Watch out world, this Saturday the Tour of Spain starts in Granada and Alberto Contador and his Astana team are out to win their second major Tour in four months.

Should they succeed, the young Spaniard will be the first man to win the Giro, Tour and Vuelta during his career since Frenchman Bernard Hinault. It?s a noble aspiration – but unless Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) is really hungry for more after taking this year’s Tour, it could be an extremely dull one to watch.

Already the winner of the Tour of Italy, Contador?s battles with Riccardo Ricco in the Giro this May was a thrilling showdown at the time. However, Ricco?s positive for EPO in the Tour has wrecked the retrospective view of the Giro’s overall battle.

For the Vuelta, the good news is that after three months of barely racing, and having to watch another Spaniard win the Tour, Contador must be hungry for action.

With a bit of luck, someone else will come out of the woodwork to challenge Astana, as one-sided total domination in sport may be impressive for a while, but it can quickly become very tedious.

Last year?s Vuelta was a case in point. Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) panned the opposition after taking an early lead in the time trial at Zaragoza. The remainder of the race, barring a final weekend skirmish for the right to stand next to the Russian between Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), was like watching paint dry.

This year, there?s no Sanchez, no Menchov and no Evans in the Vuetla. Instead the strongest riders on paper are all wearing Astana kit – Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden. If a challenge does materialise, it should come from either Sastre or Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne).

Hopefully the sprints will give the Vuelta some much-needed colour. Even without British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Columbia), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) should put on an exciting show.


Stage/Date/Start & finish/Distance

Stage 1 30 Aug, Sat Granada – Granada (Parque Tec. Ciencias de la Salud) (TTT) 7.7km

Stage 2 31 Aug, Sun Granada – Jaén 167.3km

Stage 3 01 Sept, Mon Jaén – Córdoba 168.6km

Stage 4 02 Sept, Tue Córdoba – Puertollano 170.3km

Stage 5 03 Sept, Wed Ciudad Real – Ciudad Real (ITT) 42.5km

Stage 6 04 Sept, Thu Ciudad Real – Toledo 150.1km

05 Sept, Fri Rest Day

Stage 7 06 Sept, Sat Barbastro – Andorra (Naturlandia – La Rabassa) 223.2km

Stage 8 07 Sept, Sun Andorra (Escaldes – Engordany) – Salardú / Naut Aran / Pla de Beret 151.0km

Stage 9 08 Sept, Mon Vielha / Mijaran – Sabiñánigo 200.8km

Stage 10 09 Sept, Tue Sabiñánigo – Zaragoza 151.3km

Stage 11 10 Sept, Wed Calahorra – Burgos 178.0km

Stage 12 11 Sept, Thu Burgos – Suances 186.4km

12 Sept, Fri Rest Day

Stage 13 13 Sept, Sun San Vicente de la B. – Alto de L?Angliru 209.5km

Stage 14 14 Sept, Sun Oviedo – E. E. Fuentes de Invierno 158.4km

Stage 15 15 Sept, Mon Cudillero – Ponferrada 202.0km

Stage 16 16 Sept, Tue Ponferrada – Zamora 186.3km

Stage 17 17 Sept, Wed Zamora – Valladolid 148.2km

Stage 18 18 Sept, Thu Valladolid – Las Rozas 167.4km

Stage 19 19 Sept, Fri Las Rozas – Segovia 145.5km

Stage 20 20 Sept, Sat La Granja de S. I. – Alto de Navacerrada (ITT) 17.1km

Stage 21 21 Sept, Sun S. Sebastián de los Reyes – Madrid 102.2km

Total distance: 3,133.8km


Click on the map to enlarge. Map: