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BAEZA, Spain (VN) — Riders woke up to cold, wind, and rain for Monday’s new gravel race dubbed the “Strade Bianche” of Spain.
Overnight showers drenched the area for the first rains in weeks and will turn the 40km of “gravilla” featured in the debut Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior into a messy affair.
Big favorites such as Miguel Ángel López (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) woke up Monday to temperatures in the high-40s, (9C), fog, and wind.
Officials confirmed to VeloNews there is no talk of altering the route, and the race will be contested as planned.
Clouds are expected to break by mid-day, but any moisture following months of Iberian winter sun will add an unwelcome element to the new one-day race already gathering a lot of hype.
“I believe it has all the ingredients to be a very special race,” said race director Pascual Momparler, who is also Spain’s national team coach.
Also read: New gravel race to debut in Spain
Six WorldTour teams will be joined by 12 ProTeams and one continental, the local Manuela Fundación (the same team that tried to buy out the GreenEdge squad two years ago).
The race is the latest to get on the gravel bandwagon, and comes just as some top riders are questioning about how appropriate gravel off-road sectors are in major stage races.
One-day races are a bit of a different story, since there’s no GC and three weeks of hard racing at stake, and the surrounding countryside should make for an exciting backdrop.
The 180-kilometer course from Baeza to Úbeda loops across the region’s famous “sea of olives,” and will feature 3,000 vertical meters to make a challenging day in the saddle.
A final, steep 3km run up to the finish line in Úbeda, a Medieval walled city towering above the plains covered with olive trees, promises to deliver a thrilling finale.
👋🏻 ¡Hola @EqKernPharma!
¿Preparados para la #ClásicaJaén22?
— Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior (@ClasicaJaen) February 13, 2022
40km of gravel, hilly course serve up challenging profile
It will be interesting to see how the “sterrato” sets up in the wet if an overnight deluge does happen.
Drainage typically is pretty good, and the type of packed rock and dirt should stay fairly stable even in the wet.
Perhaps more treacherous will be the roads. Because it rains so infrequently in parts of southern Spain, when the skies open up, the roads become horribly slick following weeks or sometimes months of gunk building up on the road surfaces.
Officials are hopeful the race will become a new fixture on what’s becoming a busier Spanish spring calendar.
Another new race — Gran Camiño — is also added to the calendar later this month. It’s the revival of the former Galician stage race, and along with the return of the Volta a Valenciana a few years ago, the Spanish calendar is starting to see some new energy following more than 10 years of economic malaise.
Most of the top teams are racing a full block in Spain that opened this weekend with Murcia and Almería. Teams will stay on for the Ruta del Sol or the Volta ao Algarve in nearby Portugal.
It’s still early days, so the winner could well depend on who has the will to push through.
Along with López and Wellens, Alexesy Lutsenko (Astana), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) could shine.
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