What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lotto Belisol: Preview Ruta del Sol

Tomorrow the 60th edition of the Vuelta a Andalucía starts, also known as the Ruta del Sol. This five days race is part of the Europe Tour. The Ruta begins with a flat prologue of 7,3 kilometers in Almería. In the stages that follow there’s much climbing to do. The first stage ends on a climb of third category, that’s the sixth official climb of the day. On Friday the stage, the longest one of the four, finishes at the Santuario Virgen de la Sierra de Cabra (1190 m), after a climb of first category. The stage to Sevilla will be a relief for lots of riders. Halfway the stage there are two mountains of third category, but the last 40 kilometers the riders only have to descend and ride on flat roads.

On the final day there’s a feisty stage in which the riders have to climb up to 1100 meters height. After almost 27 kilometers the top of the only climb of first category will be reached. Then there are two more climbs of third category, also the first one has a top above 1000 meters. In the last thirty kilometers there’s another climb, but no category was given to it. After a short descent, with two short uphill parts, ten flat kilometers are yet to come before the finish line.

At Lotto Belisol Greg Henderson, who underwent knee surgery in the winter period, will ride his first race of the season. Jelle Vanendert comes back in action after his crash at the Tour de San Luis. In the first stage the man from Limburg hit his elbow in a crash. He continued, but in the last stage he was forced to abandon due to the consequences of the crash. Also climbers Bart De Clercq, Maxime Monfort and Tim Wellens head to Spain, just like fast man Jens Debusschere and Frederik Willems. Other participants are Marcel Kittel, Bauke Mollema, Richie Porte, Alejandro Valverde and Bradley Wiggins.

Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, sports director: “Both Greg Henderson and Jelle Vanendert are ready to come back after their injury. Of course Greg has no optimal condition yet, because he hasn’t ridden any races so far this year. We have to wait and see if he will be able to fully play the part as lead-out man for Jens Debusschere. For Greg and Jelle the Ruta del Sol is important to get competition rhythm.”

“Lots will be clear after tomorrow’s prologue about the role of our other three climbers: De Clercq, Monfort and Wellens. The course is quite technical, with many roundabouts. We’ll do a thorough recon of it. Maxime Monfort is of course a good time trialist, but also Tim Wellens has the capacities to maintain a good position for GC after the prologue. Tomorrow will be a first important day for the overall classification.”

“The first stage has quite a tough start with almost immediately a climb of first category of about ten kilometers. There’s also a tough final that day. The second stage will be decisive for the GC, there’s a mountain finish. Our first goal is to get a good GC with De Clercq, Monfort and Wellens. Of course that way they also have a chance to win a stage. In stage three we aim for Jens Debusschere. Depending on the race developments also the last stage might end with a sprint of a big group.”

Selection Lotto Belisol: Bart De Clercq, Jens Debusschere, Greg Henderson, Maxime Monfort, Jelle Vanendert, Tim Wellens and Frederik Willems.
Sports directors: Jean-Pierre Heynderickx and Kurt Van de Wouwer

Prologue: Wednesday 19th of February: Almería – Almería (7,3 km)
Stage 1: Thursday 20th of February: Vélez Málaga – Jaén (186,8 km)
Stage 2: Friday 21st of February: La Guardia de Jaén – Cabra (197,1 km)
Stage 3: Saturday 22nd of February: Sanlúcar la Mayor – Sevilla (183,8 km)
Stage 4: Sunday 23rd of February: Ubrique – Fuengirola (159,8 km)

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