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Vuelta ’07: La Ruta!

It all starts this Saturday in the northwest of Spain – the final Grand Tour of 2007. Three weeks, 21 stages and over 3200km of what has traditonally been some of the most unpredictable bike racing of the year, here’s how the course lays out for this 62nd edition.

The 2007 Vuelta looks to be an interesting shift from years past when it was sometimes the hardest of the three Grand Tours in terms of ridiculous mountain action – if memory serves me correctly, not too long ago there was an edition with 6-7 mountaintop finishes.

For 2007, some of the mountains have been left at the wayside leaving four uphill finishes for 2007 – and the TT’s aren’t too terribly vexing either with a grand total of 74km of time trialling spread across two TT’s. Also of note for 2007, there’s no Prologue or Team Time Trial.

There will be a lessening in the severity of the finishes for 2007, but the number of mountains does not seem to be decreasing too terribly much, and as per the norm at the Vuelta, the climbs start almost immediately and there are lots over the entire three weeks.

Climb Break-Down
3: Hors Categorie Climbs
6: Category 1 Climbs
15: Category 2 Climbs
18: Category 3 Climbs

Race Break-Down
1-23 September
21 Stages
3241 km
11 flat stages
8 mountainous stages
2 TT’s

A Closer Look At The Race
Of course, six stages stand out immediately: the two time trials and the four uphill finishes. They will probably decide 99% of the overall GC in next year’s race.

You know the cliche – don’t lose the forest in the trees, or something like that? A really interesting way to get a broad overview of the Grand Tours are the combined profiles, and for this Vuelta it provides an invaluable guide as to what the riders will encounter over the three weeks.

The first three stages will be anything but flat. Of course they probably won’t play much role in terms of GC, but it’s worth noting, just like the Giro – the race starts full-on and hits a full head of steam in Stage 4 with the uphill finish at the Lagos de Covadonga.

Stage 5 is another lumpy one with a 1st category climb late in the race, followed by a short descent to a flat run-in to the line – probably shouldn’t shake things too dramatically, but could definitely let loose a small group.

Stages 6 and 7 will be the easiest of the race so far, leading into a crucial three days for the GC riders starting with the board flat 49km Stage 8 TT, and followed by two successive mountaintop finishes at Cerler and Jan Ullrich’s favorite: Arcalis.

Stage 9

Stage 10

After 10 consecutive days in the saddle and four big GC appointments, the first Rest Day will be enjoyed by all.

The Second Half

The Homeward Stretch
Following Rest Day #1, the riders will get four straight stages without anything too tough. Stages 11, 12, and 13 could all easily be sprint finishes, but as they’re further into the Vuelta, they could work for breaks as well – of course it depends on the sprinter’s teams. Breakaway artists will be sad if Petacchi is rolling well at this point in the race, as their chances will be much much smaller.

The Vuelta will re-visit the incredible stage to Granada from 2006 where Vino jumped away and to the lead.

Stage 14 gets a bit lumpier before the race heads to a very dramatic finish in Stage 15 – the same dramatic stage where Vinokourov finally stole the Golden Fleece right off of Valverde after an incredible attack on the descent of the final climb of the day. He then hooked up with Tom Danielson and the rest is history. It seems the organizers are looking for some more magic in 2007.

Stage 15

After the repeat stage to Granada, the riders will be treated to the second and final Rest Day before embarking on the final five stages, of which the only remaining GC dates occur in the last few stages – Stages 19 and 20. The mountainous Stage 19 finishes on the Category 1 climb of the Alto de Abantos after a tough stage. Following that, it’s on to the final 25k TT on the penultimate stage.

Stage 19

Oscar Pereiro made what seems to be a fair summation of the race route at the presentation: “It looks good and starting very near my home is very special for me. I think the route is not particularly hard; that will suit a lot of riders, and make it a bit better for those who go to the race but who are not building their season around it.”

Alejandro Valverde was a little less verbose: “It’s a hard route but a very nice one.”

The Stages
01.Sept Stage 01 145km Vigo – Vigo
02.Sept Stage 02 150km Allariz – Santiago de Compostela
03.Sept Stage 03 155km Viveiro – Luarca
04.Sept Stage 04 182km Langreo – Lagos de Covadonga
05.Sept Stage 05 155km Cangas de Onнs – Reinosa
06.Sept Stage 06 195km Reinosa – Logroсo
07.Sept Stage 07 140km Calahorra – Zaragoza
08.Sept Stage 08 49km D.O. Cariсena – Zaragoza TT
09.Sept Stage 09 174km Huesca – Cerler (Grupo Aramуn)
10.Sept Stage 10 220km Benasque – Ordino Arcalнs

11.Sept REST DAY #1

12.Sept Stage 11 190km Castellуn – Algemesi
13.Sept Stage 12 167km Algemesн – Hellнn
14.Sept Stage 13 150km Hellin – Torre-Pacheco
15.Sept Stage 14 205km Puerto Lumbreras – Villacarrillo
16.Sept Stage 15 205km Villacarrillo – Granada

17.Sept REST DAY #2

18.Sept Stage 16 165km Jaen- Puertollano
19.Sept Stage 17 180km Ciudad Real – Talavera de la Reina
20.Sept Stage 18 154km Talavera de la Reina – Avila
21.Sept Stage 19 135km Avila – Alto de Abantos
22.Sept Stage 20 25km Villalba-Villalba TT
23.Sept Stage 21 100km Rivas Vaciamadrid – Madrid

TOTAL Kms. approx.: 3,241

• Stay tuned to PEZ as our man in Spain Alastir Hamilton gets local reaction and color commentary direct from the fans in the street.. er – bars.

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