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Vuelta a España 2005 Presentation
By Fabio
Date: 12/15/2004
Vuelta a España 2005 Presentation

Waiting for the Giro d’Italia bosses to make the "trilogy” complete at last, by unveiling the route of what is supposed to be the first 2005 Grand Tour (something that should take place in January), here is La Vuelta! . The Unipublic organizers of what has been one of the most hard-fought competitions of the past season were back in the spotlight Wednesday, as the official presentation of the upcoming edition of this event, that will be celebrating its 60th edition in the next late summer, was held in Madrid’s Parque Ferial. The 60th cycling tour of Spain, part of the UCI ProTour, is going to start in the Andalusian city of Granada a little earlier than in past seasons (Saturday, August, 27) just to cross the finish line in Madrid, as usual, 22 days later (Sunday, September 18), e.g. a few days before Spain’s capital city will be hosting the UCI Road World Championships.

Tour of Spain 2005 - A few numbers and data: This 3.239-km. race (200-km. longer than in 2004) consists of 21 stages spanning over a "three-week-and-one-day” period (not that it is news…), with two rest days. All 19 teams having a UCI ProTour Licence, plus probably two squads being awarded a wild-card by the organizers, will take part in the contest.

Just like in the 2004 edition (although perhaps it’s a little less hilly than that one, with "just” half a dozen mountain-top finishes, compared to seven in the 2004 climbing festival) the route of the next Tour of Spain particularly suits the climbers, with 47 different ascents, 11 of which are First Category climbs, and as many belong to Cat. 2., while "just fours are Hors Category ascents.

But there is room also for the ITT specialists, with no less than three rides - and close to 85 km. - against the clock, albeit we are not going to have any Team TT this time. And for the flatlanders too, with nine -completely of predominantly flat legs. Flatlanders that, like any other stage top finishers, could get time bonuses (20 secs. for the winner, 12 for the runner-up, 8 seconds for each third place getter over the line, and 06”, 04”, and 02” respectively at the Intermediate Sprints).

Click for larger image. Courtesy Unipublic.

The Stage List of the Vuelta Ciclista a España 2005 is as follows:

  • Stage 1 (Saturday - August 27): Granada-Granada (9 km., ITT)
  • Stage 2 (Sunday - August 28): Granada-Córdoba (188 km.)
  • Stage 3 (Monday - August 29): Córdoba-Puertollano (150 km.)
  • Stage 4 (Tuesday - August 30): Ciudad Real- Argamasilla de Alba (220 km.)
  • Stage 5 (Wednesday - August 31): Alcázar de San Juan-Cuenca (175 km.)
  • Stage 6 (Thursday - September 1): Cuenca-Est. Esquí Valdelinares (205 km.)
  • Stage 7 (Friday - September 2): Teruel-Vinaroz (210 km.)
  • Stage 8 (Saturday - September 3): Tarragona-Lloret de Mar (180 km.)
  • Stage 9 (Sunday - September 4): Barcelona-Camp Nou (35 km., ITT)
  • Stage 10 (Monday - September 5): La Vall d’En Bas-Ordino-Arcalis (Andorra) (195 km.)
  • Stage 11 (Tuesday - September 6): Andorra-Cerler (187 km.)
  • (Wednesday - September 7): Rest Day
  • Stage 12 (Thursday - September 8): Logroño-Burgos (145 km.)
  • Stage 13 (Friday - September 9): Burgos-La Bien Aparecida Sanctuary (170 km.)
  • Stage 14 (Saturday - September 10): La Penilla-Lagos de Covadonga (170 km.)
  • Stage 15 (Sunday - September 11): Cangas de Onís-Valgrande Pajares Ski Station (190 km.)
  • (Monday - September 12): Rest Day
  • Stage 16 (Tuesday - September 13): León-Valladolid (150 km.)
  • Stage 17 (Wednesday - September 14): El Espinar-La Granja de San Ildefonso (160 km.)
  • Stage 18 (Thursday - September 15): Ávila-Ávila (180 km.)
  • Stage 19 (Friday - September 16): S. Martín Val de Iglesias-Alcobendas (140 km.)
  • Stage 20 (Saturday - September 17): Guadalajara-Alcalá de Henares (40 km., ITT)
  • Stage 21 (Sunday - September 18): Madrid-Madrid (140 km.)

    Route Overview: The Vuelta 2005 is set to kick off with a 9-km. prologue against the clock, starting in downtown Granada, a city that hosted a stage start or finish so many times in past editions, and going uphill to the Alhambra, with a short but very steep ascension to the palace (whose name means "Red Castle” in Arabic) built by the caliphs of the Nasrid dynasty when they used to rule the southern half of the country during the Middle Ages. Given the uphill profile of the last part of the ride, the prologue might have some surprises in store, and award the "Jersey Oro” to someone not belonging to the exclusive clubs of "race of truth” specialists.

    But anyone grabbing the overall leader’s mantle in the Andalusian heat of late August is likely to have a hard time maintaining it through the following days, featured by predominantly flat stages where the fastest wheels of the peloton should be awarded plenty of bonus seconds, very useful to anyone wishing to be lifted to the top of the overall. Stage 2 runs from Granada to Córdoba, another town that made its mark on history during the Medieval Age, when Los Moros were dominating the Southern part of the Iberian peninsula (or "Al-Andalus” as it was called), and chose this same city, hosting what is arguably one of Europe’s nicest Mosques, as their capital.

    But the Tour of Spain 2005 peloton will find little or no time to visit it, as riders have to get back in the saddle the following day, for the first stage stepping into the Castilla-La Mancha region, a 150-km. ride finishing into Puertollano. The race continues throughout Castilla La-Mancha territory over the next three days, as a way to celebrate to celebrate the fourth centennial of the the publication of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha - the famous story of Don Quixote, written by the most famous figure in Spanish literature, poet and novelist Miguel de Cervantes.

    Then on to Argamasilla de Alba (for the longest stage of the race, covering 220 km. and starting in Ciudad Real), hosting a stage finish for the first time like Puertollano does, and Cuenca (start at Alcázar de San Juan) with more food for the Petacchis, Zabels and McEwens of the pack, although the last leg getting underway on Castilla La-Mancha soil, from Cuenca to the Valdelinares Ski Resort on Thursday, September the 1st, features the first uphill finish of the contest, where the overall contenders may give the first real show of their skills/condition, and we may have a first clue of who’s hot and especially who’s not, like it’s often the case in similar (hilly and early) stages. This mountain top finish is new to Spain’s Grand Tour, but not to several Spanish -and foreign- riders, as it’s a common one in the Vuelta a Aragón stage race.

    After Castilla-La Mancha, it will be time for Aragón and the Comunitat Valenciana to host the Vuelta protagonists in the stage from Teruel to Vinaroz, when the race first meets the sea. Another "Mediterranean” (and certainly not one for the mountain goats) stage is set to take place the next day, Saturday, the third of September, with the bunch making it to Catalunya in the leg going from Tarragona to the seaside resort, and often starting point of a Catalan week stage in late March, of Lloret de Mar.

    The Tour of Spain continues its route northward. But before meeting the Pyrenees, it stops in Barcelona, and not for an "average” stage, but for a crucial ride against the clock, a 35-km. event finishing into (but also starting at) the Camp Nou stadium on Sunday, September 4.

    And the very next day, the Vuelta finally makes its way to Los Pirineos, or Els Pirineus as they’re called in Catalan language, in the stage going from Catalunya, and notably from the Girona area where many U.S. top riders have their European HQs, to the fellow Catalan-speaking Principality of Andorra, a tiny geopolitical extravaganza (A nation with two heads of state, neither of whom is from the nation itself, a Principality with two "co-princes”, neither of whom is actually a Prince, the first one being none else than the French President, and the second being the Bishop of the nearby town of la Seu d’Urgell in Spanish Territory. Is there anything more bizarre on the political scene?), but well-known to hardcore cycling fans worldwide, as it hosted countless mountain stages in the history of both La Vuelta and Le Tour de France.

    And the contest we’re talking of will be no exception to the rule, with the second hilly stage of the race finishing into the Andorran hamlet of Ordino-Arcalis, which gained the status of cima Alberto Fernández (e.g. highest peak of the Vuelta) being located at an altitude of 2.230 m asl an ascent coming after a third category climb and two first category ones that go under the names of Alto de Toses and Montaup respectively. The following day the Vuelta gets back into Spanish territory, with the peloton covering the route from Andorra to the ski resort of Cerler on Aragonese territory. Our heroes have to climb the difficult Alto de Cantó (Cat.1) and the easier Bretui, Perves and La Espina before making it to the final ascent.

    With the Camp Nou "race of truth” and the Pyrenean mountain monsters over, but three terrible stages in a row - making this second week the hardest one of the race - looming ahead, the Vuelta boys are allowed to take a well-earned day off (with a transfer to Logroño, main city of La Rioja, a region of Northern Spain well-known also because of its wines) on Wednesday, September 7. And the overall contenders should save their legs also, as the race resumes with the flat and relatively short stage going from Logroño all the way to Burgos, another one for the sprinters, and probably also the last one for some of the fastest-but-not-so-good-as-the-road-tilts-upward guys.

    But nobody eager to wear that Golden thingy in Madrid come September 18 will be allowed to save his legs over the next three days, that make an extraordinary week-end of climbing, climbing and climbing, with three mountain top finishes on the slopes of Northern Spain, and several other difficulties. The first one comes Friday, September 9, with the race going up (for the first time) to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of La Bien Aparecida, named after the Patroness Saint of Cantabria …

    … whose help many a good sprinters could need over the week-end, ’cause after Friday’s demanding leg, the Vuelta has more mountains for them (and the others). Mountains like the legendary climb of Lagos de Covadonga in the Asturias region, one of the Tour of Spain’s most traditional ascents, that hosted several "epic” battles and, among other things, saw Roberto Heras (who didn’t take the stage anyway, as he crossed the line in third after Russian solo winner Andrei Zintchenko and Moldova’s Igor Pugaci) clinch the Gold Jersey in the Y2K edition of the race, an edition he was going to dominate.

    And if nothing should prevent the climbing sensation from Béjar from being in the bunch at this point of the race, he would definitely be a protagonist this time too. But don’t write off the chances of any other good climber to write his name in a list of stage winners also featuring the likes of Basque Country’s very own Marino Lejarreta (Covadonga‘s first hero back in the days of 1983) plus Pedro "Perico” Delgado (1985 and 1992), Scotland’s Robert Millar (1986), climbing legend Luis "Lucho” Herrera (1987 and 1991) and fellow Colombian Oliverio Rincón (1993), as well as none else than His Majesty Laurent Jalabert, two-time winner at the Lagos (first in 1994, and later as the race got back there in 1996). Ah, btw - the Lagos de Covadonga final climb of this stage comes only after four previous ascents took their toll on the legs on many riders.

    One week away from the race end, the "mountain trilogy” comes to an end, and so does the sprinters’ ordeal, with another uphill stage, from Cangas de Onís to Valgrande-Pajares. It’s the third straight mountain top finish, the sixth one in the 2005 Tour of Spain … but also the last one in the race. Indeed, maybe with the intention to provide the fastest riders with some more incentives to stay in the bunch, the Vuelta organizers - who sidelined the Angliru for the second consecutive time - made the quite unusual decision not to include any super-demanding mountain stage with a string of major difficulties in the last week.

    So should we say "we have a winner” with one week in advance? We’d better not, as even if the majority of remaining stages (mostly running inside Castilla y León territory) since the competition resumes after the second rest day should be won by sprinters or "stage hunters” making/getting into the right breakaway, "no major difficulties” doesn’t mean "pancake flat routes” after all, and riders will have to tackle the hills of the "Sierras” north of Madrid in a couple of the so-called "medium mountain stages” plus, as if this wasn’t enough, GC contenders will steal the spotlight again on the penultimate day.

    After the race pays homage to the great climber José Maria ”El Chava” Jiménez, who passed away about one year ago, with a stage passing through his home roads and both starting at and finishing into the wonderful walled city of Avila (another traditional stage finish), where someone’s attacking attitude could give the overall leader of the moment a run for his money, it will be time for the final, decisive (if the gaps are not that wide at least) effort, the 40-km. ITT from Guadalajara to Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of … here we go again, Miguel de Cervantes! A "race of truth” that could change the name of the gold jersey wearer, or could not, but one thing’s for sure: on the evening of Saturday, September the 17th, we’ll be able to say "we have winner”.

    Indeed, unlike in many recent editions (2001, 2002 and 2004) the closing leg into Madrid will not be an ITT but just an "average”, flat road stage, with riders being given the chance to test the circuit hosting the Elite Men Road Race at the World Champs no more than seven days later. You can betcha we’ll have an unusual - for a Grand Tour last stage - number of sprinters competing that day, and not with taking line honors as their only target…

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