La Vuelta – come on, who doesn’t like Churros?!
by Jamie Jowett
Time to find a shop that sells Churros because Spain’s Grand Tour ‘La Vuelta’ started on the weekend.
The start list has some big names – the Schleck brothers, Mechov, Sastre, Luis Leon Sanchez, Gilbert, Nibali, Kreuziger, Arroyo, Rodriguez, Pozzatto and Theo Bos. Andy Schleck is not competing at the UCI Worlds in Geelong so he should give this a pretty decent crack to help his brother Frank redeem his unlucky season.
With 44 categorised climbs, there are still plenty of big sprinters like Cavendish, Husvold, Freire, Petacchi and Farrar. Petacchi might be a little bit distracted though, seeing as he faced a two hour hearing mid week before the anti-doping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee CONI. There may be lots of discussions off the bike here too, with word Hushovd might be joining Garmin, and with teams like Cervelo Test Team, Millram and Caisse d’Epagne all folding.
The start list is stacked with Spanish riders. While local teams Xacobeo Galicia and Andalucia-CajaSur were invited, Lance’s Radio Shack team was not – more on the farce of how teams are selected for the Grand Tours another time…Most importantly, Arthur Vichot is on the FDJ starting list !!
Seeing as I‘ll probably just use the race as an excuse to eat Spanish donuts, and as an acknowledged bluffer* myself, here’s my top ten facts# about La Vuelta to help you out:
1. It consists of 21 stages, 3,352km’s, from Seville to Madrid. The course this year appeals to the aggressive riders who can really climb, there is only the one ITT. The main climbs all include 20%+ gradients and steep ramps to break up the race.
2. The GC leader’s jersey is red, the points classification is green, and the KOM is blue polka dot.
3. This is the only Grand Tour this year not to start in Holland. The first stage is not a prologue, but a good old fashioned Team Time Trial – starting at 10pm. Sounds creative, but probably just a relief from the sweltering daytime heat in Sevilla this time of year.
4. Although there are 6 mountain top finishes, there is only one in the “Pyreneos” – the 208 km 11th stage, with the last 62 km’s mostly uphill and finishing in the ski resort of Vallnord.
5. Did I mention the hills? Stage 14 is the first of three mountain top stages in a row. The really bad mofo’ is Monday 13th, Stage 16. This stage includes 3 Cat 1 climbs, the Alto de San Lorenzo, Puerto de la Cobertoria, and the Cotobello. The 20th stage is a complete beast though. Check out the profile here. Climbs on the stage include the Alto del Leon (7.8 km’s at 6.9%) and Puerto de Navacerrada (7 km at 7.5%). Shutting the lid on the pain locker is a 3 km ramp of up to 23% gradient into the finish at Bola del Mundo, an altitude of 2,265m.
6. Seven Aussies are on the start list – Simon Gerrans, Matt Wilson, Johnnie Walker (Will Walker’s brother), Stuart O’Grady, Allan Davis, Baden Cooke and Matt Goss.
7. Look for riders trying to salvage something from a tough year (ie. Gerro, Frank Schleck, and Sastre). Pereiro may do something special too as he’s probably retiring soon. There will also be plenty of riders using this as a final tune-up for the Worlds, who will most likely abandon before the final week.
8. Matt Keenan will prove himself amongst the great commentators if he can pronounce the names of the Euskatel-Euskadi riders like Benat Intxaustieloriagga and Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui. Unfortunately, Sammy “Dirty” Sanchez won’t be competing.
9. Don’t ever call a Basque a Spaniard. Ever. Ask SBS about what happened to their TdF van if you need to know why. There’s political stuff here you don’t want to get involved in. Just enjoy their great Tapas.
10. The number one dossard won’t go to last year’s winner Alessandro Valverde, for obvious reasons. Instead it will be worn by Cervelo’s Inigo Cuesta who is riding his 17th consecutive Vuelta. At 41 years old, how’s that for still mixing it up with the young fella’s?
Pssst. One of the local hopes you may not have heard of is Ezequiel Mosquera, not sure what he’s paying but if he’s at 15’s or better for a top 3 spot, get on.
* Bluffer – (adj.) [bluhfa] outspoken but without knowledge to justify opinions. Note, does not mean the same as Fluffer.
Stages 1 Photos
The Vuelta got off to an untraditional start with a 10pm team time trial in Sevilla. I was following Matt Keenan’s facebook updates and he said: