Two possible routes for the 2009 Vuelta have been leaked to the Spanish press. Both include a race start in Holland and a tough first week in the Pyrenees. The Angliru does not feature.
The Vuelta is usually the last of the three major Tours to unveil its route, normally around December 15th. But this year it would appear organisers are facing a major dilemma, to the point where two completely different routes for the last two weeks are still on the drawing board.
The start in Holland on Saturday August 29th, on a motorbike circuit in the northern town of Assen, would appear to be set in stone. This is only the second time ever the Vuelta has started outside Spain.
But after three stages in Holland, the fourth stage in the Low Countries – using the route of Liege-Bastogne-Liege – has now been scrapped. Instead the first rest day will be on Tuesday 1st September and the race will head back to Spain.
After that the two plans diverge. One – the so-called Plan ?A? – has three stages in the Pyrenees, with an uphill finish in Arcalis. The other – Plan ?B? – has just two, although on both there is a mountain time trial on the Rabassa climb in Andorra.
In Plan ?A? the Vuelta heads south, with mountain top finishes in Valencia (on Aitana) and at Sierra Nevada ski station.
In Plan ?B?, the Vuelta heads west, with easier summit finishes, at la Covatilla and in Valdelinares ski station. The final showdown, a mountain top finish on Navacerrada – used this year for the last time trial – is identical for both plans. There is no Angliru in either plan.
The important news is that on both possible routes the mountain challenges and key time trials are not all concentrated into the first fortnight. After two years where the last part of the Tour of Spain was unremittingly dull and the winner decided by the end of the second week, the 2009 Vuelta looks set to be a lot more interesting.
In other foreign stage race news, it?s been announced that one of America?s top events, the Tour of Georgia, has been cancelled for 2009.