Wednesday’s launch of the 2010 Vuelta a España took place in a packed auditorium in Seville, and featured three of the biggest names in cycling as guests. Being held away from the usual (and more accessible) location of Madrid saw fewer riders present than is usually the case, but Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez gave reactions that would undoubtedly be echoed by many others.
The 2010 Vuelta is one which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the first race, and is the 65th edition of the event. Stopped only by the Second World War, cycling’s third Grand Tour rolls onwards and may well feature a bigger lineup next year as the world championships are one week later than usual. That would give riders the time to compete the entire race, fly to Australia and to recover fully before the worlds there.
Commencing on August 28th with a night-time team time trial, the 2010 edition will feature 21 stages and total 3352.6 kilometres in distance. There will be eleven flat stages, one team time trial, one individual time trial and eight medium to high mountain stages. There are six summit finishes in all, and 40 categorised climbs. Three of these are ‘special’ category, with ten first cat ascents also featuring.
The general sentiments expressed were that this will be a difficult edition, and one which will see the action keep alternating between the high mountains and much flatter terrain. That will keep the riders on their toes for three weeks, and could ensure that the lead changes on several occasions.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), winner in 2009, second in 2006:
I like the Vuelta a lot, it is very good. There are a lot of mountains, several important stages at altitude. There is just one time trial, apart from the team time trial. That is fairly good for me. I don’t think the time trial will be one for specialists, but rather for the rider who can maintain his strength, to avoid physical and mental tiredness.
In general, I will have more confidence as I’ve already won a Grand Tour, and because there was no day when I was really weak this year.
Before the Vuelta, I will go to the Tour and aim for a strong ride there. I will target the podium and if I achieve that, great.
Alberto Contador (Astana), winner in 2008:
I don’t know yet if I will be doing it – it depends on what happens in July. But I think it is going to be a great Vuelta for those watching, and also a tough one for the riders. It’s going to be a special edition of the race. I like the route, although I would have liked another time trial in it.
The team time trial at night is going to be spectacular, although the riders will have to be careful as well.
I think that stage 16 will be a key stage. You will see more the differences between the riders, see who is recovering well and who is not. I think this stage will be one of the biggest.
The penultimate stage is also going to be tough. The climb goes up the Navacerrada and then it turns right and there are extra kilometres. It is very hard, and the surfaces are also difficult. There are some very nice ideas in this Vuelta.
Sammy Sanchez (Euskalel Euskadi), runner up 2009, third in 2007:
It is hard Vuelta, a good Vuelta. It is a great course for climbers. There is a time trial of 46 kilometres, and plenty of stages that are very hard. For example, I think the climb of Cottobello is going to be a very hard climb, and that for me will be the Queen stage of the Vuelta.
It is one that is close to my home. I’d love to win there, that would be special.
There are three days in a row with summit finishes – that is going to be tiring, and then there is the time trial. I think the winner of the Vuelta will have to ride well on all of those stages.
I think there will be a few opportunities on the descents. I will just have to be as good as the best riders in the climbs. I think it is a very beautiful Vuelta and I will do my best in it.
Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia), three times top 5 in Vuelta:
I think it’s similar in difficultly to this year’s. It is a route for climbers, and so I like it. I think there’s going to be a spectacular fight. It is Vuelta of three weeks. When you have a traditional Vuelta where you know the finishes, you have an idea about what is going to happen. But there are some new climbs here, and that will make it less predictable. I like the route, it is one that seems very attractive to me.
Vladimir Karpets (Team Katusha):
I think this is a pretty hard race. With the summit finishes, it is necessary to be able to suffer. I expect to go to the race – I hope to do two Grand Tours in 2010 (Tour de France and Vuelta a España).
Angelino Soler (1961 victor, youngest-ever winner of the Vuelta):
It is a very interesting race. For those who are trying to win the race and those behind, it is a little complicated. I think the route is going to be a big hit.
Javier Guillen, Vuelta director:
It is a very special Vuelta, and will be a hard one. There are plenty of opportunities for the riders.
Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France director:
I find the route very balanced. Difficult, but very balanced. There is a finish at altitude in the first week, then things will go right to the end with this new mountain near Madrid. There are also certain mythical climbs such as the Lakes of Covadonga. I think it’s very balanced. It is a nice parcours for a good fighter.
Allan Peiper, Columbia-HTC directeur sportif:
I think it is pretty interesting, actually.
It doesn’t seem like it is a readable structure, which is going to make it even more difficult. From day three there will already be a climber in the lead, and his team is going to have to take control. Whether that is Valverde, Contador or Samuel Sanchez, his team is going to have to take control. And to control it for the next 20 days is going to be difficult.
It is not like in the Tour de France where the Alps are for four days and you get two Massif Central stages and five stages in the Pyrenees, where you can control it for that long. It’s different if you have to defend it for three weeks. So that will be a difficult part for the climbers.
I think there is also going to be eight definite sprint stages, and this is good for Team Columbia – HTC.
Johnny Weltz, Garmin Slipstream directeur sportif:
I think this is going to be more like a typical Tour of Spain. We have all the ingredients. From the South, it can be very hot, then we will get to the crosswind sections and then the high mountains. There is a very interesting start with the team time trial, and not many kilometres overall for individual time trial. Then we will have three days in Asturias which is really hard. Then we will end up before the last day with that extremely hard mountain in Madrid.
It is going to be a very typical Tour of Spain, with a lot of climbing, some very typical crosswind sections…it will be very traditional.