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Vuelta a Espana

2015 Vuelta a Espana features tough mountain stages, Madrid finale

With Alberto Contador likely to focus on the Giro and Tour, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde are early favorites for the 2015 Vuelta

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MADRID (AFP) — The 70th edition of the Vuelta a España will see the race return to Madrid on its 80th anniversary after a break from tradition to finish in Santiago de Compostela in 2014.

The grueling 21-stage race will start with a 7.4km team time trial in Marbella on Saturday, August 22, and finish with a parade around the center of the Spanish capital on September 13.

As usual, the organizers have crammed in a number of mountaintop finishes, with nine such stages making their first appearance in the race.

The most demanding of all is stage 11 in Andorra, a 138km leg that includes six steep climbs.

The Vuelta also includes a 39km individual time trial through Burgos on the 17th stage.

A final mountain finish awaits the riders on the outskirts of Madrid in Cercedilla, on the penultimate stage, before the traditional parade through the boulevards of the capital on the final Sunday.

Last year’s winner, Alberto Contador, is unlikely to try to defend his title as the Spaniard has prioritized the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2015, while Sky’s Chris Froome has yet to commit to the race after his second-place finish in 2014.

Therefore, Movistar teammates Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana are among the favorites to battle for the general classification, along with Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez.

“It is a Vuelta like the previous ones, it is very demanding and has explosive finishes,” said Valverde, who has finished on the podium for the past three years.

“Without doubt, it will be a very nice race to watch for the spectators. Those of us who will be fighting for the general classification will need to be very aware every day.”