La Vuelta

La Vuelta a Espana began on Saturday – another race for Team GB to win?

OK, so that was a bit of a cocky opening statement, but, OMG, Team GB are on a roll!

La Vuelta is of course the race that is the Spanish answer to France’s Tour de France. It is the world’s third most important stage-race and this will be the 67th time it has been run. It will take both pro and amateur cyclists for a journey along the roads of Asturias, through a mountain stage with three first Category climbs, La Cabruñana, San Lorenzo and La Cobertoria, to a brand new summit finish at the Valgrande-Pajares resort. In all there are 21 stages, in which there will be 13 medium and high mountain stages and 10 uphill and summit finishes.

La Vuelta a Espana route map

La Vuelta a Espana route map

Last year’s supreme winner was Juan José Cobo who had a hotly contested mountain finish with Kenyan raised Englishman Chris Froome.

Juan José Cobo with the crowd behind him

Fans and 2011 Vuelta winner Spain's Juan Jose Cobo

Cobo returns this year to defend his title but has not had the best run up to the race because of an infected wisdom tooth. “I’ve had a kidney operation in the past, but nothing like the pain this gave me,” he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

The feeling is that Alberto Contador will be the man to beat. He begins with the right attitude. “My objective is to fight for the victory. I might win or lose but I’ll start the start with the illusion that I’ll win it. I’m not saying that I’m the favourite, that’s an opinion from media and fans. From my side, I know that I’ll have to face very strong rivals. I’m well. I’m motivated. I’m impatient. The opening team time trial offers a very nice course. It’ll deliver a huge emotion. I’m never able to come to Pamplona for the San Fermin because of my cycling, so I’m delighted to be here for the Vuelta.”

But Chris Froome is another man to watch and supporters feel that this may be his moment. In the opinion of 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde, another strong contender, “Contador will be the top favouite because he’s prepared this race in depth” but, he said, “Froome, if he’s the same Froome as in the Tour, will be difficult to beat. Then there’s a whole group of riders like Purito, [Denis] Menchov [Katusha], [Robert] Gesink [Rabobank], Igor Anton [Euskaltel-Euskadi] and Juanjo himself will all be in the mix.” Contador is of the same opinion. He is on record saying, “Froome is my main opponent because he’s a good time triallist and he has a very strong team [Sky]. Last year, he had the opportunity to win the Vuelta if his team chose another tactic, but we’ll never know if he had the possibility to win the Tour as Bradley Wiggins was the best in the time trials. I’m happy that Chris is here racing. His presence increases the quality of the Vuelta.”

The first stage, starting in Pamplona began on Saturday, 18th August is a relatively simple 16.5 km spin around the immediate area, but stage 2 is when the challenge begins with an 181.4 km stage from Pamplona to Viana. And the final day, when the legs are …. fatigued, to put it mildly, there’s the final 3 ascent/descent challenge en route to the last summit finish:

La Vuelta’s final killing day

 

 

 

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