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Sergio Henao (Sky) is the new leader of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco after his victory on stage 3.
Opening stage a mini-Liège that could feature up to a dozen climbs
The Basque Country hasn’t had much to cheer in recent months, but the region’s biggest race has at least managed to weather the economic crisis in Spain. Although its future was under threat in 2012, the Vuelta al País Vasco will once again form part of the WorldTour calendar in 2014, featuring a route that mixes well-established tradition with some interesting tests, notably on the opening day.
Running between April 7-12, the race will begin with a short stage of around 150km, starting and finishing in Ordizia. The elite field battling to succeed Movistar’s Nairo Quintana as the event’s champion will be on their mettle from the off as the stage has been branded “a mini Liège” and will feature between 10 and 12 climbs.
The second stage from Ordizia will take the race south over lumpy terrain into Navarra for a finish at Urdax. The next day brings what is likely to be the only stage that will suit any sprinters in the field, running from Igantzi into the Basque capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The fourth day brings the classic Basque Country stage up to the Santuario de Arrate above Eibar. The Arrate climb has been a fixture on the route since the Bicicleta Vasca race unified with the Tour of the Basque Country in 2009. On this occasion the riders will pass over the climb once before a second ascent to the finish at the summit.
The fifth stage from Eibar to Markina-Xemein is another testing one, although the contenders for the title are likely to hold fire until the crucial time trial on the final day. Measuring 25km in length, the test in and around Markina-Xemein will feature a significant amount of climbing.