ALICANTE, Spain (VN) – The Vuelta a España returns to the Basque Country for the first time in more than three decades in a 21-stage route that favors the climbers.
The 2011 Vuelta opens August 20 with a team time trial in Benidorm along Spain’s sparkling Mediterranean Coast and features three stages at the back end of race in the Basque Country, a region wracked with violence and political turmoil.
With six summit finishes, including the feared Angliru back for the first time since 2008, and just two time trials, the 21-stage Vuelta should see the mountain goats contending for the red jersey when the season’s third grand tour ends September 11 in Madrid.
“It’s a hard route. It’s similar to last year, and with finishes like Valdepeñas de Jaén that are explosive, it will be spectacular to be sure,” said Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC), winner of the 2008 Tour de France. “We can be happy when there’s a route like this that favors the climbers.”
The route features six summit finishes and just two time trials, including a 16km team time trial and a mostly flat power course over 40km at Salamanca in stage 10.
The mountains come early, with the long, grinding climb to Sierra Nevada coming on day 4. There next day sees the short but very steep uphill run at Valdepeñas de Jaén, not officially a summit finish, but where Igor Antón won a stage last year to confirm his credentials for overall victory.
There’s a similar finish in stage 8 at El Escorial followed by the second summit finish at La Covatilla just ahead the Salamanca time trial, meaning that the GC could be quite settled going into the first rest day.
The second week should decide the final winner, with three summit finishes, including the Angliru, which made its last appearance on the 13th stage of the 2008 Vuelta. All three summit finishes come in the northern mountains of Spain, known for their brutally steep and rough roads.
The final week rolls into Spain’s Rioja wine region and the final summit finale atop Peña Cabarga in Cantabria before three stages in the Basque Country, which sees the Vuelta to return for the first time since 1978.
There will be plenty of chances for sprinters ahead of the sprinter-friendly world championship course in Denmark, with at least seven stages well-suited for the peloton’s fastest finishers.
2011 Vuelta a España
Stage 1, Aug. 20: Benidorm-Benidorm (TTT), 16km
Stage 2, Aug. 21: La Nucia to Playa Orihuela, 171.5km
Stage 3, Aug. 22: Petrer to Totana, 164km
Stage 4, Aug. 23: Baza to Sierra Nevada, 172km (summit finish)
Stage 5, Aug. 24: Sierra Nevada to Valdepeñas de Jaén, 200km
Stage 6, Aug. 25: Úbeda to Córdoba, 185.7km
Stage 7, Aug. 26: Almadén to Talavera de la Reina, 185km
Stage 8, Aug. 27: Talavera de la Reina to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 182km
Stage 9, Aug. 28: Villacastín to Sierra de Béjar-La Covatilla (summit finish)
Stage 10, Aug. 29: Salamanca-Salamanca (ITT), 40km
REST DAY – August 30
Stage 11, Aug. 31: Verín to Estación de Montaña Manzaneda, 171km (summit finish)
Stage 12, Sept. 1: Ponteareas to Pontevedra, 160km
Stage 13, Sept. 2: Sarria to Ponferrada, 150km
Stage 14, Sept. 3: Astorga to La Farrapona-Lagos de Somiedo, 173.2km (summit finish)
Stage 15, Sept. 4: Avilés to Alto de L’Angliru, 144km (summit finish)
REST DAY – September 5
Stage 16, Sept. 6: Villa Romana La Olmeda to Haro, 180km
Stage 17, Sept. 7: Faustino V (Oyón) to Peña Cabarga, 212.5km (summit finish)
Stage 18, Sept. 8: Solares to Noja, 169.7km
Stage 19, Sept. 9: Noja to Bilbao, 157.9km
Stage 20, Sept. 10: Bilbao to Vitoria, 187km
Stage 21, Sept. 11: Circuito de Jarama to Madrid, 94km