By Andrew Hood
While the route of the 2004 Vuelta a España will be officially unveiled Wednesday in Madrid, route details are popping up everywhere in the Spanish media.
The latest tease is that the course will skip the feared Angliru climb in northern Spain as well as the demanding Pyrénées and instead hit six summit finishes in central and southern Spain, including a climbing time trial up the grinding 35km climb up to the Sierra Nevada ski station in southern Spain.
Details released in the Spanish daily AS reveal that a difficult mountain stage on the penultimate day will feature five climbs in the mountains near Madrid, including a difficult 9km summit finish to Valdesquí.
Two new climbs will be introduced, including a climbing finish to Calar Alto (20km at 7 percent) in the Sierra de los Filabres near Almería, and La Ragua (13.5km at 7.5 percent), another peak in the Sierra Nevada. Also back are the difficult climbs at La Covatilla and Aitana, both featured the past few years of the Vuelta.
No details yet on the Vuelta’s proposed time trials, which have been decisive in the outcome the past three editions. The Vuelta is set to start in León in northern Spain on Sept. 4 and end in Madrid on Sept. 26.
Check back to VeloNews.com on Wednesday for full details and reactions from the Vuelta presentation.
Tour of England making comeback?
While the United States continues to struggle without a solid national tour, England seems to be close to getting back a Tour of Britain, according to reports this weekend in The Guardian newspaper.
The paper reported Saturday that a 29-page report leaked to the monthly magazine Cycling Plus revealed a stage-race from Manchester to London is in the works for Sept. 1-5 next year. The race will reportedly be directed by world track pursuit champion Tony Doyle and promoted by Sweetspot, a subsidiary of a company that also promotes such events as the Nokia Open, the Bahamas Masters and the UK snooker championship.
The Tour of Britain – which was held since the mid-1950s under the guise of the Milk Race, the Kelloggs Tour and the PruTour — wilted on the vine in 1999 after losing its title sponsor.
Course details were not revealed in the story, but 16 teams of six riders are expected to start.
Durand to Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
The tireless Jacky Durand will race next year with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago after finalizing a deal with the Belgian team. The 37-year-old French favorite, known for his long solo attacks, will help round out the team’s efforts. The team will be looking to push Yaroslav Popovych — third overall in the 2003 Giro d’Italia — higher in the final GC of the 2004 Giro.
Bettini eyes Olympics
Two-time World Cup champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) says the Olympic gold medal will be a top goal for the 2004 season.
“I dream of winning the gold medal,” Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “While the road world championships are in Italy, first are the Olympics. It’s something every athlete wants to win.”
Bettini is training over the weekend with Quick Step teammates in Marina di Cecina in Tuscany. The world No. 1 will open his season with the Trofeo Mallorca in early February and aim for success in the “spring classics, the Tour, the Olympics and the world championships.”
No rest for the cricket.
Flecha ready for more
Juan Antonio Flecha, the flamboyant Spanish rider who won a stage in last year’s Tour de France, will be one of the main protagonists next year in the spring classics for Fassa Bortolo.
While most Spanish riders shine in the stage races, Flecha is one of the few Iberians who openly profess a love for the cobbles and the inclement conditions of the northern classics. Flecha says he will fight for a victory in one cycling’s monuments rather than worry about the overall World Cup title.
“There are people who save a little to make a good result or grab some points, but I’m not like that and I always prefer to risk everything than wait until the final 300 meters and finish 10th,” Flecha said on Todociclismo.
Flecha said his racing schedule has yet to be finalized for the 2004 season, but the spring classics and the Tour de France will be his central goals.