The 2004 Tour of Spain. Courtesy lavuelta.com
The route of the 58th edition of the Vuelta Ciclista a España, the last one under the direction of Unipublic's boss Enrique Franco, has been officially unveiled on Wednesday morning in the town of Madrid. The third Grand Tour of the year is set to start on Saturday, September 4, 2004, with a Team Time Trial (same as in the last two editions) taking place in the north-western city of León, just to finish into Spain's capital city 22 days later with another ride against the clock, this time - just like in 2002 - at individual level.
It's quite an "unusual" Vuelta, with no Angliru, no Lagos de Covadonga and no Pyrenees this time, and no stages in cycling-mad regions such as the Basque Country and Asturias either (the organizers even left out of next year's route also Galicia, Cantabria, Catalunya and the Balearic Islands). But lots of great, difficult stages, including plenty of mountains to climb (four of which being "Hors Categorie" climbs), six uphill finishes and several kms. against the clock too.
And lots of riding in the Valencia zone and notably Spain's southernmost region Andalusia, including the 20-km. ascent up to the Calar Alto Weather Observatory in the Sierra de los Filabres (at its "first time" in the Vuelta) and notably a long, uphill ITT to take place in the area's best-known ascent, Sierra Nevada. A stage which can be regarded as Spain's response to the TdF Alpe d'Huez Time Trial, and that might well prove decisive in determining the 2004 Vuelta outcome.
Below are the complete stage list, the main difficulties and some data and details of the 2004 Vuelta a España, plus a small stage-by-stage guide provided by the Vuelta organizers themselves.
| 59th Vuelta a España (September 4-26, 2004) - Stage List|
- Stage 1: Saturday - September 4: León - León (Team Time Trial) / 28 km.
- Stage 2: Sunday - September 5: León - Burgos / 206 km.
- Stage 3: Monday - September 6: Burgos - Soria / 156 km.
- Stage 4: Tuesday - September 7: Soria - Zaragoza / 174 km.
- Stage 5: Wednesday - September 8: Zaragoza - Morella / 191 km.
- Stage 6: Thursday - September 9: Benicarló - Castellón de la Plana / 150 km.
- Stage 7: Friday - September 10: Castellón de la Plana - Valencia / 165 km.
- Stage 8: Saturday - September 11: Factoría FORD - Factoría FORD (ITT) / 41 km.
- Stage 9: Sunday - September 12: Xátiva - Alto de Aitana (Alicante) / 170 km.
- Stage 10: Monday - September 13: Alcoi - Xorret de Catí (Castalla-Alicante) / 159 km.
- Stage 11: Tuesday - September14: San Vicente del Raspeig - Caravaca de la Cruz / 165 km.
- Wednesday - September 15: Rest Day /Transfer
- Stage 12: Thursday - September 16: Almería - Observatorio Meteorológico de Calar Alto / 150 km.
- Stage 13: Friday - September 17: El Ejido - Málaga / 170 km.
- Stage 14: Saturday - September 18: Málaga - Granada / 170 km.
- Stage 15: Sunday - September 19: Granada - Sierra Nevada (Uphill ITT) / 29 km.
- Monday - September 20: Rest Day /Transfer
- Stage 16: Tuesday - September 21: Olivenza - Cáceres / 170 km.
- Stage 17: Wednesday - September 22: Plasencia - La Covatilla Skiing Resort (Béjar) / 178 km.
- Stage 18: Thursday - September 23: Béjar - Ávila / 196 km.
- Stage 19: Friday - September 24: Ávila - Collado Villalba / 150 km.
- Stage 20: Saturday - September 25: La Vega de Alcobendas - Puerto de Navacerrada / 175 km.
- Stage 21: Sunday - September 26: Madrid - Madrid (ITT) / 30 km.
Total Distance: 3.023 km. ca.
| 59th Vuelta a España (September 4-26, 2004) - Main Difficulties|
Stage 5: Alto de Torremiró (1.260 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 6: Alto Desierto de las Palmas (440 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 7: Alto de Ain (800 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 7: Alto de la Cova Santa (1.010 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 9: Alto de Tollos (1.020 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 9: Puerto de Tudons (1.010 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 9: Alto de Torremanzana (1.000 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 9: Alto de Aitana (1.510 m. asl - HC) Mountain Top Finish
Stage 10: Puerto de la Carrasqueta (1.020 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 10: Alto Xorret de Catí (1.070 m. asl - Cat. 1) Mountain Top Finish
Stage 12: Alto de Velefique (1.830 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 12: Collado del Conde (1.870 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 12: O.M. de Calar Alto* (2.120 m. asl - HC) Mountain Top Finish
Stage 14: Alto Ventas de Zafarraya (910 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 14: Alto de Monachil (1.490 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 15: Sierra Nevada (2.100 m. asl - HC) Mountain Top Finish
Stage 17: Puerto de Piornal (1.270 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 17: Puerto de Honduras (1.430 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 17: Puerto de Lagunilla (940 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 17: La Covatilla Ski Station (1.960 m. asl - HC) Mountain Top Finish
Stage 18: Puerto de Peña Negra (1.910 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 18: Puerto de Serranillos (1.570 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 18: Puerto de Navalmoral (1.510 m. asl - Cat. 2)
Stage 19: Alto de Abantos (1.650 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 20: Puerto de la Morcuera (1.796 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 20: Puerto de Cotos (1.840 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 20: Puerto de los Leones (1.510 m. asl - Cat. 1)
Stage 20: Puerto de Navacerrada (1.880 m. asl - Cat. 1) Mountain Top Finish
* = Cima Alberto fernández (Vuelta's highest peak)
| 59th Vuelta a España (September 4-26, 2004) |
More Route Numbers and Details
- 21 Stages
- 2 Rest /Transfer Days
- 6 Flat Stages
- 11 Mid-Mountain or High Mountain Stages
- 1 Team Time Trial
- 2 Individual Time Trials
- 1 Uphill Time Trial
- 6 Top Mountain Finishes
- 45 ascents
- 4 Hors Categorie Climbs
- 13 First Category Climbs
- 11 Second Category Climbs
- 71 Kilometres against the clock (in "customary" ITTs)
- 57 Kilometres against the clock (in Uphill or Team Time Trials)
- 5 places hosting a stage start for the first time: Benicarló, Factoría Ford España, Xàtiva, Olivenza, Plasencia
- 3 places hosting a stage finish for the first time: Factoría Ford España, Caravaca de la Cruz, Observatorio Calar Alto
- The 2005 Tour of Spain will kick off in the Andalusian town of Granada and finish - as usual - in Madrid, the town that soon later will be hosting the UCI Road World Championships.
| 59th Vuelta a España (September 4-26, 2004) Brief Route Description|
Text Courtesy of lavuelta.com
Stage 1: Saturday - September 4: León - León (Team Time Trial) / 28 km.
The teams will be the great protagonists in the first stage of La Vuelta once again. The same as in the two previous years in Valencia and Gijón, the riders will face a team time trial along the streets of the beautiful city of León, this first trial will make them taste the frantic speed as early as the very first stage as the route is very flat with just a 500 metre-long slight slope.
At the highest point of the route the Mountain Prize will be set, so that the first Gold Jersey and the first Mountain Grand Prix could be given at the end of this first stage.
Stage 2: Sunday - September 5: León - Burgos / 206 km.
Still with their strength intact and full of hope, the riders will face the first road route along a very flat way. High speed will be the main protagonist of a day where the wind will be another important incentive.
The riders are fully aware of the consequences the wind of Castilla y León can have, splitting the peloton in several groups. This will be a tense stage where the sprinters´ teams will try and control their rivals
Stage 3: Monday - September 6: Burgos - Soria / 156 km.
Along this third day, the teams will be still warming up in order to face a very hard Vuelta a España. On their way to Soria, the riders will find again a very flat road.
Even though the sprinters´ teams will try to control the race, those who could not follow them will try to watch the leader´s group. In this kind of stages there is always a mixture of different intentions and therefore the atmosphere is very tense from the very first kilometre.
Stage 4: Tuesday - September 7: Soria - Zaragoza / 174 km.
Every time the word Zaragoza is mentioned when talking about cycling it is immediately related to high speed. The books remind us that the fastest stage in the history of the Vuelta a España ended in Zaragoza in 2001 and that Igor González de Galdeano set a record of 55.176 kilometres per hour.
This time the route is a bit winding and the wind may become the main protagonist too. They will cross quite narrow roads where the peloton splits will be quite common. The main protagonists of the day will probably be the sprinters again.
Stage 5: Wednesday - September 8: Zaragoza - Morella / 191 km.
It will be on this fifth stage that the riders will meet the mountain for the first time in this Vuelta a España 2004. The mechanics will have to change the developments of the bicycles and that means pain and suffering for the riders, whose legs will be the most affected after four days of flat road and frantic speed.
This will be a very special stage because they will have to climb the first valid second category climb, Torremiró. The stage will finish in Morella, third category valid climb. There will be attempts to win at Morella and many more to achieve the Gold Jersey of the Leader.
Stage 6: Thursday - September 9: Benicarló - Castellón de la Plana / 150 km
This stage will cross, mainly, the interior roads of the region of Castellón, roads that are full of riders the whole year. This is a quite complicated route where there are certain really difficult points. The riders will have to suffer the high level of humidity, pressure and the mountain itself.
On their way to the finish line they will find a 900 metre-high second category climb and another climb quite near the finish line, Desierto de las Palmas, a second category climb as well. All along this sixth stage the Directeurs Sportifs will have to control all the rivals´ movements from the very first minute.
Stage 7: Friday - September 10: Castellón de la Plana - Valencia / 165 km.
Valencia has been the silent witness of many cycling successes. All the professional riders know these roads perfectly well and they are aware of the difficulty of this stage; this day they will also cross the interior side of Castellón and Valencia with two second category climbs.
The typical thing to happen this day would be the splitting of the peloton along the climbs to these two mountains, but as there will be still seventy-five kilometres to the finish line the sprinters´ teams could have the chance of getting together again.
Stage 8: Saturday - September 11: Factoría FORD - Factoría FORD (ITT) / 41 km.
In 1983, La Vuelta started at the Ford factory in Almufases with a seven-kilometre-long prologue where the best riders were the French one Dominique Gaigne and the riders from Galicia Suso Blanco Villar and Alvaro Pino. This time, Vuelta a España 2004 comes back again to the Ford España Factory to face the time trial that will start and end at the Ford Factory of Almufases.
The route is completely flat and the riders could reach the fifty kilometres per hour. The time trial specialists will try to gain time over the climbers.
Stage 9: Sunday - September 12: Xátiva - Alto de Aitana (Alicante) / 170 km.
We reach one of the stages that has set a new record as regard the number of followers watching the riders passing by. In La Vuelta 2001, we got to Aitana from Valencia and all the surrounding roads were collapsed because of the huge number of people who came to watch the stage. Möller, Simoni and Sastre were the best riders, and Sevilla was leader overall. This time the stage will be very hard again with seven tops to reach. Three of them will be of a third category, and other three of second category.
They will have to climb Tudons twice and then Torre Manzana. Before reaching the first ramps of Aitana they must climb the Alto de Benifallím, with 33 kilometres to go. Then the Alto de Aitana will take them to the 1,510 metres high.
Stage 10: Monday - September 13: Alcoi - Xorret de Catí (Castalla-Alicante) / 159 km.
The 10th stage of Vuelta a España 2004 will take the riders again to Xorret de Catí, a top that, undoubtly, will always remind us of Chava Jiménez. Chava became winner here in 1998 and then, Eladio, who rode for Banesto as well, did it in 2000.
This could be considered a half-mountain stage with a third category climb at the very beginning, then a winding part and then the last seventy kilometres with Alto de Tibi, Carrasqueta and finally Alto de Xorret del Catí climbs before climbing down to Catí. The rider who manages to reach the top with a certain advantage over the main group will have the stage triumph in his hands.
Stage 11: Tuesday - September14: San Vicente del Raspeig - Caravaca de la Cruz / 165 km.
Aitana and Xorret de Catí climbs will have set the half point of La Vuelta 2004, because from this 11th stage the most daring riders will have their chance to attempt to break away from the very first kilometre. The route will, no doubt, favour the breakaways and the leader´s team will be forced to control the times of the race.
This time, there will be very different tactics as the sprinters will try and do their best to win at Caravaca de la Cruz the day before the first day off in the Vuelta a España 2004.
Stage 12: Thursday - September 16: Almería - Observatorio Meteorológico de Calar Alto / 150 km.
Second important mountain stage in Vuelta a España 2004, with a lot of incentives. In the first place this will be a 150 kilometre-long stage and that means frantic speed and continuous attempts to break away from the very first kilometre. When they had covered 50 kilometres they will have to face the first difficulty of the day, Alto de Velefique, a 1,830 metre-high first category climb.
Then, they will climb down to Bacares and then another first category climb, Collado del Conde. They will cross the finish line, another descent and then the hardest climb of the day, Calar de Alto, where the weather observatory of Almería is located - 2,120 metres high. A very special stage where the sun of Almería can became one of the main protagonists too.
Stage 13: Friday - September 17: El Ejido - Málaga / 170 km.
The sea will be the most special partner for the riders this day; one sea will be that one of plastic full of fruits and vegetables of El Ejido to their right and at the other side the blue sea that will be with them until they get to Malaga. This will be a very suitable stage for the attempts to break away on the part of the modest teams.
Those who had saved some of their strength the day before at Calar Alto, will use it this day on their way to Málaga. It is a very winding stage, where the sea and the wind will influence upon the big peloton.
Stage 14: Saturday - September 18: Málaga - Granada / 170 km.
The Alto de Monachil, a first category climb and new in Vuelta a España, will be the key point of this stage. All the riders will have this top on their minds from the first moment as it will serve as launch pad to the finish line in Granada. This will a very complicated stage with many ups and downs. During the first 60 kilometres the riders will have to climb to Alto de la Ventas de Zafarraya, a second category mountain and then to Alto de los Bermejales, that is a third category climb.
The Alto de Monachil, 30 kilometres to the end, will make the riders climb for 6.5 kilometres along ramps that have an average gradient of 9 per cent, some of them reaching the 14 per cent.
Stage 15: Sunday - September 19: Granada - Sierra Nevada (Uphill ITT) / 29 km.
La Vuelta rescues the mountain time trial of Sierra Nevada, a stage where cycling, difficulty and the images of the ascend impress those who are watching it. In the edition of 1981, the Italian rider Giovanni Battaglin won this time trial in front of the Asturias-born rider Pedro Muñoz and the Danish rider Marcussen.
This time the stage will be different from the traditional climb to Sierra Nevada, as they will ascend to Alto de Monachil again, climbing down to the Sierra Nevada road, to end at the big terrace of Pradollano, after having covered 29 kilometres. This must be a key stage in Vuelta a España 2004.
Stage 16: Tuesday - September 21: Olivenza - Cáceres / 170 km.
After the mountain time trial to Sierra Nevada, there is a transfer to Olivenza, in Badajoz, to enjoy there of the second day off of La Vuelta 04 before facing the last six stages that will, no doubt, be amazing. Many riders will want to become protagonists in a route very suitable for the breakaways, the solo adventures and the attacks.
There will be many teams that will have to fight from the very first kilometre, after the stage in Granada and the day off. The stage will cover part of the two provinces in Extremadura where people were really missing the presence of the great professional riders.
Stage 17: Wednesday - September 22: Plasencia - La Covatilla Ski Resort (Béjar) / 178 km.
Those who at this stage of the race are still favourites to the triumph will have to control everything very well. This could be a very typical stage with a lot of protagonists. On the one hand we will be able to see those who search for the triumph at La Covatilla and on the other hand those favourite riders to the final triumph who will be fighting with all their strength.
In 2002, it was the first time La Vuelta climbed to La Covatilla and it was a brilliant stage for the riders born in this area of the country, as Santi Blanco became the winner at the top and Roberto Heras kept his Gold Jersey. The riders know now which is the best way to reach the top, so breakaways and fight will be the sole protagonists that day.
Stage 18: Thursday - September 23: Béjar - Ávila / 196 km.
This one of the most beautiful stages of La Vuelta. Nobody can forget, in spite of the years, the brilliant fight among Hinault, Lejarreta, Belda and Gorospe in 1983. Nearly 200 kilometres with four mountain climbs. The first one, the Alto de Vallejera, very near Béjar, then the nearly 2000 metre-high Peña Negra climb, and then, just as they had crossed Piedrahita, a final stretch full of history and emotions.
Once they had covered the first 100 kilometres, they will find the Serranillos climb, then Valmoral and at the end the arrival in Ávila with the final climb up the paved road around the old walls of the city.
Stage 19: Friday - September 24: Ávila - Collado Villalba / 150 km.
To those who had managed to resist the 18 previous stages, the way to Collado Villaba will be a complicated one. This is one of the stretches names as "leg-breaking".
The Boquerón and Arrebatacapas climbs will lead the riders to the always remembered ramps of Abantos, where La Vuelta 2003 was resolved. They will also have to climb to Collado de la Mina, twenty kilometres away from the streets of Collado Villalba where the day will finish.
Stage 20: Saturday - September 25: La Vega de Alcobendas - Puerto de Navacerrada / 175 km.
The already famous climbs in the Madrid and Segovia ranges will be the great protagonists once again when this edition of La Vuelta is about to be finished.
The Morcuera climb will be the first difficulty of the day just 50 kilometres after the start at La Vega de Alcobendas. Then, the stretch of Los Cotos, with its lights and shadows, then Navacerrada and finally the frantic descend that lead to Los Leones, Los Angeles de San Rafael and the feared "Siete Revueltas" that lead to the hard ending at the top of the Navacerrada climb.
Stage 21: Sunday - September 26: Madrid - Madrid (ITT) / 30 km.
The uncertainty of the winner´s name as well as of those who will be escorting him on the podium could last to the very streets of Madrid. La Vuelta 2004 will end with an individual time trial that will be around 30 kilometres long. Those who manage to finish this edition of La Vuelta will have covered part of what will be the route that will be used for the World Cycling Championships 2005 that will be held in the capital city of Spain.
The riders will cross the Casa de Campo, they will climb the San Vicente slope, then La Gran Vía, to, finally, end near one of the most beautiful parts of the city where the Prado Museum, the Correos building and the Neptuno and Cibeles fountain are located.
Click on the "Related Article" links below to see the mountain stage profiles and lots of professional reactions to the route!