia
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The Spanish Todociclismo website has released details of the route of next February’s Ruta del Sol in Andalucia. Running from February 13-17, the 51st edition of the Ruta takes in 12 categorised climbs during its five days, including three first-category hills. The pick of these is likely to be the stage two finish above the Granadan town of La Zubia on the 1,290-metre Cumbres Verdes mountain. The stages are: Stage 1, Benalmadena-Comanares Stage 2, Antequera-La Zubia Stage 3, Vegas del Genil-Jaen Stage 4, La Guardia de Jaen-Cordoba Stage 5, Sevilla-Chiclana de la Frontera Among those riders confirmed as starting are world champion Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel, Tom Boonen, George Hinpcapie, Jaen’s Manuel Beltran and La Zubia’s Paco Cabello and Adolfo and Carlos Garcia Quesada. – Many of the sport’s leading sprinters will be starting their 2005 campaigns at the Tour of Qatar, which runs from January 31-February 4. Run by Tour de France organisers ASO for the fourth year, the Qatari race allows riders to get into the competitive swing on flat roads and in warm conditions. Among those taking advantage this year will be Tom Boonen, Mario Cipollini, Robert Hunter and Robbie McEwen. Most of the sport’s major teams will be in the desert state both for the Tour of Qatar and the one-day Doha International event that takes place on January 29, including Discovery Channel, T-Mobile and CSC. The stages are: Stage 1: Al Khor Corniche-Doha Hyatt Plaza, 143km Stage 2: Camel Race Track-Qatar Olympic Committee, 167.5km Stage 3: Al Wakra-Al Khor Corniche, 194km Stage 4: Al Zubarah-Doha Landmark, 169km Stage 5: Sealine Beach Resort-Doha Corniche, 153km – The Tour of Murcia’s significance continues to grow despite a clash this coming season with the first event of the ProTour, Paris-Nice. Won last year by local hero Alejandro Valverde, who beat Lance Armstrong amongst others, next season’s race will include that distinguished pair pair again, plus another distinguished duo in the shape of Jan Ullrich and Damiano Cunego. The event takes place on March 2-6. – Fourteen teams have registered for the American continental circuit next season. With Discovery Channel already registered for the ProTour and Navigators registered as a continental professional team, the 14 American teams that will be able to ride in class one and two events are: Advantage Benefits Endeavour, Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home, Health Net-Maxxis, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, Jittery Joe’s-Kalahari, McGuire-Langdale, Ofoto-Sierra Nevada, Subway, Team Monex, Team Nerac.com, Team Seasilver, Team Snow Valley-Seal On, Team Tiaa-Cref and Webcor Builders.