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Alejandro Valverde, Human Powered Health back in action for new Spanish race at Gran Camiño

US team confirms it's sending a full squad to Gran Camiño as Valverde returns to action following surprise stop.

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Alejandro Valverde and Human Powered Health will both start the new Spanish race at Gran Camiño running Thursday to Sunday.

Team Movistar officials confirmed the 41-year-old will line up Thursday for the new four-stage race in Spain’s Galicia region following a mid-February stop.

Human Powered Health officials also confirmed to VeloNews the team is back in action this week.

“We’re sending one of our climbers from Algarve, Kyle Murphy, and everyone else who wasn’t positive from Ruta,” team manager Pat McCarty told VeloNews. “We’re racing in Belgium this weekend at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Le Samyn, and we’re planning races.”

Also read: Human Powered Health regroups following COVID exit

The U.S.-registered team decided to pull its squad out of last week’s Ruta del Sol after two of its riders were diagnosed with COVID-19. None of the other staffers were impacted, so McCarty said the team didn’t want to miss the Spanish race that is a key part of their busy early season calendar.

Also read: Human Powered Health off to fast start to 2022

The team is off to a hot start to 2022, posting second places in stages at the Tour of Antalya and Ruta del Sol, respectively.

Valverde is also back in action Thursday after suddenly putting the brakes on his retirement season calendar after the Volta a Valenciana in early February. He later skipped scheduled starts at Vuelta a Murcia and Ruta del Sol.

Team officials never stated if Valverde came down with COVID-19 or not, but the Spanish star returns to action this week after the unexpected stop.

Other WorldTour teams scheduled to start Thursday include EF Education-EasyPost, Israel-Premier Tech, and Cofidis.

Stage racing returns to Spain’s hilly Galicia

The race marks a return of stage racing for the first time in two decades to the Galicia region, which has emerged as a popular stop in the Vuelta a España over the past few years.

The race will trace all four provinces of Galicia in northwest Spain, a region known for its narrow roads and steep hills.

It was in Galicia last year where Miguel Ángel López angrily quit the Vuelta when he was caught out in a split, and lost the chances of a possible podium spot.

Also read: Parting words from López: ‘It was a pleasure, gentlemen’

Racing begins Thursday in Porriño, with two climbs and steep hills running into Vigo.

Friday’s stage ends atop the famous Ézaro climb with 28 percent grades, which should set up the GC battle.

Saturday’s action tackles two first-category climbs just ahead of a short downhill run to the line into Luintra, with the race decided Sunday with a 16km time trial into Sarria.

Gran Camiño, February 24-27

Stage 1, Thursday: O Porriño to Vigo, 165km

Stage 2, Friday: Bertamiráns to Mirado do Ézaro, 177km

Stage 3, Saturday: Maceda to Luintra, 148.4km

Stage 4, Sunday: Sarria-Sarria, 15.8km (ITT)