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Vuelta 2013 Preview: A La Café!

The 2013 Vuelta a España is one hard customer, with so many summit finishes and mountains to traverse; it’s a climbers’ Grand Tour for sure. Our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, has forgone his yearly trek to his local bar and replaced it with a café to get the low down on this year’s Vuelta from an actual bike rider! Vuelta ’13 here we come.

As this year’s Vuelta a España route presentation was in the Galician town of Vigo and the PEZ expense account would run to just two coffees and a cake, I thought it would be best to review this year’s route a little more locally. Normally I would go to my second office/home (Bar Pol-Mar) in the village, but Martijn Verschoor of the diabetic Novo Nordisk team was in town so I thought it was a good opportunity to hear what a real Pro rider has to say about this year’s Spanish Grand Tour.

Two years ago the Vuelta presentation was in Alicante, just a train journey down the road from my place and a great day in the free food and drink department. This year I met up with Martijn in Café Yago on the Benidorm beach front, coffee and cake was ordered and the receipt was kept for the expense claim. You might remember “Café Yago” from where I first interviewed Adam Blythe, now of BMC and a couple of years later; Dan McLay, both were about to start racing for the Davo development team and were training in the Benidorm area. Café Yago is also about 100 meters from where the 2011 Vuelta stage 1 team time trial ramp was situated.

Martijn & Café Yago; a good combination.

PEZ: So Martijn, what do you think of the 2013 Vuelta route?
Martijn Verschoor:
Well, they don’t come to Benidorm this year; it was nice when they made the loop here. OK, it looks nice with all these up-hill finishes, eleven, so that makes me happy that I’m not doing La Vuelta this year.

Vuelta a España 2011 – Stage 1 – Benidorm.

PEZ: That was my second question; are glad you’re not doing La Vuelta?
Right now yea, when I see the course! My team is not ready for that right now, maybe I am ready to suffer that much.

PEZ: What kind of stage would suit you?
One with a bit of up and down and then a finish with a slight rise, around 1 or 2%. I also like the windy stages, like they have in the north of Spain.

PEZ: Do you think it’s too hard?
Well eleven up-hill finishes is a lot, I heard there were only four or five chances of a sprint, all those up-hill finishes are bad for Kittel and Degenkolb. There were 10 summit finishes last year and Degenkolb won five stages, so…anyway some of these finishes are not so high, anyway I like La Vuelta because there are so many attacks, I remember last year with Valverde, Contador and Rodriguez all those attacks on the summit finishes, I think it was the best Tour I ever saw, that Vuelta.

PEZ: Last year’s Giro was similar.
It was also good, but weather is always nice at the Vuelta.

PEZ: What about the mountain time trial, how important will that be?
Yes stage 11 in Tarazona, it’s nearly 40 kilometres with a climb in the middle. It’s not too steep so it should suit the riders with a lot of power, they could make some difference, it’s made for someone with a lot strength and a lot of power, like Tony Martin, but we don’t know who will be riding, its only early in the year.

PEZ: Who will win the 2013 Vuelta?
It’s so difficult to say at the moment; Contador might be there, he isn’t riding the Giro, Rodriguez wants to ride the Tour also, but we don’t know what will happen over all that (UCI WorldTour license), the Tour will want at least three French teams too, Movistar have a strong team also.

PEZ: Would a three week stage race be a problem for a diabetic rider?
No, but you would need to do quite a few stage races before so that you would know how to manage it.

AS, still the best sports paper.

So that was what Novo Nordisk rider Martijn Verschoor thought of the Vuelta, what about the professional riders who might be riding (and winning) the Spanish Tour? Time to search through the Spanish sports papers; AS and Marca.

Last year’s winner Alberto Contador said of the start in Galicia; “that second stage climb, for example, you’ll still have sore legs from the team time trial. It’s going to be very difficult, a very tense, hard race.” The mountain time trial will be important as he points out; “even the time trial will be difficult, because it’s got a climb in it, the wind could make a big difference, it’s very exposed and coming after a rest day that’s going to make it harder too.” Whether he will ride the 2013 Vuelta is unsure, but he was sure about the route; “it’s going to be very, very demanding.” He also described the 2013 Vuelta as “a beautiful and spectacular route, but will hurt the legs because it will get really hard all the way to the end.”

Not a bad place for interviews.

Second placed in 2012, Alejandro Valverde remarked on the final climb of the race; “the Vuelta could be decided a long time before we get to the Angliru. We’re going to be very tired when we get there. There are more than enough opportunities to open up gaps on the others.” As to the complete route; “I get scared just to see the route. I’m tired seeing so many mountains, but it’s what the fans want. It will be for the climbers and they will do very well in the first few days.”

La Vuelta 2013 Route.

Joaquim Rodriguez is planning on making his main aim for 2013 the Tour de France, but he pointed out, “even the opening team time trial is long enough to make a big difference. And then with that first category climb on the second stage, we’ll immediately start seeing who’s going well and who’s not. Galicia is a very hard region to race in if you’re not in good shape!” He summed the whole race up with; “It’s very similar to last year but with even more climbs, it’s going to be really hard right the way through. Possibly it’s the absolute hardest, but it’s pretty close. There will be no easy days, so it will be a huge Vuelta of wear, which forces you to get in shape because there will be much demand from the beginning.”

Samu Sanchez lives close to the Angliru and said of the monster climb; “that’s one climb which will sort out absolutely everybody, it’s going to give the race a real sting in the tail.” He added; “the debate on the route is over when you look at the audiences. The plan has worked. The people want a show and we are paid to give it. There will be big differences in the early stages.”

Vuelta a España organiser Javier Guillen described his thoughts behind this years route; “we wanted a race with so many tough stages because that’s what the public likes. Spain is a country which allows us to go to a lot of different mountain ranges and go through a lot of different terrain, and we have to exploit that. Last year, we had 10 mountain top finishes, which was a fantastic Vuelta and this year we want the same.”

Five times Tour de France winner, Miguel Indurain was also at the route presentation; “Unlike other years there are more summit finishes and less time trial. The route is difficult from the start, then calms down and eventually becomes quite demanding. To win you must be very good for three weeks. A Vuelta for the climbers.”

Eusebio Unzue, Movistar team manager said, “it is a spectacle from day one, but the harshness will be governed by the riders…they are only human.”

The best bits of La Vuelta a España 2012.

I think everyone agrees it’s going to be a tough Vuelta a España in 2013, with these eleven summit finishes:

Stage 2: Alto do Monte da Groba, 1st Cat 630meters.
Stage 3: Mirador de Lobeira, 3rd Cat 250meters.
Stage 8: Alto Peñas Blancas, 1st Cat 970metres.
Stage 9: Valdepeñas de Jaén, 990metres.
Stage 10: Alto Hazallanas, Esp Cat 1.680metres.
Stage 14: Collada de la Gallina, 1st Cat 1,550metres.
Stage 15: Col Peyragudes, 1st Cat 1,605metres.
Stage 16: Aramón Formigal, 1st Cat 1,795metres.
Stage 18: Peña Cabarga, 1st Cat 565metres.
Stage 19: Alto del Naranco, 1st Cat 605metres.
Stage 20: Alto de L’Angliru, Esp Cat 1,565metres.

Add in all the other mountains in between and there are 41 mountain passes on 13 mountainous stages, making this a very hard Grand Tour indeed.

I could have asked the old boys at the bar for their opinion as I usually do, but some are no longer with us, Pedro has gone, Ximo is in the old folks home and now that the unshaven drunk bank manager has retired he plays chess in a different bar. Don’t worry though, the bar is still my day office so there are bound to be more reports coming from the best seat in the village.

La Vuelta a España from Saturday August the 24th to Sunday September the 15th 2013.

Stage 1: Vilanova de Arousa – Sanxenxo (team time trial) 27km.
Stage 2: Pontevedra – Alto da Groba 176.8km.
Stage 3: Vigo – Mirador de Lobeira 172.5km.
Stage 4: Lain – Fisterra 186.4km.
Stage 5: Sober – Lago de Sanabria 168.4km.
Stage 6: Guijuelo – Caceres 177.3km.
Stage 7: Almendralejo – Mairena de Aljafare 195.5km.
Stage 8: Jerez de la Frontera 170km.
Stage 9: Antequera – Valdepeñas de Jaén 174.3km.
Stage 10: Torredelcampo – Haza Llanas 175.5km.
Tuesday September 3rd: Rest Day.
Stage 11: Tarazona (individual time trial) 38km.
Stage 12: Maella – Tarragona 157km.
Stage 13: Valls – Castelldefels 165km.
Stage 14: Baga – Coll de la Gallina 164km.
Stage 15: Andorra – Peyragudes 232.5km.
Stage 16: Graus – Formigal 147.7km.
Tuesday September 10th: Rest Day.
Stage 17: Calahorra – Burgos 184.5km.
Stage 18: Burgos – Peña Cabarga 186km.
Stage 19: San Vicente de la Barquera – Naranco 175.5km.
Stage 20: Aviles – Angliru 144.1km.
Stage 21: Leganés – Madrid 99.1km.

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