Vuelta 2011 very much for the climbers, but lacks explosive finale of 2010
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vuelta 2011 very much for the climbers, but lacks explosive finale of 2010

by Shane Stokes at 4:16 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Detailed look at the stages that make up this year’s Spanish Tour

Vincenzo NibaliWith just one individual time trial but a total of ten days listed as mountain stages, it’s clear that the route of the 2011 Vuelta a España announced today is very much aimed at those who excel in going uphill.

Reactions to the race have synced with this, with 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali describing it as ‘very hard’.

“It will be right from the start because the finish in the Sierra Nevada,” the Liquigas rider told Marca.

Carlos Sastre, Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez and 2010 Vuelta leader Igor Anton all agreed, with Sastre describing it as “a Vuelta for the climbers.”

There will be a large number of uphill finishes, with the riders due to slug it out on the new Estacion de Montaña Manzaneda and La Farrapona ascents, plus those of the Sierra Nevada, La Covatilla, l’Angliru, the wall-like San Lorenzo del Escorial, Valdepeñas de Jaen and Peña Cabarga.

However the race lacks a big climax such as that offered by the Bola del Mundo climb on the penultimate day of last year’s race. Instead, the final day of climbing fizzles rather than explodes, with a long run in to the finish after the final climb looking likely to limit the effects of the category one Puerto de Urquiola.

VeloNation looked at each of the stages of the 2011 race, pinpointing the likely areas where the Maillot Rojo will be decided.

Vuelta 2011
Analysis of race route:

The 2011 Vuelta will begin with a 16 kilometre team time trial in Benidorm which, being mainly flat, will separate the riders in the general classification but should not lead to huge time gaps. It’s the third time the race will start in the popular holiday destination, and will be the first occasion in 12 years that it visits the city.

Stage two to Playas de Orihuela is also largely flat, although early on the riders will cross the third category ascent of Alto de Relleu. A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome, and so too on day three to Totana. However the 164 kilometre stage features the cat three ascent of Alto de la Santa with ten kilometres remaining, giving breakaway riders a platform to try to break the grip of the fastmen.

The first big mountains rear up on the following day’s 172 kilometre race from Baza to Sierra Nevada. The climbs around Granada begin with the first category Sierra de Filabres, then later on the riders will scale the third category Puerto de Blancares before the far tougher grind up to the summit finish. The stage will give the first true glimpse of the form of the general classification contenders, and will certainly result in a change in race leadership.

Vuelta 2011 route
If gaps are still tight between the top GC riders, there is a chance that a few seconds could be gained by some on the following day’s race from Sierra Nevada to Valdepeñas de Jaén. The 200 kilometre stage is the second-longest of the race and includes two second category ascents of the Valdepeñas de Jaén; the second of these tops out just 7.8 kilometres from the finish line and could well provoke attacks. There is also a steep ramp up the finish line, including a legbreaking 27% wall with 500 metres to go.

Things are a little more humane during the next two days, even if stage six to Córdoba includes the climb of Alto de San Jerónimo with just over 10 kilometres to go. It’s possible for sprinters to fight for the victory, but they will need to be very careful and to ride well on that climb.

Day seven lacks a categorised ascent but the 185 kilometre race towards Talavera de la Reina is constantly undulating and is thus expected to play into the hands of the breakaway specialists.

After that, the advantage swings back towards the climbers. August 27’s leg to San Lorenzo de El Escorial is relentlessly up and down, with very little flat along the 182 kilometre route. Early on, it includes the first category climb of the Puerto de Mijares, then in the second half of the stage two second category and one third category mountains rear up before an uphill drag to the line.

Vuelta 2011 route
Overall, stage 9 is much flatter, but it ends with the fourth-ever ascent up to the ski station of La Covatilla. This should again reshape the race and end the general classification hopes of some.

Vuelta 2011 route
A break, then even more climbing:


Following the rest day, the second segment of the race begins with the sole chance for time trialists to get time back on the climbers. Spain likes its mountain men, though, and so the experts against the clock have been handed a mere 40 kilometres against the clock. Even if one of them takes over the red jersey, the Salamanca test won’t provide much of a buffer in advance of the following day’s mountain stage to the ski station of Alto de la Manzaneda.

The climb is appearing for the first time in the race and so there will be some apprehension amongst the riders. Some may have ridden it beforehand in training, but it is an unknown in terms of competitive efforts and will spice things up.

Vuelta 2011 route
A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome on day twelve, with two third-category climbs halfway through plus some lumpy terrain later on being the only barrier to the likes of Mark Cavendish (HTC Highroad), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) and the other fast-twitch specialists who are expected to take part. They will instruct their teams to take control and ensure a bunch finish, particularly as the following three days will be in the mountains and they will be under a lot of pressure.

Stage 13 to Ponferrada is just 150 kilometres in length but features five categorised climbs including the first cat Alto Folgueiras de Aigas and Puerto de Ancares. After that there’s a third category climb and then a 20 kilometre run down to the finish, where a breakaway or small bunch should fight for the win.

Vuelta 2011 route
One day later, the riders slug it out on this year’s second new summit finish climb, that of La Farrapona. Lagos de Somiedo. It is preceded by the second category Puerto de Ventana and first cat Puerto de San Lorenzo, and while the final climb itself is not hugely difficult, it ramps up as it nears the finish line and becomes tougher.

That battlefield will be a good one, but it pales in comparison with the fifteenth stage’s finale. The hugely difficult climb of l’Anglirú is returning to the race after a two year absence, and even though the stage is the shortest non-time trial leg at just 144 kilometres, big time losses are a certainty.

Vuelta 2011 route
Last time round, the eventual race winner Alberto Contador took 42 seconds out of second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) on that climb. All those from seventh place back lost at least two minutes, making the stage one of the most decisive of that race. That sort of upheaval is guaranteed to happen once again.

Heading towards the final battle:

With aching limbs and fading energies, the riders will have the second rest day on Monday September 5th. The sprinters have the best chance in quite a while on the sixteenth stage to Haro, and will make the most of it in the knowledge that three out of the next five days are – on paper at least - for the climbers.

The first of those is stage 17 to Peña Cabarga, the scene of Igor Anton’s unfortunate crash while wearing the leader’s jersey last year. His fall before the final climb took him out of the race, and eventual race winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) seized the jersey at the finish.

Vuelta 2011 route
The final climb is a short, very steep one with an average gradient of just under ten percent and stretches hitting 18 percent. It suits explosive riders, as evidenced by the stage victory of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) last year. At 212.5 kilometres the stage is the longest of this year’s race and the combination of many hours in the saddle plus a vicious gradient suggests that there will be a real danger that riders will blow up.

Stage 18 is a little easier, featuring four categorised climbs but also a flattish final 15 kilometre run to the line in Noja.

The following day’s race to Bilbao is lumpy, including a pair of second category climbs in the last 50 kilometres, but a possible bunch gallop could settle things if the sprinters can hang on. The climbers will have their final say on September 10’s race to Vitoria, but to be frank the stage looks like it could be an anti-climax. It features four climbs, including the final first category ascent of the Puerto de Urquiola, yet 47 flat kilometres are left between the summit and the finish line.

Vuelta 2011 route
That plus the flat nature of the final stage to Madrid means that the general classification could remain unchanged for the final four stages. That would be a muted end to what otherwise promises to be a very explosive Vuelta, and one which will certainly suit the climbers.

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Vuelta a España 2011 (Grand Tour/UCI World Tour event):

Stage 1, Saturday 20 August: Benidorm - Benidorm, 16 km (team time trial)
Stage 2, Sunday 21 August: La Nucía - Playas de Orihuela, 171.5 km
Stage 3, Monday 22 August: Petrer – Totana, 164 kilometres
Stage 4, Tuesday 23 August: Baza - Sierra Nevada, 172 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 5, Wednesday 24 August: Sierra Nevada - Valdepeñas de Jaén, 200 kilometres
Stage 6, Thursday 25 August: Ubeda – Córdoba, 185.7 kilometres
Stage 7, Friday 26 August: Almadén - Talavera de la Reina, 185 kilometres
Stage 8, Saturday 27 August: Talavera de la Reina - San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 182 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 9, Sunday 28 August : Villacastín - Sierra de Bejar. La Covatilla, 179.5 kilometres (mountain stage)

Rest day, Monday 29 August

Stage 10, Tuesday 30 August, Salamanca – Salamanca, 40 kilometres (individual time trial)
Stage 11, Wednesday 31 August: Verín - Estación de Esquí Alto de la Manzaneda, 171 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 12, Thursday 1 September: Ponteareas – Pontevedra, 160 kilometres
Stage 13, Friday 2 September: Sarria – Ponferrada, 150 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 14, Saturday 3 September: Astorga - La Farrapona. Lagos de Somiedo, 173.2 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 15, Sunday 4 September: Avilés – Anglirú, 144 kilometres (mountain stage)

Rest Day, Monday 5 September

Stage16, Tuesday 6 September: Villa Romana La Olmeda (Palencia) – Haro, 180 kilometres
Stage 17, Wednesday 7 September: Faustino V - Peña Cabarga, 212.5 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 18, Thursday 8 September: Solares – Noja, 169.7 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 19, Friday 9 September: Noja – Bilbao, 157.9 kilometres
Stage 20, Saturday 10 September: Bilbao – Vitoria, 187 kilometres (mountain stage)
Stage 21, Sunday 11 September: Circuito del Jarama – Madrid, 94 kilometres
 

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