Alejandro Valverde, one of Spain’s most prolific cycling stars and consistent climbers, confirmed what was expected: The 2017 Vuelta a España route favors a pure climber.
“It’s a climber’s course, no doubts about that. No place for TT specialists who climb just well,” he said in a team statement.
[related title=”More on the Vuelta” align=”right” tag=”Vuelta-a-España”]
His Movistar teammate, Nairo Quintana won the 2016 edition of the Vuelta with a daring raid on stage 15 to Formigal. Valverde went on to finish 12th overall, but he won his home tour in 2009. The 36-year-old Spaniard also was third in the Giro d’Italia — he raced all three grand tours in 2016.
“It looks like a really demanding Vuelta a España,” Valverde continued. “Some people will probably say they shot completely off the mark, and for those like us who are suffering it on the bike, it will be even more of a challenge, but I understand and prefer to have it this way. At the end of the day, fans want spectacle, and with this route, I’m confident the race will be really attractive for them.”
The 2017 Vuelta’s most likely source for spectacle will be stage 20, which finishes atop the precipitous Angliru climb. The mountaintop finish was last featured in the 2013 edition of the Vuelta, which American Chris Horner won. The climb finishes 1,573 meters above sea level and averages about 10 percent over 12.5km. It is feared for its steep ramps that tickle the 20 percent gradient mark, such as Cueña les Cabres at 23.6%, 3km from the summit.
Valverde also noted that the Vuelta’s front-loaded schedule will make it tricky for GC leaders to hit top form at the right moment. “You’ll have to plan your training schedule well and peak early, because those three mountaintop finishes in the first week will take a big share in the overall result.”
His Movistar team manager, Eusebio Unzué, had a similar reaction to the route. “I feel like it’s a Vuelta route even harder than in previous occassions, and I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.”