The route of the Vuelta a España has recently been released. A nice surprise is that the Spanish Tour will visit the Basque Country for the first time in thirty years! Several stages in the North-East and alongside the Atlantic Ocean are scheduled, the climb to the feared Anglirú also included in the Tour.
The race kicks off with a Team Time Trial in the beach resort of Benidorm, after which the sprinters get two chances. The challenge starts early however, stage 4 leads to the Sierra Nevada, one of the 20+ km monsters in Spain, and a chance for the climbers to make an early mark on the GC. Moving up north, some more sprint opportunities, but not many.
By the time they reach the North-East of Spain it's hilly, or better, mountainous all the time with some tricky uphill finishes and tough climbs all the way. Stages 9 thru 12 are all about the GC and the only Individual Time Trial the race has to offer, and it aint flat either.
The race culminates at the end of the second week; stage 14 ends with two very tough climbs, the San Lorenzo and Lagos de Somiedo straight after. Stage 15 then serves up the legendary Alto del'Anglirú, predecessed by the first category Cordal. The last week is about the Basque Country, with the Peña Cabarga in stage 17 again benchmarking the climbers. By the time they leave Bilbao - or should we say Bilbo - the GC is likely to be set in stone and Madrid gets the final flag of the Vuelta.
With no less than six uphill finishes, a flattish TTT and an ITT that's not particularly flat, it's safe to say that the climbers should feel right at home in Spain. Like in the Giro and the Tour this year, the climbers are now also likely to have the upper hand in the Vuelta a España 2011.
Links: Vuelta a España 2011