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.
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
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
Stage 19: San Martín de Valdeiglesias - Alcobendas, 142.9 km
The race reaches the southeastern Madrid town of San Martin de Valdeiglesias
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
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