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60th Vuelta a Espana - Course Preview Part Four
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 9/12/2005
60th Vuelta a Espana - Course Preview Part Four

Stage 16: León - Valladolid, 162.5 km

A sprinter's stage today, and there will potentially be two more in this final week of the Vuelta. After the last three days of uphill finishes, followed by the final rest day, one could wonder how many sprinters remain. McEwen is not here and neither is O'Grady; van Heeswijk, Boonen and Hushovd have retired. It would not be hard, therefore, to predict Petacchi for a winner. Except...

The city of Valladolid hosts the finish of the race for the first time since 2001, and the finish is the same - flat, but for the final 1400 meters, which tilt up. The race finishes in the Parquesol neighborhood, which saw Erik Zabel win (and he is still in this race); the neighborhood is built on a hill, and the finish - on Hernando de Acuña street - slants up to 770 meters. This might give options to riders who are not the pure sprinters. The finish suits Zabel, but one must not forget that Petacchi, who, with his team, is pretty much on fire with his four stage wins - he must not be counted out.

In 2001, this stage came at the opening of the race, Stage 2, instead of near the end. Here is the top ten for that day:

1  Zabel, Erik GER TEL 3:34:28
2  Freire, Oscar ESP MAP m.t.
3  McEwen, Robbie AUS DFF m.t.
4  Edo, Angel ESP MIL m.t.
5  Etxebarria, David ESP EUS a 3
6  Martin Perdiguero, M.A. ESP CTA a 3
7  Horrillo, Pedro ESP MAP a 3
8  Tombak, Janek EST COF a 3
9  Millar, David GBR COF a 3
10  Commesso, Salvatore ITA SAE a 3

The locals warn that on the road this day, wind and the fans are likely to be factors. The temperatures should be perfect (around 75 F, 23 C), and winds are forecast at 5-10 miles per hour from the northeast, which will tend more as a cross/tailwind to the riders.

Stage 17: El Espinar - La Granja de San Ildefonso, 165.6 km

The riders now must grit their teeth for two more days of climbing through the Madrid Sierras, and Stage 17 could be pivotal. Close to the end of the race and with over two weeks of hard racing in the riders' legs, will Heras stamp further authority on the race here? There are four climbs: a Cat 3 climb only 10 km from the start, then the Category 1 Puerto de Navacerrada, with its famous Siete Revueltas - the seven, tight 180 degree turns - then the Category 2 Puerto de la Morcuera, the Navacerrada again, and for the second day in a row, a slightly uphill finish in San Ildefonso-La Granja.

The day's climbs:
Alto Los Ángeles de San Rafael (Cat. 3 - 1.300 m asl)
Puerto de Navacerrada (Cat. 1 - 1.880 m asl)
Puerto de la Morcuera (Cat. 2 - 1.760 m asl)
Puerto de Navacerrada (Cat. 1 - 1.880 m asl)

This stage runs very near the city of Segovia, home region of the famous Pedro Delgado, and the city of San Ildefonso-La Granja receives the Vuelta for the first time.

In 2004, the Navacerrada was site of the Stage 20 uphill finish that José Enrique Gutiérrez of Phonak won. Number two in the mountains classification in this year's edition, Eladio Jimenez, came in second across the line behind Gutiérrez. Another year, 1993, the Navacerrada was the site of a time trial.

This year, however, the Navacerrada is not the finish, but is climbed twice. The first time up the 11 km Navacerrada (view Climb 1) will be on the side that is usually the descent, then the riders will come back to it about 20 km before the finish (view Climb 2). The famous seven bends present themselves after forty kilometres, then the Morcuera and, for the first time Navacerrada, starting from Cerceda.

A quick and dangerous descent from the Navacerrada the second time, and the finish (as Stage 16 did) again jogs a bit uphill, on the Paseo de Santa Isabel, named for the convent in the city. A "short" stage (165 km), allowing the teams to ride at high speed from the start. The leaders will have to be very careful.

Salvador Dali - Courtesy

Stage 18: Avila - Avila, 197.5 km

Another of those pesky "medium mountain" stages. Five categorized climbs. Starting and ending in the walled city of Avila.

A great aerial view of walled Avila, from the paragliding site

It was of course in Avila, in 1983, three stages before the race's end, that Bernard Hinault took over the race from Julian Gorospe on the climbs of Serranillos and Navalmoral.

The official race site describes that edition thus:

Brilliant! The edition of 1983 was one of the most wonderful and spectacular in the whole history of Vuelta a España, some say the best. Scandals from previous years were forgotten and gave way to the majesty of cycling which reached its highest level of nobility and epic overtones which characterize it. Sport and only sport in its purest expression was the protagonist in this edition of 1983. This was the year of the relaunching of the race; Spanish people were the witnesses.

The final winner of this Vuelta was the French rider, Bernard Hinault, who repeated his triumph of 1978.

However, his victory, was not that important comparing it with the great performance the riders offered. The french rider, successor of Eddy Merckx, and real master of the world cycling in those years, had to show one of his most outstanding exhibitions in order to arrive in Madrid wearing the Yellow Jersey. Before him, the Spanish riders Lejarreta, Gorospe, Pino and Alberto Fernández had already offered his own display. Four were the stages which marked the development of this edition of Vuelta a España.

First of them was the 38-kilometre-long mountainous time trial stage, between Sabiñánigo and Panticosa in which Marino Lejarreta, already leader, consolidated his first place, after carrying out a prodigious exhibition of conditions that made Hinault blush.

The following crucial stage was a couple of days later; it was the one which covered the way between Zaragoza and Soria, in which the wind was protagonist. It made the riders to spring out and it also knocked Marino to the ground, who lost his leadership.

The third decisive moment of the race arrived when de riders were starting to climb the steep ramps of Alto de la Huesera and whose protagonist was, once again, Marino Lejarreta. His outstanding victory made the mountain pass of Lagos de Covadonga the most emblematic of Vuelta a España from that moment. Despite Lejarreta´s great performance, Alberto Fernández was able to keep the Yellow Jersey, which then passed on to Alvaro Pino and Julian Gorospe.

When they were just three stages from the end of the race Hinault, with hurt pride, decided to get some action and of course he did it!. The French rider relentlessly ruined the peloton in the climb to Puerto de Serranillos, won in Ávila, displaced Gorospe from first place and rounded off the race in that way.

Hinault made it quite clear who was the greatest figure in the world of cycling; but even today the images of the Spanish riders turned into protagonist of the race remain in the minds of the best enthusiasts; specially that of Marino Lejarreta, who surely enjoyed his second place (after " El Caimán") in this edition much more than his victory the previous year (thanks to Arroyo´s positive). By the way, a young, fair and with an absent-minded look French rider, called Laurent Fignon, was the actual winner in one of the first stages.

The final GC that year was:

1 Bernard Hinault (FRA) 94:28:26 h.
2 Marino Lejarreta a 1:12
3 Alberto Fernandez a 3:58
4 Alvaro Pino a 5:09
5 Hennie Kuiper (HOL) a 10:26
6 Eduardo Chozas a 11:11
7 Laurent Fignon (FRA) a 11:27
8 Pedro Munoz a 12:25
9 Vicente Belda a 13:08

Here is the detail of the Category One climb of the day, coming at the 66 km point, the 1570 meter Puerto de Mijares.

Making it through this day wisely will be key for the top of the GC - there is a rather "plain Jane" stage that falls before Saturday's 38.9 km time trial, and the GC favorites must keep enough seconds (or minutes) in reserve to not lose there.

Stage 19: San Martín de Valdeiglesias - Alcobendas, 142.9 km

The race reaches the southeastern Madrid town of San Martin de Valdeiglesias (hometown of Los Toros de Guisando - ancient bull statues - and the just as famous Illes Balears rider Pablo Lastras, who is sure to receive a huge fans' welcome), and is the last chance for a breakaway stage victory, if you don't count Sunday's "parade" stage...

The leaders will conserve their strength for the next day's time trial, so a break might get away here. Even though there are two climbs, the Category 2 Alto de Santa Maria and the Category 3 Alto de Robledondo, the stage is "short" at 143 kilometers, and it winds up on the Paseo de la Chopera in Alcobendas.

Pablo Picasso - Courtesy

Stage 20: Guadalajara - Alcala de Henares, 38.9 km (ITT)

Last year, the Vuelta ended with a time trial, shorter, at 28 km, which Santiago Perez won - race leader Heras finished fifth. In 2003, the very short 11 km time trial was the penultimate stage, like this year, and it was won by...Roberto Heras. In 2002 the TT was again the final stage, and it was won by Aitor Gonzalez, who also trumped race leader Heras for the top podium spot. I'm sure we all remember a grim Heras on the second step that year.

What is there to say about the race of truth? It all comes down to having a good day (or not), weather (forecast at the time of writing is sunny and mild, slight breeze) and not just a little luck. More than once, the final winner has been decided on the last time trial. This is the third TT of this Vuelta, and the days leading up to this time trial will tell most of the story, but not all. We will just have to wait and see.

Stage 21: Madrid - Madrid, 144.0 km

The final parade stage of the Vuelta through Madrid. It remains to be seen if the day will see a breakaway, or if ceremony will prevail and the peloton will ride en masse. One thing is for sure: a week later the national teams will be riding the roads of Madrid in the World Championships, and the closing Madrid circuits follow the Road Race route.

The Worlds road race circuit is 21 kilometres long. The riders will cover the route 13 times for a total of 273 kilometers. Here is the Worlds Road Race course:

Click for larger image.

And so ends the 2005 edition of the Vuelta a Espana, the final "grand tour" of the year, but not the last ProTour race, as the Tour of Poland is now on, and coming up are Züri Metzgete, Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia. But it will undoubtedly be an anti-climax as well, with the Worlds starting in the same city only a few days later.

Salvador Dali - Courtesy

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60th Vuelta a Espana – Course Preview Part 2
60th Vuelta a Espana - Course Preview Part 3

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