It’s getting near the end of the season and post Tour de France there is always a lull in the action.
The Vuelta usually does nothing to address this lethargy in keen peloton watchers such as myself but I am going to try and convince myself (and you good people) that this year could be different.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Alexander Vinokourov should not be welcomed by anyone at any race at any time. His return to “Team Astana” © Paul Sherwen is a blemish on the good name that cycling it trying to build for itself.
He, granted along with many others, is a cheat and in denial. He is completely missing the plot if he doesn’t see the damage that ( a ) his actions, ( b ) his inability to own up to his crimes and ( c ) his comeback will cause. And yet us long suffering supporters, and defenders of our sport in numerous pub conversations, will have to stand by the roadsides and see him pedal by.
The route looks strong with the start in Holland providing both flat sprinter's stages and the uncertainty that cobbles and bergs can provide. The Cauberg is a challenge to walk up (from personal experience!) so for the race to climb it twice mid stage before tackling more of the classic April climbs is going to be a spectacle.
Procycling magazine notes that the cobbles could be bypassed if the weather dictates but I would have thought the sight of loads of Southern European pros trying to navigate them would make tv gold. Remember Iban Mayo’s Tour de France ending on the roads around Roubaix in 2004?
Once the race makes the transfer to Barcelona a day will be taken to acclimatise to the Catalunyan heat. Then the race heads south with barely a flat stage until the finish.
The race lacks some of the more famous Spanish climbs in favour of even more new short sharp peaks.
It should suit a rouleur who can climb although Robert Gesink of Rabobank could be the man to beat. I like the route and if the riders in the race go at it from the start we should get some exciting racing. If they go at it like an end of season type event, you might not be tuning into Eurosport that often…
I know I wanted to get the negatives out of the way at the start of this blog, but I have two more to bolt on the end.
(1) If a Spaniard is to win it will be Valverde who is as dubious of character as Vino.
(2) With no Skil-Shimano in the race, the great Albert Timmer is denied his opportunity to shine…
Sad for all if you I am sure.