This Saturday, September 1, sees the start of the final Grand Tour of the 2007 season, the Tour of Spain.
The 62nd edition of the Vuelta a Espana kicks of with a lumpy 145km opening stage starting and finishing in Vigo, in the extreme north-west of the country. The riders then travel east through the Pyrenees and on to Andorra in a tough first week, before dropping south to Granada and then back up through central Spain for the traditional finale in Madrid. In total, the 21 stages comprise 3,241 kilometres of racing including two individual time trials – one on the penultimate stage.
The big news is that none of last year’s Tour of Spain top three will ride this year’s event. Overall winner Alexandre Vinkourov is not riding – and neither will the Kazakh’s squad, Astana. They have been excluded from the event thanks to Vinokourov’s positive test for blood doping during July’s Tour de France. Vino’s team-mate and compatriot Andrey Kaschechkin, third last year, will also not ride. Kasechkin failed a blood doping test immediately after the Tour.
Alejandro Valverde, second last year, is also not riding, preferring to concentrate on other races. There is on-going speculation regarding Valverde’s involvement in the Operacion Puerto investigation which unearthed organised doping centred around the Madrid laboratory of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. Whether this has anything to do with his – or his team’s – decision for him not to ride is unknown.
Likely contenders for the overall include highest place rider from last year’s race in the start list, Carlos Sastre (CSC), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse D’Epargne), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), Jose Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), Manuel Beltran (Liquigas), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
There are no British riders in attendance this year, although honorary Brit Magnus Backstedt – the Swede lives in Wales with his family – is down to start for his Liquigas squad. Philip Deignan of Ireland is also on Ag2r’s line-up.
Cycling Weekly will be covering the race day-by-day on www.cyclingweekly.com and in the magazine. We’ll be featuring daily reports, news, analysis and exclusive photographs from the event.
21 teams, each with nine riders, make up the start list. They are:
Andalucia Caja Sur
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone
Francaise des Jeux
|Saturday Sept 1||1||Vigo-Vigo||145km|
|Sunday Sept 2||2||Allariz-Santiago de Compostela||150km|
|Monday Sept 3||3||Viveiro-Luarca||155km|
|Tuesday Sept 4||4||Langreos-Lagos de Covadonga||82km|
|Wednesday Sept 5||5||Cangas de Onis-Reinosa||155km|
|Thursday Sept 6||6||Reinosa-Logrono||195km|
|Friday Sept 7||7||Calahorra-Zaragoza||140km|
|Saturday Sept 8||8||Carinena-Zaragoza||49km (TT)|
|Sunday Sept 9||9||Huesca-Cerler||174km|
|Monday Sept 10||10||Benasque-Arcalis (Andorra)||220km|
|Tuesday Sept 11||Rest day|
|Wednesday Sept 12||11||Oropesa-Algemesi||190km|
|Thursday Sept 13||12||Algemesi-Hellin||167km|
|Friday Sept 14||13||Hellin-Torre Pacheco||150km|
|Saturday Sept 15||14||Puerto Lumbreras-Villacarrillo||205km|
|Sunday Sept 16||15||Villacarrillo-Granada||205km|
|Monday Sept 17||Rest day|
|Tuesday Sept 18||16||Jaen-Puertollano||165km|
|Wednesday Sept 19||17||Ciudad Real-Talavera de la Reina||180km|
|Thursday Sept 20||18||Talavera de la Reina-Avila||154km|
|Friday Sept 21||19||Avila-Alto de Abantos||135km|
|Saturday Sept 22||20||Collado Villalba-Collado Villalba (individual time trial)||25km|
|Sunday Sept 23||21||Rivas Vaciamadrid-Madrid||100km|
Total distance: 3,241km
Official site: www.lavuelta.com.