The official route of the 2011 Vuelta a España will be revealed next week on January 12, but there’s been plenty of speculation in the Spanish media about details of the year’s third grand tour.
What has been confirmed is that the 76th edition of the Spanish grand tour will begin August 27 in the seaside resort town of Benidorm and ends September 18 in Madrid.
That hasn’t stopped Spanish newspapers at trying to guess where and when the remainder of the 21-stage route will pass.
Race director Javier Guillén has already confirmed some details about the race, including the likely return to Spain’s Basque Country for the first time since the late 1970s. A change in regional government and an easing of political tensions in Basque Country will likely see the Vuelta return to one of Spain’s cycling hotbeds for the first time in more than three decades.
The Spanish newspaper, El Correo, used to sponsor and organize the Vuelta and the race finished in the Basque city of Bilbao some 40 occasions, but the race was sold to UniPublic in the late 1970s, which moved its traditional finish to Madrid.
Troubles with the Basque guerilla group ETA also created security problems for Vuelta organizers and the race hasn’t returned since 1978, when protesters blocked the course with metal barriers, tacks and other obstructions.
Up to three stages near the end of the Vuelta could be held in the Basque Country.
Guillén has also hinted that the Vuelta will likely start with a team time trial, which proved successful with an unconventional stage held under the lights in Sevilla last year.
There’s also speculation that the Vuelta could conclude with an individual time trial in Madrid, last featured in the 2004 Vuelta and a model that’s been used lately by the Giro d’Italia but one that is largely unpopular among the sprinters of the peloton.
According to media reports among regional dailies, which often have the ear of local officials, the route could push south along the Mediterranean coast, hitting the La Pandera and Sierra Nevada summit finishes near Jaén and Granada, respectively.
Transfers could carry the race into northern Spain, with stages across Salamanca and Zamora before entering the Cantabrian mountains, with likely stops at Ancares, a new climb at La Farrapona and a return to La Angliru for the first time since 2008.