Britain’s David Millar believes the 2011 Vuelta a Espana’s route could easily catch out the unwary as it heads into some of the most remote areas of the country.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly after the presentation of the 2011 Vuelta race, the five-times Vuelta stage winner and race leader way back in 2001 said “it’s a classic new-wave Grand Tour style with a lot less time trialling and a lot of potential for ambushes.”
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“There are going to a lot of sudden changes, a lot of hill-top battles. It’s not suited to the stage racers we knew and loved when we were growing up, it’s more for the modern-day Grand Tour rider.”
Only two stages of the 2011 Tour of Spain are over 200 kilometres and as Millar points out “That’s very much in their line. The Vuelta especially started this experimentation with short stages back in 2001, which was probably the hardest three-week stage race I’ve ever done. I can remember it was just pure, bang-on racing from the gun, with guys attacking as early as the neutralised zone.”
“They haven’t done anything really tough like in the Giro in 2011, they’ve kept it well within the realms of human capability. It looks and feels like it’s going to be a great route.”
Millar did not feel the route suited Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), winner of three stages and the points jersey in the Vuelta last year, because “it’s maybe not right for him if he’s building up towards a flat World Championships.”
“Take that second stage [to Playas de Orihuela], it’s got a kick up at the end of it and Cav should win that if he’s fit, but the bottom line he shouldn’t be in great shape at the start of the Vuelta if he wants to be strong by the end of it.”
As for his own chances, Millar is optimistic about what he could do in the Tour of Spain’s one long time trial, in Salamanca – where he won the prologue back in 2001.
“I know the roads round there, they’re flat or rolling which is the kind of terrain I love for time trials. So if I do it, it’ll suit me.”
Millar does not know yet whether he will be doing the Tour of Spain, with only the Tour of Italy and Tour de France on his program for now.
As for the race’s return to the Basque Country after 33 years, Millar – who lived in the area years back – says he believes it is very important for cycling.
This is where sport’s good, it can reach out beyond that political stuff,” he told Reuters news agency.
“The Basque fans are the best in cycling, they’re like the Dutch fans in the 1980s and they deserve a big race.”
“One of the race’s most popular teams, Euskaltel-Euskadi, won’t care if they come first or 50th overall so long as they win one of those two stages in the Basque Country — the whole place would go crazy.”