It's not the most well-known race in the calendar, but the Tour de San Luis is attracting a stellar crowd these days
Here are a few things to keep your eye on in the South American race, which runs from January 18-24.
Big names on show
While Australia’s Tour Down Under boasts WorldTour status, a bit of glitz and a load of publicity, outside of its own country the Tour de San Luis has traditionally kept itself to itself.
But with the drama of the virtually unknown Fernando Gaviria beating Mark Cavendish twice last year, San Luis has more than enough excitement and drama to keep us interested.
The first mountains of the year
The main reason the big guns decide to go to Argentina in January is the fact that there’s actual mountains involved.
Adelaide may have Old Willunga Hill but it’s not really enough of a draw to attact the likes of Quintana and Nibali, who’s seasons will be defined by their results in the tall mountains.
It’s also got a team time trial to start with this year, which will undoubtedly be entertaining with some of the lower level teams likely not getting the chance to race many of them in the season.
Poor television coverage
One of the reasons why we can’t pay much attention to the race is that it’s not really on television, that we can work out.
Last year we were treated to two blokes, who looked to be in their front room, talking in Spanish about the race with a grainy feed of the action available every now and again.
Then, I seem to remember, there was a static camera at the finish line, which just about allowed you to see the end of the stage and even work out who won it.
While some big names flock to San Luis it’s not always them who end up on top of the general classification. Riders like Quintana and Nibali are coming off the back of the offseason – using the race to get some miles in their legs and get back up to race pace.
That sometimes gives lesser known riders a chance to claim a famous win – the most notable being two-time winner Daniel Diaz.
Diaz won in both 2013 and 2015 while riding for UCI Continental teams. In 2013 he beat Tejay van Garderen by 33 seconds overall and last season he finished about Quintana by over 90 seconds.
He’s won himself a move to Europe with Delko Marseille Provence KTM and will be back to defend his title once again this year.
Cavendish didn’t have many good memories of San Luis last season. His face when Gaviria beat him on stage one wasn’t happy, but when the young Colombian did it again on stage three he looked set to burst.
Like Quintana and Diaz, Cavendish was coming off the offseason, while Gaviria had been riding a fair bit of road and track over the winter.
But big stars have egos they need to satisfy, so the likes of Sagan – in the world champion’s kit – will want to start their seasons with a bang. Sagan especially will want to get an early win, having had to wait until March last year to get off the mark.
Who knows who will be this year’s Gaviria (unless Gaviria himself cleans up for Etixx-Quick Step), but I’m looking for someone from Strongman-Campagnolo Wilier to provide some upsets because they’ve got a great name…