What's Cool In Road Cycling

Vuelta Preview: Let The Racing Begin!

– By Charles Manantan –
If you thought the Tour was a bit boring, The Vuelta should be just the medicine for you!

The Vuelta (like the Giro) is an event for cycling fans more than a sporting spectacle for the world (Sorry TDF…). Despite its widely held ranking as “Third Best Tour” by the general cycling public (the public outside of Spain that is) this 57th Vuelta shapes up to be a true test where the winner is anything but a forgone conclusion, and the competition is arguably tighter across the board than the Tour De France.

Simoni and Casagrande should be in fine form, one would think, after each got chucked from the Giro for (respectively) the worst candy a grandmother ever gave a grandson (Simoni’s G-mama tossing him a throat lozenge featuring a medication that definitely doesn’t make you drowsy…) and Casagrande Going into the Cycling version of Road Rage. Add to this a mix a few Two Headed monster teams like Kelme (Oscar Sevilla and Santi Botero), last year’s winner and 2002 contract hold-out Angel Casero, Once (Joseba Beloki, and Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano) and US Postal’s twin terrors Roberto “follow me Lance” Herras and Jose “Follow Me Roberto” Rubiera and you have something interesting to talk about. Round out the field with a resurgent Alex Zuelle, the Pink Jersey of Paolo Savoldelli, Telekom’s Vinokourov and a couple of sleepers like Pietro Caucchioli and David Canada Gracia and you have one hell of a race!

This year’s Vuelta Features 4 Mountain finishes, with Fans of the climbers not wanting to miss stages 5 (The longest stage, ending atop the Sierra Nevada), 15 and 18. with 15 being a mountain finish on Alto El Angliru, an ugly stretch of road that has seen the Pro’s fitting everything from XTR rear derailleurs and mountain bike cassettes to the odd triple (meaning someone needs to invent a quintuple or us mortals would need hiking boots), and in the rain has seen it’s fair share of runners rather than riders. There are 10 stages that could be considered to contain climbing, but that doesn’t mean you should hand the trophy to a pure climber just yet.

The Vuelta starts with a Team Time Trial, and has two more ITT stages to tackle. With that in mind look for ONCE and US postal to have a strong shot at an early GC Lead (with double threats that on the team, it could be a strategic advantage). The second TT comes on stage 10, before a rest day, and should thusly be a pretty fast 50k. And the Climbers better be well out front with a tough 45k ITT that falls on the last day (no celebration lap, but it probably won’t bug the winner too much…)

For sprint fans like me, 8 flat stages should give Super Mario and Eric Zabel and Oscar Freire a chance to bang bars as all three have their key leadout men on hand. But the list has other top guns, so be on the lookout for a quick finish here and there by, among others, Ivan Quaranta, Jeremy Hunt, and Jan Svorada.

So hold on to your Sombrero and if you get OLN TV coverage, don’t miss tuning in. This Vuelta should be a better race for Cycling Fans than the Tour was.

Side note; Don’t be surprised to see a protest stoppage or two this year as Political troubles have come to the fore recently.

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