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65th Vuelta a España - Week One Parcours Preview
By Giles Belbin
Date: 8/26/2010
65th Vuelta a España - Week One Parcours Preview

65th Vuelta a España -Week One Parcours Preview
The 2010 Vuelta a España – It's late summer and that can mean only one thing -  it's time for the last Grand Tour of the year - the Vuelta a España!

© 2010 Vuelta a España

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It's just four weeks since the peloton heaved a grateful sigh of relief as it rolled into Paris at the end of its three week slog around France and whilst some are now sitting pretty, with their year's work done, sipping cocktails at the side of a pool, others are loking forward to another Grand Tour. The Vuelta might not capture the imagination in quite the same way as the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia, but Spain has recorded no fewer than seven victories in cycling's last ten Grand Tours. As home then to the world's very best stage racers, Spain's home tour rightfully deserves respect.

With a floodlit start, an early mountain stage, just 46km of Individual Time Trialing, a host of "middle mountain stages" and a new red leader's jersey, it promises to be a Vuelta a España with a difference. There will be a strong field at the start as well, with Tour de France podium dwellers Andy Schleck and Denis Menchov, Franck Schleck and Mark Cavendish all down to start the race. Just how hard they will all ride with the World Championships looming remains to be seen. And therein lies the Vuelta's perennial problem: great cycling country...great cycling history...great cycling route...wrong time of year. That said, after some difficult years and with ASO now involved there is a general feeling that perhaps the race is on the up at last, which would be great news for all concerned .

Route Map

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

The race starts in Seville with a Team Time Trial before making its way around the country in an anti-clockwise direction. The first mountains come early in the race with two category one climbs on stage three. The race takes the riders over lumpy terrain, with mountain stages quite evenly dispersed throughout the three week tour. With very few pure, flat days, pickings for sprint specialists that can't get over short hills could be extremely slim. With the toughest climb of the race coming at the finale of the penultimate stage, we should be in for a suspense-laden three weeks.

Welcome then to part one of the Daily Peloton's preview to the parcours of the 65th Vuelta a España.

Stage 1: Saturday 28th August; Sevilla - Sevilla, TTT  13 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

It's the first day of a Grand Tour and the peloton can have a lie-in. That's right, there is absolutely no rush to scramble to the shower, have a shave and brush the teeth today, we have plenty of time thanks to a very, very late start in Seville. In fact we all might as well kick back and soak up some rays, because no-one's going anywhere until 10pm tonight. Yes, you read that right, the first stage is a night Team Time Trial around the floodlit streets of Seville.

The 16 km course is as flat as they come and takes the riders around the historic centre of Seville. The organisers have kept it short, possibly to save on the electricity bill, so time differences should not be what we are used to seeing in team time-trials. The battle for the right to pull on the first red leader's jersey will however be fierce. Expect Team Sky to feature strongly as they look to bounce back after a somewhat chastening experience at the Tour de France.

Stage 2: Sunday 29th August; Alcalá de Guardaira - Marbella  173.7 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

A rolling stage that features two categorised climbs. The cat 3 Alto de Pruna comes after 75km, topping out at 600m whilst the Alto de Ronda, also a third category climb, peaks at just over 1100m and comes after 130kms of the 173km stage. From the top of the Ronda it's downhill pretty much all the way before a flat run in and finish that kicks up slightly. This has got breakaway written all over it but, with flat stages at a premium and it being early in the race, the sprinter's teams might just get their act together and work well with each other to chase down any escapees.

Stage 3: Monday 30th August; Marbella - Málaga 157.3 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

The riders will need their climbing legs in gear right from the off today as stage three starts going up straight from the gun. The third category Puerto de Ojen is the first ascent on the agenda, at 8.2km long and topping out at just 550m, it will act as a leg warmer to what is to come. The early climb of the Ojen will, however, also encourage a breakaway to form and there will be plenty of riders looking to get up front before the race hits the first serious climb of the race.

The Puerto del Leon is the first category one climb of the race. At a touch under 16 kms long and averaging over 5% it will present the first real opportunity for the climbers to test their wings. From the top of the Leon it's 30km to the finish, which features a nasty final couple of kilometres as the road kicks up at over 5%.

Stage 4: Tuesday 31st August; Málaga - Valdepeñas  183.8 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

A flat start to the stage soon gives way to more lumpy terrain as the riders again have some climbing to do. The first 20kms or so skirt the Spanish coastline before the route abruptly heads north, taking the riders inland. And as the route waves goodbye to the sea, it says hello to yet more hills.

First up is the category two Alto de Zafarraya, an 11km long climb at just under 6%. Then comes the third cat Alto de Montefrio, 8kms long taking the riders to over 1000m in altitude. The road then rolls, rises and drops before delivering the peloton to the foot of the day's final climb, the Puerto de Valdepeñas. From the top of the final climb it is just a short descent to the stage finish, meaning any breakaway still out front at the top of the Valdepeñas, has a really good chance of staying away right until the stage's climax.

Stage 5: Wednesday 1st September; Guadix - Lorca  198.8km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

At first glance the profile of the today's stage doesn't really shout out that we are in ideal sprinting territory here but closer inspection reveals that today actually may well present one of the race's best opportunities for the fast-twitch muscle men.

We are kicking off today at altitude: just shy of 1000m. The route takes the riders gradually upwards before a rolling mid section of the stage sees the riders lose and then gain altitude again. With just under 75kms still to go the riders are still at 1200m but then the day's travails are all but over, from now on in it's downhill pretty much all the way. With the sprinter's teams bound to take control on the drop down to the finish, the stage finale, at Lorca, has a good chance of seeing a bunch sprint, possibly the first of the race so far.

Stage 6: Thursday 2nd September; Caravaca de la Cruz - Murcia; 151km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

A relatively simple stage until the last 20kms. At 151km the stage is one of the shortest on the race and there is nothing of any real difficulty until the riders hit the only categorised climb on the route: the second category Alto de la Cresta del Gallo.

The Cresta del Gallo is neither particularly high, long or steep. But positioned with little over 20kms to go it should at least shake things up a bit. Last year the same climb saw a breakaway form and stay away featuring Simon Gerrans and Alexandre Vinokourov among others. It would be somewhat of a surprise if today's stage didn't see something very similar.

Stage 7: Friday 3rd September; Murcia - Orihuela, 187.1km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

Aside for a 20km blip, the opening 118km of stage 7 are as flat as any you will ever see on the route of any Vuelta (apart from when the organisers opt to run stages in the Netherlands of course). With two days of tough climbing to come the organisers have been relatively kind to the riders throwing just the one categorised ascent at them today. The cat 3 Alto de Hondon de los Frailes comes after 117km, is 8.8kms long and has an average gradient of 4.8%. In short it has nothing on what is about to come, but will serve to give the peloton something to think about as the stage closes in on the finish town of Orihuela, home of Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez, who was born 100 years ago.

Stage 8: Saturday 4th September; Villena - Xorret de Catí  188.8 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

The first serious mountain stage perhaps sees the influence of ASO come to bear, having, as it does, more than a passing resemblance to the recent plethora of "middle mountain" stages of which the current Tour de France organisation are so keen. Five classified climbs lie in wait today: one cat 3, three cat 2s and a final cat 1.

The climbing starts after just 18kms with the climb to Puerto de Onil, a 6.5 km ascent averaging 5%. At 90 kms into the stage there follows three second category climbs, all within 50 km of each other. First up is the Puerto de Tudons; 6.9 kms at 4.78%, followed by the Puerto de Torremanzanas; 8.3kms at 5.3% and finally the Puerto de la Carrasqueta; 11 kms at 4.7%. After the final cat 2 climb, there is over 30 kms of road before the final ascent of the day: the cat 1 Alto Xorret del Catí.

What the Alto Xorret del Catí lacks in distance, it more than makes up for in gradient. It may be less than 4 km long but it averages 12%, with the final kilometre a leg-destroying 14.5%. Today is the first real sustained climbing test of the race and should see a shake up of the GC by the end of the day.

Stage 9: Sunday 5th September; Calpe - Alcoy  187 km

Graphic © 2010 Vuelta a España

The last stage before the riders get to enjoy the first rest day sees another seven classified climbs, although with three cat 3s and four cat 2s on the menu this is another day spent in the middle mountains.

The stage starts off steadily enough with nothing of too much interest before the second category Coll de Rates; 6.8km at 5.15% starts the climbing off. Then comes the Alto de Guadalest; 5.3 km at 7.2%, the Alto de Confrides;11.8 km at 3.5%, the Alto de Tudons; 8.7 km at 5.1%, the Puerto de Torremanzanas; 8.3 km at 5.5% 5,42 and the Puerto de Benifallín; 5.3 km at 5% before the 3rd category Alto del Revolcat; 5.9 km at 6.9% ends the day's climbing.

A brief descent off of the Revolcat takes the riders into the stage finish at Alcoy and brings phase one of the 2010 Vuelta to a close.

Be sure to check back soon for part two of the Daily Peloton's preview to the parcours of the 65th Vuelta a España.


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