Rain forecasted for GC showdown at Basque Country

Many of the peloton's top uphill specialists are headed to northern Spain to take on the Vuelta al País Vasco

What many consider the most difficult stage race of the year could be even harder, with forecasters calling for cold and rainy weather for the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).

The peloton’s top puncheurs and climbers shine in the six-day race punctuated by an endless string of climbs, with no less than 31 rated climbs. Forecasted rain and cold will make a hard week even more demanding.

“The weather will play an important, because there are stages that go up and down, and if the weather is bad, it will be even tougher,” said three-time winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). “I’m excited about the race, but we’ll have to see how the legs respond, because after Catalunya, the efforts was becoming noticeable.”

Contador is joined by Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Sergio Henao (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo), Fabio Aru (Astana), and Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) in one of the most hotly contested races of the year that starts Monday.

Uphill finishes in stages 2 and 5 set up the GC battle that typically comes down to a final-day, 16.5km time trial at Eibar.

“It’s a very tough race, and the weather does not look good,” said Dimension Data sport director Alex Sans Vega. “There will be a high quality field, and our main objective will be to go for a stage win.”

Last year, Rodríguez beat Henao. Also set to return this year is Peter Stetina (Trek – Segafredo), who suffered a horrible crash when he hit a metal pole left in the road in the final kilometer of stage 1 in 2015.