The 2011 Vuelta a Espana race route, due to be presented today in Alicante, is expected to reveal a return both to the Angliru, after a three year gap, and to the Basque Country after a 33-year absence.
The last time the Vuelta visited the Basque Country - barring the briefest of mid-stage incursions - was in 1978, when full-scale separatist protests - strewing the roads with barricades, tintacs and flinging sand in the eyes of riders - caused two stages to be partly cancelled. The protests did not affect the overall result, with Bernard Hinault taking the first of two victories.
Thirty-three years on, the Vuelta is expected to have three stages running through Basque territory, all of them at the end of the third week.
One will include the notoriously steep climb of Urkiola before finishing in Bilbao, whilst the second last stage of the race will finish in Vitoria before a long transfer and a final stage into Madrid on September 11th.
As for the Angliru, Spain's single toughest climb will most probably be in a stage at the end of the second week. Traditionally, the Angliru has proved decisive in the race, as was proved in 2008 when Alberto Contador effectively won the Vuelta there.
Together with the other five summit finishes, some as early as Sierra Nevada in the first week, the Vuelta looks set to be weighted - yet again - in favour of the climbers. The only individual time trial is expected to be mid-race, in Salamanca where David Millar won the prologue of the Vuelta way back in 2001 and Mark Cavendish won his third Vuelta stage in 2010.
Other elements that look certain to be included are a team time trial of around 15 kilometres for the start, in Benidorm on August 20, several stages in the remote, hilly region of Galicia and a repeat of the popular Peña Cabarga climb in Asturias and the short, painfully steep, ascent in Valdepeñas de Jaen. Unlike in 2010, though, there will be no stages in the Pyrenees.
Cycling Weekly will provide full details later on of the route once it is officially unveiled.
2011 UCI World Calendar
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index - stage reports, photos, news and more from the 2010 race
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